This is a long post, so please bear with me. It is somewhat personal exploration. Maybe those who read it might find some answers for themselves if they have similar dilemmas.
Almost two weeks ago I broke up with a man I still love. We split up because I have many things I do not understand about myself, and I don’t feel I can be supportive of him when I don’t have my physical and mental illnesses under control, and don’t have a good grasp of who I am.
One of the questions that has begun to float around in my head is: do I want to be a wife, and mother? Aside from the difficulties I have with menstruation, depression, anxiety, and overall physical health, are these roles I want to fulfill? They say every woman has the instincts to be a caretaker. I guess that’s true, I love and care for my only fur child, my cat Lucia. But do I want to marry someone, be committed to them, and then bear their children? I’m not sure.
So first I asked myself, what does it mean to be a wife? I was engaged, and loved it. I wanted so badly for things to work out, but every time I would say “I love you,” I felt odd. It was as if a lump of wet sand clogged the normal flow of emotions. Above that dam was all the love I felt. Below, all the things that made me comfortable with the life I live now, slow and peaceful. I felt that “wife” meant sharing resources, an even balance of give and take between two people. I know within Paganism, poly-amorist relationships are acceptable, but I’m not even there yet. I guess I always accepted that I would become a wife. I would get up in the morning, make coffee, go to work, come home, have dinner, watch the news, spend time with whoever I married. I would wear the ring that proclaimed to the world that I had been claimed, and I would be okay with that. My money, my personal strength, would merge, at least to some degree, with that of my spouse.
I never objected to the idea of Lesbian and gay couples. I am bisexual. After some experience I don’t know that I would want a woman as a life partner, or that I would want a strictly monogamous relationship. Paganism has made that seem acceptable for me, to want something other than a traditional heterosexual marriage. But I’m unsure that I don’t want that either.
So I thought maybe it was time to step back and examine ideals. I realized that I am not connected to the big traditional archetypes of maiden, mother, crone. My reproductive abilities are severely limited, though not completely non-existent. I am called to be a warrior, a cauldron-keeper, a daughter of the fourth phase of the moon as I now understand it. But when attending PSG, I was sitting near a campsite where the young women going through the maidens’ rite of passage met, and was washed over by regret that I couldn’t have that. There couldn’t be a defining ceremony of young womanhood, of choice and responsibility, and a family that embraced my choice to have such a ceremony. Even if that could happen, I’m too old. I’ve never felt like a maiden, and at twenty-four I am closing in on what are normally the years of motherhood. In fact one of the reasons I ended the relationship I was in was that I wished that at eighteen, nineteen, twenty years old, I could have had time to explore the world, make mistakes, and know both freedom and the ways of the world in other than the harshest, most unforgiving light. I wish I could have been a normal teenager, with a part-time job, first dates, curfews, nights in and nights out. I never got that. I had to transition from the middle child, to effectively being the eldest in my early teens. I wish I could have known time for self-exploration where I didn’t feel caged. I didn’t recognize the cage back then, because what went on at home seemed normal. Now I do, and it can be painful at times.
I realize I idealized the young, carefree woman, the violent highs and lows that come with understanding yourself, relationships, and the world around you. I’m trying, in some ways, to do this now. And maybe that is okay. But at the same time I am suddenly questioning whether or not I want to be a mother and a wife. And maybe this is part of the exploration phase I am having late, so late that I wonder if I’ve missed something else I should have had in the intervening years.
I like the image of a big family, headed up by me and a man I grow old with, two or three children and their spouses, and lots of grandchildren, all carrying on my legacy of witchcraft, of caring for the earth and each other. That is an image I genuinely love. There are many intervening years between now and then, and it is what should fill those years that I question. Twenty or so years of preparing meals and school lunches, fighting my own chronic illnesses, working forty-hour weeks while pregnant, sleeplessness nights full of screaming infants. That is what comes to mind when I think the next couple of decades. A lot of feeling tired, spread too thin, physical pain. Is that something I want? There is a certain amount of enjoyment in the idea of a daughter with my looks, hopefully minus the hypothyroid and impossible shoe size, plus a little more luck in the height department.
All that doesn’t deal with a question much nearer at hand. There is joy in the idea of finding someone who also falls under the umbrella term “Pagan,” who wants to travel and share other hobbies. Do I want to find someone to spend life with? I think so. I want the handfasting ceremony at PSG. But can I be a committed spouse is the question. The first aspect, of being the housekeeper, partial bread winner, I don’t idealize that role. I believe, as a feminist, in having at least a small portion of my own income for personal use. I don’t mind if the rest goes toward the household and bills. I hope to make a little as a writer, on top of government benefits. I have come to realize that there are many things that would make a job with a strict schedule problematic from the start, all of them health issues. The real source of the problem comes from commitment. I dated one woman, and within months found that while certain aspects were very enjoyable, I missed guys as companions, and this became a pressing need. With my most recent partner, I was up front about my occasional sexual attraction to women, and after some tense discussion, he was able to accept that under a few very specific circumstances, I may entertain that side of myself. But I could sense it was reluctant, even with my promise not to hide anything. So it would seem I need a poly-amorous relationship, or at least an open one.
However, there is a downside I have observed in a lot of the Pagan poly-amorous relationships I have come into contact with. There seems to be a great deal of drama, of backstabbing, of a lack of emotional devotion. Maybe that was something I overlooked, and it did exist in those relationships.
I cannot pretend to idealize the idea of motherhood, though it sounds doable. I don’t like the idea of being the “work-a-mommy.” And I want some independent income. I run into issues of needing complete solitude when I’m around one or more people for an extended period of time, which was another problem in my previous relationship. I either craved attention or being completely by myself, and in my little apartment there were many times I felt unable to relax simply because I could hear him in the other room. No idea where that issue comes from. I lived in dorms for five years, for gods’ sake. And how does a loose poly-amorous relationship blend with the far-future fantasy of grandchildren, a life partner, and a family book of shadows? I’m not sure.