A Letter To My Son On His First Birthday
It was a long time before I felt ready to have a baby. I thought I needed three things: financial stability, an amazing partner, and some amount of success.
Until I met Papa at 31 years old, money was a big stressor in my life. I had college and credit card debt and didn’t have a concrete plan to dig myself out of it because I didn’t know how. Papa loved talking about all things money and finance, and we had many conversations early on in our relationship that eventually helped me understand exactly what I had to do and how long it would take. I was eager to empower myself and relieve myself of the one thing that always weighed me down. With Papa by my side, I felt hope that I would crawl my way out of it.
Once we got engaged at 34 years old, the conversation was no longer about his money and my money, but our money. I had paid off a good chunk of debt but there was still a long way to go, and rather than pay interest while I chipped away at it, Papa paid off the rest: $27,573.33.
I know the exact number because I still want to pay Papa back. He insists that’s not an option because we’re a family, but I struggle with the idea of someone helping me and taking care of me to this extent. I always prided myself on being independent and taking care of myself. It was a big part of my identity. Grandma JoJo always told me I couldn’t expect a man to take care of me. I had to go to college and get a job and figure things out on my own. It was solid advice and I’m grateful to her for it.
But when you enter a relationship and make a commitment to spend the rest of your lives together, you learn there are so many other ways to take care of a person besides money. There’s emotional and physical intimacy, there’s encouragement and support, there’s inspiration, listening, and learning how to be vulnerable with each other. And the most precious aspect of a relationship is quality time spent together. Time is worth infinitely more than money.
Once I was able to let go of an identity that no longer served me, I was able to let go of feeling like a failure for not paying off my debt on my own. I love your Papa and your Papa loves me. We’re a team.
Which brings me to the second piece. I needed to have an amazing partner before I could have you, Little Bear.
Bringing a child into the world is hard, scary, life-altering, beautiful, and exciting. I imagine it would be exponentially harder and scarier by yourself, and part of what makes it so beautiful and exciting is sharing the experience with another person.
When I met Sam, it did not take very long to fall in love with him. It was not the instant, overwhelming infatuation I had felt in past relationships. It was a slow, strong, steady, and comforting build. I never felt like I was trying to be someone other than myself, and each time we spoke I felt like I wanted to talk to him for hours, and we usually did. I fell more and more in love with Sam with each interaction, similar to how I fall more and more in love with you with each interaction.
I fell in love twice before I met your Papa. The first relationship lasted eight years and the second lasted seven months. When I was in those relationships I imagined marrying them and for a time, thought they were “the one.” But love is messy and simply feeling love for a person does not mean you are meant to spend the rest of your life with them. A healthy couple is two people who are always working on themselves and the relationship. If you’re not both putting in the effort, it’s not meant to be.
And sometimes it’s hard to know until after the relationship has ended. Which is why my hope for you, George, is that you experience the most amazing love but also heartbreak. Heartbreak will feel like the worst thing you have ever felt, but it will show you what you need and what you deserve so that when you do make the decision to marry someone, you will have no hesitation and no doubts.
When Papa and I got married at 35 years old, the first two pieces I needed to feel ready to have a baby were finally in place. The third piece was not as easy to navigate.
I had big dreams growing up. For years, I wanted to be a famous actress and then in my early 30s I wanted to write a best-selling screenplay. I felt like I needed to have some type of success before I had a baby, because parenting would consume my life and there would be no more room for me and my dreams.
But I had been pursuing dreams I thought I was supposed to pursue without checking in to see how I actually felt about those things. Turns out I felt like a fraud when I was acting and didn’t enjoy writing screenplays. I wasn’t even good at it.
So when Papa and I got married I entered a learning mode. I read books and listened to podcasts and started writing a personal blog again. I had written one for years and it always made me happy. With Papa’s support, I started to find joy in day-to-day life again, without any idea of where it would lead.
And one day I was all of a sudden ready to have a baby.
I hadn’t reached that idea of “success” I had hoped for, but I no longer really knew what I was trying to achieve. I just knew I wanted to start a family with Sam and I didn’t want to be too old when we did.
While I was pregnant with you I took an online writing course that propelled my momentum, and by the time you were born at age 36, I had been publishing a weekly essay and newsletter for six months. As of this letter to you on your first birthday, I have never missed a Tuesday.
My fear that having a baby would squash my dreams and aspirations was the complete opposite of my reality. Having a baby did not put a halt to anything. It changed my whole life and made me hyper aware of how many hours are in a day, but I never felt like I had to put aside my writing to be a good Mama.
In fact, I feel even more strongly now that it’s imperative for you to see me pursuing my passions and creative interests. It’s not about being a mom who also works to pay the bills. It’s about being a person whose ambitions fill her with happiness and energy. We all need things outside of our families that bring us purpose and joy. The fulfillment I get from writing and doing anything creative makes me a better wife to Papa and a better Mama to you.
This has been the best year of my life, my little babe. And I expect every year from here on out to be better than the last.
Happy first birthday, George. Thank you for coming into this world and brightening our lives with your smile and big personality. Thank you for keeping me present when my mind tends to wander and worry. And thank you for reminding me of what’s most important: our family.
I love you.