When I was in my 20’s I wasn’t even sure I wanted to have kids. I didn’t think that marriage was rational or necessary. For many years, I lived out of a bag, I loved being on my own, I traveled as often as I could, I moved a lot, I explored any job that allowed me to make my own schedule, and I dodged most anything that resembled commitment. I was content on being a rolling stone despite sometimes feeling lonely and in need of structure. For a long time, I was absolutely sure that marriage, kids, and a desk job would all be things to hold me down and stunt my own personal growth. I had convinced myself that those things would pull the independence right out from under me.
Being back in the States for the 4th of July was supremely patriotic. Sure enough, the stars and stripes were abundant, the smell of BBQ was in the air, swimsuits and towels lay askew across lawns, sunblock was forgotten, red wagons pulled shrieking kids, cold beers clinked, watermelons were devoured, families paraded, and fireworks adorned the night sky. It’s a busy celebration in the U.S. and although it has become commercialized like all holidays, I still fully appreciate the meaning behind Independence Day.
On my 4th of July, I awoke to my husband and my son. We went for a mellow sidewalk breakfast and then we spent the day with families full of children. Diapers needed changing, mouths needed to be fed, naps were interrupted or skipped, and couples juggled their parental duties barely lucky to have a moment to sit together uninterrupted. But despite what sounds like a lot of work (and commitment) to most, our day was full of sun, laughter, friends, well-made food, chats in the shade, and the joy of watching so many little ones growing up together and experiencing wonderment in the smallest of things. At one point, I stopped to look around at it all and I realized that while my life is completely and utterly different in so many fundamental ways, I honestly feel more complete and full and yes, more independent, than I ever did in my 20’s.
I still live out of a bag in another country and yes, I basically work for myself…so I guess not everything has changed. But, what feels good is that I have not only proved my previous 20-something assumptions wrong, but I’ve gained a perspective about what independence means that I could never have had before I was married with a son. To me, independence isn’t being starkly alone nor righteously free of being dependent. Obviously, there are times when being on my own is seriously necessary but on the whole, getting married and having a child has broadened my opportunities, not weighed me down.
Now, in my 30’s, I see independence as the ability to choose freely and embrace who I am as an individual, while choosing to live my life alongside the people who are dependent on me, and I on them. Especially when it means the grandparents put the kids to bed so we can all go out for a night cap.