This week I dropped Josh off at school for his first day of Kindergarten. I think I had all the normal emotions of the, “my baby’s growing up” type of stuff, that included fears of what he will or will not do with his education, passing the FCAT, bullying, and the fact that his life experiences are no longer controlled by just me. My thoughts though, ventured into places that they have been multiple times over the past five years. In the preparation leading up to Kindergarten I couldn’t help but think about what is or is not being said out there. What is it that parents don’t talk about and even more importantly…why aren’t we saying it? Everyone knows some basic facts about parenting. We know that it’s expensive. That’s a given. We know that every milestone brings about various emotions of relief and sadness. We know that kids are struggling with their educational future based on the lack of importance our country places on it. We also know that our kids will explore ideas and thoughts that counter our own. All of these are universal truths of parenting. I challenge however, that there are real universal truths that are unspoken over the water cooler, at the coffee shops, at the Sponge Bob birthday parties, and Mommy and Me. The conversations are not spoken of because it would make us look like a bad mom, an uncaring mom, a distant mom, a bad wife, and in some eyes…just bad. So what we do is not say a word and perpetuate this idea that motherhood is glamorous, with butterflies and daisies as the descriptor to a life that is sometimes difficult and mundane, thus creating this two dimensional media image of the happy mom just pleased to have her kids and the dog track mud all over the house, all because your mop can reach into corners only God can find.
So, what I decided to do is actually say what I simply have wanted to say for years. First of all, it is my belief that for every milestone reached that parents should celebrate themselves. In our culture, we celebrate the kids. “Yay, you pooped in the toilet.” “Yay, you said an intelligible sentence.” “Yay, you slept through the night.” “Yay, you can use a fork.” “Yay, you can read.” Yay, you are in Kindergarten.” “Yay, you made it through adolescence without getting arrested.” We celebrate them and we should. We should show our kids that accomplishments should be celebrated. I’m here to say however, that with every milestone we should also celebrate ourselves. So let me reverse it to show you what I’m talking about. “Yay, I don’t have to wipe ass anymore.” “Yay, you can finally tell me what you want as opposed to screaming at the top of your lungs.” “Yay, I might finally reach Stage 4 REM sleep.” Yay, I can finally eat my dinner without it getting cold.” “Yay, I can finally do my work, while you do yours.” Yay, I don’t have to pay for full time day care anymore.”
We don’t say what we think, because by doing that would show that we are way too human. When I dropped Josh off for his first day of Kindergarten I was sad of course, but also relieved. I made it through the first quarter of a 20 year football game. On the first day of Kindergarten I spiked the metaphorical ball and did my touchdown dance over a strong cocktail. Shelba 7, The World 0. I celebrated me and I encourage all parents to do the same.
Parenting is expensive, but there is no way to actually prepare for that cost and the stress. This reason alone is why I hate it when people say that if you can’t afford it you shouldn’t have kids. Well, let me
tell you what I wasn’t prepared for.
- Child care costs. Approximately, $26,000 for full time care.
- Co-pays for a doctor in the middle of the night to tell you that they have a cold and there is nothing they can do, when you just knew that their fever was a life threatening illness.
- Strollers that break, car seats they grow out of, diapers they grow out of, but the package is not empty yet, and wasted food you buy that they refuse to eat.
- Emergency sippy cups that are thrown out the window on the long trip to Tennessee
- Paid for dinners that never got eaten, because your little angel decided to throw a fit in the restaurant
- Excessive dry cleaning of your favorite clothes
- Toys that are played with once
- Toys that are never played with, but you bought anyway because brilliant marketers made you believe that if you didn’t your child would retread tires in Somalia for their career
- Becoming a stock holder in Disney…God bless Walt.
Other things I wasn’t prepared for:
- My house being turned into a battery and plastics factory
- Never, ever getting to watch a television show without being interrupted
- Not being able to go to another movie that isn’t made by Pixar
- Judgment by non-parents, parents whose kids are grown, and other parents who simply refuse to admit their life is just as screwed up
- Being so sleep deprived that you can start to understand how there are people in the world that can hurt their children
- The milestone competition (My little Sally can speak 3 languages and she’s only 3!)
