“Your home is whatever in this world you love more than you love yourself. So that might be creativity, it might be family, it might be invention, adventure, faith, service, it might be raising corgis, I don’t know, your home is that thing to which you can dedicate your energies with such singular devotion that the ultimate results become inconsequential.” Elizabeth Gilbert
I used to think writing was my home. Or art. Or working for social justice. I used to think that I was a mother by accident rather than design and that maybe I wouldn’t have become a mother if I really had a choice in the matter. I thought I kept my first two children because I had to in order to do what was best for them. The people who would have taken custody of them were not viable options in my mind and heart.
Before Lake was born, I was talking about working toward a year of freedom. I wanted a year to be free of obligation to any other human being, including a job, and I wanted to travel, living independently and following my heart. Maybe it would take me to spiritual and eco communities where I could trade work for a place to live and opportunities to learn. Maybe it would take me to developing countries to work with communities healing from war and terrorism. Maybe it would take me to collaborations with other artist-activists. I wanted to save enough money to be free to discover the possibilities.
Now, as my second child moves away from home and I move toward a shared life with my son’s co-parents, I realize that my home, my dream, is something very different.
When I was a young single mom, my dream was to find intentional community. I envisioned living in a community with others who shared work, resources, parenting – who shared life. And because of this sharing could make life sustaining decisions; there are enough hands and enough hours to create the life we desire. Imagine living in a community where all of your needs are met – love, family and touch; support through challenges; creativity and meaningful work; healthy food and sustainable housing.
I gave up on the dream. At the time I couldn’t find an intentional community that was both financially viable and would accept my children. I transitioned from college to full-time work and accepted the life of a mostly single householder. The only other long-term co-parent in my children’s lives has been my sister, who has provided various forms support for them from across the country. It was lonely much of the time and it was hard to bear the responsibility of two other human beings on my own.
I believed for the last 15 years that I traded my dream of intentional community for a dream of freedom from family obligation after my children left home. Now I am beginning to understand that Family is my Home. My children are my home as Elizabeth Gilbert defines it above. My singular devotion has been towards my children and chosen family, whatever shape it’s taken over the years.
I have a new child and while I continue to desire to be free of full-time parenting, and am content in giving that gift to the Mamas, I still want our son to have the best life possible. No matter what my imaginations has told me I want to do with the freedom I now have, my heart keeps drawing me back to my child and our shared family.
As plans for relocating to Portland solidified, I found myself doubting the decision with my partner to live on our own rather than with the Mamas, which had been presented as a possibility during the pregnancy. Shortly before moving to Portland, we changed our minds and committed to living communally with the Mamas for at least 3-5 years. My heart tells me that our son deserves the best environment possible for his early development. Sharing a home where there is financial abundance, resources for living a sustainable life, and co-parenting so that no one becomes overwhelmed with child rearing means giving him a home where he can thrive.
I put myself in a position to truly have a choice in how much I relate to my third child. And I’m still choosing him without any obligation or responsibility to do so. I finally understand that no matter what exciting ideas entice me now and again, with my family is where I belong. I can adventure and follow my heart’s desire in my creative work, but my devotion is to my child and the family we share because of his presence in the world.