Thursday, November 15, 2012

Great Expectations [or] Reality Bites

I did not plan to have Twelve, and how I ended up pregnant is a subject for another day, but today I would like to know what people think is going to happen when they have children. Seriously, what the fuck did you expect? is the exact phrasing. 

This question came up today in talking with R, who is finally home from being on the other side of the planet and needs to get caught up on important things like the conversation I had this morning with a good friend and the general themes and trends of things that people have been posting on Facebook. 

My friend M, the mother of our fairy godson, is annoyed because she's hosting the third annual Friendsgiving dinner this weekend and people are either bailing because they have better things to do or failing to respond at all.

(Just for the record, I believe that Facebook has totally ruined both invitations as a concept and the practice of responding to invitations. Another subject for another day.)

M is also annoyed that, since baby was born, her social life has changed. One of my cousins is annoyed because she has to go to work and leave baby at home. My sister is annoyed that she has to commute an hour each way for a couple of weeks because her husband has to work double during the holidays, so they're staying at his folks' house because grandma is the babysitter when they're both working. A friend is visibly ambivalent about his son because his wife will insist that he stop going out with friends in the evenings once it's born.

SERIOUSLY, people? What did you think was going to happen when you became parents? What did you think was going to fill the social void that's created by the fact that you can't take a toddler to happy hour? Did you think that your husband would magically get a job that pays enough that you could stay home with baby, despite the fact that he hasn't graduated from college yet and the economy still sucks? Do you think that there are never times when you have to do things that you don't particularly like, just because you're a parent?

First of all, you women all chose to have babies in a culture in which the person who gestates and births the baby is the person who is responsible for it. If you're lucky, the father participates, but only as much as he wants to, despite what he says or what you may have deluded yourself into believing. If he does bail, you are entitled to a small amount of child support, if he's employed and findable, but you may have to negotiate a complicated and stressful legal situation to make that happen. Society-at-large, in the form of government assistance, only gets involved if you are totally destitute and extremely lucky, and even that depends on which ideological faction is currently in charge in your state. Don't even bother to ask about things like federally-funded day or health care for your kiddo, because you had it in the wrong country if that's what you're looking for.

Secondly, you all chose to become parents. M's may have been a bit unexpected, but you other three deliberately went out and got pregnant, and all of y'all decided to carry to term, knowing that you have jobs and that your partners have jobs and that you would have to figure this shit out. Again, I can't relate to this, but I'm taking your word at face value, so I cannot fathom why you're complaining about having gotten what you asked for. Do children who finally, after years of begging, get those ponies then complain about having to feed them every day?

Probably. Maybe that's my point: Grow up.

Grow up, and understand that, as young women in the year 2012, you have to make the best of a shitty situation. Yes, we were all told from childhood that we could have it all, and yes, that's a huge lie, so I get where the confusion comes from. What I don't get, at least in the case of my sister and cousin, is why you didn't listen to me when I tried to tell you the truth. You'd been to my house, you'd seen the titles of the books, you knew what my masters degree is in, and you must have known that I know things about this because you certainly knew when to poo-pooh me and be dismissive. Why didn't you listen? Why didn't you LEARN? You watched my life, for goodness sake, you saw me raising Twelve and putting her in day care and struggling to pay for everything.

Good Lord. What if I made it look too easy? 

Okay, that I've not considered before. Maybe, instead of a warning signal flashing and blaring terribly, my life has actually inspired other people to procreate. I suppose that from far away, my accomplishments over the last decade do seem acceptable: Homeowner, graduate school, stable long-term relationship, teenage daughter who's not on drugs.

If I wasn't so indignant right now, my typing fingers stomping angrily, the thought that my life looks good on paper would be as funny as R's straight-faced claim last night that he's not a nerd about his birds. I spluttered my tea all over when he said that, because it's almost as ridiculous as anyone actually wanting to do what I've done.

For all that I'm loving the stage Twelve's at now and have immensely enjoyed each stage of her life, I wouldn't do it again. I don't wish her away, of course, but I wouldn't start over from the beginning for anything. I know the choices that I've been forced into by the reality of the here and now, and they're impossible ones. I turned down a good job when Twelve was small because they wanted me to work on Saturdays, when no child care is available. Later, a crappy job forced me to leave my daughter home alone before I was ready to do that. I'm strongly considering the prospect of staying here until Twelve graduates from high school, which will probably mean underemployment and and an inexplicable gap in my cv.

I often say of interpersonal relationship-related matters that all the cliches are true: We fall in love when we least expect it, it's impossible to predict who will turn out to be your soul mate, be careful what you wish for, and so on. It's also true that reality bites and life sucks, though (only because the indignance has been dissipated by sufficient stomping) I'll leave you with Monica's version, given to Rachel just after she's cut up her dad's credit cards: Welcome to the real world. It sucks! You're gonna love it. 

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