And finally, what does all of this mean to me?
For one, just as it has potentially become easier for women over time, it has also become harder for us. Yes, in America more men are stepping up to the plate to help like never before, and perhaps here in Germany too, just a little less – or a little further behind, depending on how you look at it. Would I rather a) not have been born in the time that I was or, b) not be living in Germany right now? Absolutely not on both counts. I would rather be born now than almost any other time in history considering the struggles women have faced. Additionally, living here in Germany is tough at times, but mainly because of the language barrier and the fact that the support network I have grown accustomed to is simply so very far away!
My husband and I will have children someday. We’ve talked about having two and no more. We haven’t ruled out adoption, but would like to have at least one ourselves. We also aren’t really ‘planning’ when we will have children. It will likely just happen. When I think of all my friends having children I wonder how I would be as a parent – and then I get nervous, both excited and nervous because family can both make and break you for life! I also remember how evil my sister and I were at times to both of our parents and how I often feel as if I have let them down because I don’t always do what they think is best (hello baggage!). Thinking about being on the other side of that terrifies me, mainly because I also recognize that much of the issues I have with my family stem from not communicating (which admittedly is a two way street, with not just one person or party to blame when it doesn’t necessarily work well)! My husband and I also talk about having children here someday because we are so much better cared for socially (health care costs, education costs, etc) than in the US. We don’t necessarily have to go broke when thinking about raising children or sending them off to school, which is nice. It’s the when that we aren’t too sure about. It will probably just happen when it happens.
I think my sister and I are drawn to large families, partly because ours was ‘typical’ and small. She now has a massive litter and I married into a massive litter that keeps on growing with all the weddings and children being born. Even my family’s family-get-togethers were never really that big. My husband’s family events seem to be just that though, events. With so many children and grandchildren spread all over the country, when they can all be in one place why shouldn’t it be an event. I have a theory that our (my families’) events aren’t bigger because my side of the family (both my mother, my father, and their brothers and sisters) all grew up into starkly individual people who happen to be related but caught up in their own lives and business, so as to be all too generally busy to make the annual dinner, or other event that comes about because the family talks regularly. My sister is very good about creating events for the family to participate in and then inviting everyone to come along…perhaps it just seems to happen more in my husband’s family because there are just more people to create events. This is not to say that the family I married into does not include individuals, they are all individual too. Yet, as an outsider not having grown up in the family, things seem different.
On the eve of my wedding, I made my mother cry. She heard from one of her sisters that I had called her a “fucking spazz” which was entirely misunderstood and a misquote, but the damage was done. My mother said that she felt that I was giving her up for my mother-in-law. I suppose the human equivalent to ‘greener pastures’. It all was just bullshit, though, since my mother has always actually been a pretty awesome person and I would never ‘trade her in (or up). I don’t think any amount of apologizing or telling her I love her and actually really like her will change the fact that she felt that I took a dump on her heart. What’s nice about my husband’s family though, is that it isn’t mine by blood. So, all the batshit crazy things that my family does (that really aren’t that batshit crazy, we just really have a hard time talking to each other honestly) or doesn’t do that I am completely used to. It’s just family. These things about my family that drive me nuts go away when I am with his family. I feel like I generally see clearer because the experience isn’t bogged down with so much family baggage. By baggage I mean the emotional and physical memories that come with time and experience, not that my family themselves are baggage. I am sure at times that my husband can relate to this feeling or idea. I am all too familiar with the look he makes when he has had his fill of family. It is the same look that I get.
So, the sustaining family part is a little trickier to explain. We can’t choose our families, we can only learn to live with them or without them. If we were able to choose we probably still wouldn’t get it right.