- The incessant questions from friends and family asking if the child sleeps through the night. I always wanted to say, “Look at these bags under my eyes! Does it look like he sleeps through the night?”
- Bras, underwear, and shoes that are old and worn out.
Let me talk about the bras and shoes for a moment. This picture below is the best image I could find to describe what was holding my 42 year old breasts up for the past five years.
Bra’s are expensive. Bra’s are not to be seen by the outside world. In the five years leading up to Kindergarten, I bought very few bras. I would wear my bras until the wire popped out or until the concept of gravity defying was completely lost. Since bra’s are not on the outside of my clothing I made a choice to buy as few as possible. I did this because I had no financial choice. Clothes for work or a good bra? Formula or a good bra? Daycare or a good bra? You get the point. I was completely unprepared to have my breasts hang to the floor in my early 40’s, because of the lack of an affordable gravity defying bra. I would look at bra’s in the Victoria Secret window like a child in a Dickens novel looks at the big goose hanging in the butcher’s window. I should say the same for shoes. I never knew what it was like to learn to fix my own shoes until recently. For five years I craved good bras and shoes that didn’t have the soles worn out or a wire sticking me in the arm pit.
I get angry when people judge parents and children. I get even angrier when people judge parents who are in poverty or barely surviving above the poverty line. Comments where they say that you shouldn’t have children if you can’t afford them are elitist and ignorant. There is no book that I can find that describes in great detail the stress you feel when your bra can no longer hold your breasts up and you don’t know when you will get a reprieve on the bra thing. When I get stressed about the bra situation, I think about what it must be like to have a bad bra and also have to ride the bus to your minimum wage job just to support your children in daycare. I think about single moms trying to survive when the father walked out on them. I think about people who were doing fine until the recession and then both parents lost their jobs, forcing them into the streets. when I think about these people, all of a sudden my old bras don’t seem so bad.
I don’t think much has changed in terms of the difficulty of parenting from one generation to the other, except maybe the empathy. We seem to be a very nasty nation right now. There are nasty comments being said publicly in social media by our friends, in the televised media by politicians, and every other place people feel like their voice of nastiness can be heard. We shouldn’t have to make a choice between family and money. Having a family should not solely be for the people who have money and wealth, because having a family is a human right and not a financial one. I can’t speak for people who have multiple children when they can’t afford it, nor will I try. I also can’t speak for the people that shouldn’t have children at all when they are barely able to take care of themselves because of mental illness, drug abuse, or some other problem that inhibits their parenting abilities. I can say wholeheartedly that most people are not the ones you see screaming at their children in the Walmart. (Although that was almost me during the back to school tax free holiday weekend). Most people don’t decide to have kids because they have money, but because they are ready to love. Child rearing is expensive and in the society of keeping up with the Jones’s and a perpetuated two dimensional media world where moms are happy to clean up mud and dads are portrayed as perpetually stupid and distant, then why would we expect people to make appropriate parenting decisions? Why would we expect our children to be raised anything but entitled?
After these first five years what I learned is that people are STILL not talking about the stress and expense of parenting. If we were talking then maybe we would stop cutting necessary services for our children and parents. If we were talking, then maybe parents wouldn’t have to stock the classrooms with supplies that don’t contribute to learning such as toilet paper, sanitizer, and paper towels. If we were talking, then maybe we wouldn’t be keeping up with Mr. and Mrs. Jones, who are trying to keep up with Mr. and Mrs. Smith. If we were talking then we would stop glamorizing what is not a glamorous job and then maybe we would start to make a dent on people who believe that a child will make their lives better when what they need is to get their lives in order first. If we were talking, then maybe we would start to educate our kids properly and see that the village should be raising the child and not just parents in their isolated worlds while wearing their bad bras.
In the end, I dropped Josh off at his first day of Kindergarten, took the obligatory first day photo, watched him carry his Toy Story back pack and Spiderman lunch box inside, and said goodbye. After that, I went for a nice brunch, had a mid morning celebratory mimosa, and bought a new bra. It was called the, “Age defying, gravity defying bra that doesn’t feel like a bra!”
Josh on the first day of Kindergarten.