It’s been a ‘thing’ for awhile now: the genuine ambivalence, angst, confusion, frustration and worry of a large segment of the population about two very primal human concerns. It’s not just a certain professional sector feeling driven to Have It All (a nod to what’s sometimes an older-generation perspective), but a specific age group feeling the urge or instinct to find a suitable mate, and, the urge or instinct to create a child. The drivers behind these emotions seem to be career trajectory, the desire for personal freedom, and some pretty complex requirements when it comes to The One, Right Timing, and Money (just the right amount, whatever that is).
“There’s an App for That” took on new meaning for me yesterday, when I read about an internet website dedicated to matching People Who Want to Parent with one another. Not a dating site. Not a donor site. A site for people who’ve given up on finding The One and are feeling antsy about experiencing the joys of parenting. “Prospective Parent Seeks Like-minded Prospective Parent”. According to the website (and a recent WSJ article about it), “over 500 babies have been born”, thanks to internet parent-pairings. (Is it weird for me to connect this to wine, plus foods like cheese and chocolate, or do others also find this concept just a little too hip?) The site’s disclaimers are what you would expect from a typical dating site: the lack of full ‘vetting’ of the P.P. pool is a strong mandate for great care and attention on the part of anyone using the service. But that aside – a pretty strong ‘ick’ factor in itself – there are other aspects that invite exploration.
I was at the apex of my career when I met my husband who, quite a bit my senior, was on the downward slope of his. I was clear (with him) about the meaning and value of my work (personal and financial). We dated and seemed to have much in common: not the least of which was a fairly pragmatic approach to Love. I was an extremely engaged and driven executive. I liked the idea that my career could take center-stage (we re-located a few times, to follow my promotions). We became good friends who grew to love one another. I didn’t feel the need to marry, but also didn’t worry about losing my Self if we did. It was his strong desire, so we did.
All was well until the topic of baby-making came up. I was in my mid-thirties and – despite the chorus of voices telling me that my Bio Clock was approaching imminent melt-down – didn’t feel compelled to make a mini-me. But, once again, my husband made the pitch and, because I loved him, I listened. He’d been married before and was estranged from his adult-daughter. He wanted another chance at parenting. “I can do this. My relationship is stable and that’s the prime ingredient to creating a happy, healthy child.” The New Adventure felt right.
You just can’t get out of bed in the morning without learning something: Next time, I’ll lock the dog out of my bedroom; Next time, I’ll pass on the offer of ‘another round’; Next time, I’ll resist the temptation to watch the Politics of the Day just before I close my eyes and hope for restful sleep. One of my biggest Life Lessons is that relationships – especially committed ones (marriage) – and child-rearing will test your personal mettle in ways you never fully expect or are able to prepare for. No matter how established you are in your career (being ‘set’); no matter how stable you feel – alone, or with a partner of any kind; and no matter how well you’ve researched the Major Decisions that you ultimately launch, things can go wonky.
Life doesn’t come with any guarantees. All the right ingredients (talking about a potential mate, all the ‘boxes’ might be checked) of a potentially happy outcome seem to be there. They look and feel utterly and completely normal and real; and maybe they are real. At the moment, anyway. But things change. People change. In my own situation, the death of my husband’s father (it was a very upsetting and unexpected end) threw him into a dark emotional spiral that unleashed other ‘personal demons’. Two people in partnership are in a canoe; rowing together is a necessity.
Living Bravely, where Love is concerned, begins with the simple acknowledgement that no matter how you try to plan and execute your life, expecting any kind of predictability (in Love) is folly. It all comes down to Priorities, and the courage to figure out, and live your own. Career may be your ‘love’: so be it. If your priority is marriage and family, those are both very wonderful and exhilarating Wild Cards right there: the potential for huge rewards, as well as devastating heartbreak. In chasing these, we might be tempted to use what appear to be practical strategies (like the Parent app) that allow us the illusion of being in control. But ultimately – as long as we’re alive and breathing — we’re going exactly where Love leads us.