One of the challenges of being me is understanding the general sense of a word, or knowing how to use it, but when pressed, not being able to define it. Or not trusting myself when it comes time to define it.
Autonomy is one of those, “I think it means…?” words. So I looked it up and I was right: independence or freedom.
And the first thing that came to mind was the fact that I lost some of my autonomy when I got married – and even more of it when I had kids.
When I got married – or really, anytime I’ve been in a serious relationship – there is a loss of autonomy on my part. And sometimes that’s easier to deal with than others. It’s not a serious matter, it’s not like I no longer make my own decisions or lose responsibility for myself, but rather it’s a consultation process. There are extra steps involved when it comes to make decisions, or signing up for things.
Once upon a time, my money was entirely my own. Now much of it goes towards a mortgage, towards insurance, towards future planning. When I want to sign up for a course, or go somewhere on a trip, I have to take into consideration my husband’s schedule; when we had one vehicle, I couldn’t automatically assume that the car would be mine for the evening, especially when I had a bus pass and decades of experience with public transit in my city and he didn’t.
Then once the kids entered the picture, well, suddenly autonomy is gone. Not completely, because the last thing I ever wanted even before they were a concept was to lose myself to my children. I can’t see that ever happening – I have too many interests of my own, and my husband and I have always been firm believers that it does the kids well to see us with outside interests (though of course, we still have to strike the right balance – I always look at his schedule before signing up for my own stuff). Not to mention our own hobbies and interests will mean that we will still have a marriage once they’ve left on their own paths.
Some choices haven’t been difficult for me to make. It was my decision to sell my motorcycle (something I will mention forever and ever because it was the one brief period of my life when I was cool). I just couldn’t handle getting on the bike when there was someone else counting on me – and now three someone elses (if we count my husband). I know there are plenty of people who continue to ride even with their own small people, and I have full respect for them; it’s just not for me right now.
And other decisions have been harder. It’s hard for me to backburner my interests because there are household or child-related things to do. So I often end up staying up late to pursue them and sacrificing sleep. I forgo buying new clothes – not that difficult to do, I’m not a clotheshorse – to ensure that I have money to buy them food and clothes.
So autonomy for me, at least at the current stage of the game, is something of a loss. But it’s temporary, as is the time spent with young children – my young children – and all the laughs and smiles and happy memories they bring to the table. Too soon they’ll be grown and while I’ll have some money and free time back (hopefully), I won’t have these moments, just the memories of them. So the loss is one I’m willing to absorb, since I’m getting so much back in return.