When your work is your world and you fall in love, things have to change a little, sometimes a lot. When I fell in love with Bill Keller, who at the time was the foreign news editor of the New York Times, I had to learn how to make room. By then the book had been published and I was in demand as a feature writer. I lived alone in a small, very pretty, cottage in Sag Harbor, New York. I had an enormous view of the Long Island Sound from most windows, a fireplace, a cat, and a television. I still didn't have much of a social life. My assignments took me around the United States doing magazine pieces and stories for the Sunday Times of London, then the Sunday Telegraph. I could shut up my little house and go anywhere at a moment's notice. But when I came home again, it was me, the cat, and (more often than not) a bowl of ramen noodles.
Over the years I have continuously thanked Bill for rescuing me from what I call "certain spinsterhood." He thinks I'm joking. I'm not.
How do you make room for a relationship? How do you make room for a child? Every woman does it her own way. My way, my allor- nothing way, was to ditch work completely and concentrate all my energy on my family. I gave up the cottage. The cat made the altruistic move of running away by itself. I sold my convertible and moved into the city to a large family-size apartment a block from the park. Molly was born two weeks after we moved in.
Some decisions make themselves, and some decisions aren't even decisions. You turn down one piece of work because you don't want to travel, another because you're tired, then another because your brain feels rusty?and before you know it, three years have gone by and you can list every child's activity in your neighborhood, every kids TV show, every baby food product and clothing label, and you're telling people you are thinking of writing for Sesame Street. You weigh about twenty pounds more than you ever imagined, and people who are put next to you at dinner parties ask you for your husband's opinions.
This became my life?and I loved it. It was cozy. I loved my baby and loved the novelty of being a mother. I loved staying in one place. I actually loved not having to think. But I had a friend once who after a few years of motherhood asked how it was possible that so much love and so much boredom could coexist in the same breast. And some days on the playground I knew exactly what she was talking about.
To offset the ennui of dealing solely with small children, some women live vicariously in their husband's world during their years at home. This is particularly easy when your husband's world is one you used to inhabit yourself. If you worked in finance and your husband is at a merchant bank, or you are both used to affecting government policy, or you were a journalist and your husband is now the managing editor of the New York Times, the dinnertime conversation has somewhere to go besides baby's first steps. My husband was promoted to managing editor at about the time Molly was born. We talked about news stories all the time. I didn't lose my brain, but I was losing my identity. I'm not joking when I tell you that people used to come up to me and ask me what Bill thought about X, Y or Z. Nor am I joking when I used to answer, "He thinks that . . ." before telling them what I thought.
Did I feel "invisible"? I felt too fat to be invisible!