November 2, 2017

SONG | I Don’t Want to Be a Suburban Mom

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There are only a few things I hate. I hate bananas gone brown. I hate overpriced plaid shirts that could have been thrifted for $10. I hate chasing after the bus in rainy weather. And I hate the idea that one day I might be a suburban mom.

I don’t want a white picket fence and a house in paved-road paradise. I don’t want to perpetually shop for side tables at Pottery Barn. I don’t want visors and golf clubs and school board meetings. And I sure don’t want a damn tiny white dog.

What I do want is a farm where I can roll down a hill until my legs get itchy. I want a giant dog I can hug with plenty of slobber and enormous ears. I want flip flops and fly fishing and midnight hikes.

I always was the girl who didn’t like dolls, didn’t dream about raising kids. I wore my mom’s heels and told her I’d work my entire life, that I didn’t need a husband or a stainless steel kitchen. But I’ve always had the uneasy fear that one day I’ll have to settle down and “suburbanize myself,” because that seems to be the default for women. A woman raises her kids and cooks for her husband, my mother would tell me. But the idea of sending my kids to soccer practice and cutting a fake green lawn all day scares the crap out of me.

This is not a rant against suburban mothers (or fathers) in any form. My own suburban Silicon Valley upbringing was the whole package, hybrid minivan and violin lessons and all. There’s nothing wrong with the suburban lifestyle; in fact, it’s popular for good reason. It caters to what most people value — stability, family, love, comfort.

No, this is for the people who never found themselves drawn to stability, who never wanted to settle down.

My friend told me last week that he wants to be happy, but never content. I thought about that phrase all night. I never want to wake up and realize I’ve been living the same life every day. I never want to stop moving, to bask in my happiness until I forget what I wanted in the long-run. I can see my potential path already: I’ll get a job as a journalist, roam around the city and spend all my money at art fairs. I’ll be convinced I could live like this forever. Then — Bam! — kids, and all of a sudden I’m on Long Island looking at a four bedroom condo with a waterfront view. Next thing you know, I’m packing mini lunches before I head off to my job as an accountant, and I’ll stop by IKEA on the way to work.

I hear this fear from my fast-paced friends all the time — we’re afraid we won’t be accepted for where our dreams take us, away from that red-roofed home and into a single-person studio in New York City. Or maybe a rural farm in Colorado. Or a different hotel room every week. Why are we strange if we don’t want to have kids? Why are we weird if we don’t care about tending a garden, or we just want to travel? Why is that not more accepted than our position in the kitchen?

To the wanderers, the nomads, the girls who never played with dolls, there’s nothing wrong with you. To all the fast-paced women out there who could never imagine setting down their briefcases, there’s nothing wrong with you. Some might call you “overly work-oriented,” some might tell you to slow down and “prioritize family,” but nevermind them. There’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t see yourself shopping at Banana Republic for the rest of your life, or if you don’t love tiny dogs that fit in handbags. It doesn’t mean you’re less feminine, or you’re too uptight.

Screw the picket fence and the light wash jeans and sweater vest combo. I want to buy a wooden cottage on a farm when I retire, with a huge lake and a library filled with Hemingway novels. Maybe I’ll live my life as a journalist. Maybe I’ll travel the world, or maybe I will end up in a kitchen after all. It doesn’t matter, how much my life will fit the mold — all that matters is that I lived it without pausing, lived it without forgetting how I wanted it to end up.

 

Kelly Song is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at ksong@cornellsun.com. The Songbird Sings appears alternate Thursdays this semester.