I have a great friend who has chosen not to “breed,” as she calls it. She feels that too many parents want accomodation simply because they have children. They want extended hours at the public (i.e. tax-payer-supported) schools; they want special parking privileges for their double-wide strollers; they want tax benefits. My take is somewhat (unsurprisingly) different: I just want credit for making sacrifices to raise good citizens.
Unfortunately, with the exception of the poorest Americans, being a mom does not come with dental, as they say. I get no payment, no insurance coverage, no pension (or even a 401K into which I can put my own money). In my particular situation (a renter in NYC), I don’t even get tax benefits for my kids (my friend had no idea about the AMT and how it wreaks havoc on middle income professionals, those who make enough to get slammed on taxes because they don’t make enough to be truly rich… ah, but I digress…).
However, I do agree with my friend that far too many people become parents either without much thought to raising their kids or because they are simply too young to appreciate that a child is not a cat: Your cat will be dead 18 years after it’s born; your child will be asking you to pay for college! And, while I have never tried this in principle, I believe it is frowned upon to leave your toddler home alone for a long weekend with nothing more than a large bowl of kibble to keep him fortified. Raising a person is a full-time gig all by itself. It doesn’t end when the child enters pre-school. It doesn’t stop simply because the newly formed adult is venturing off into the world.
People are amazed by the open conversations I have with my kids. Some people are shocked by the nasty fights I have (especially with my soon-to-be-18 daughter). However, my daughter and I get along a full 95 percent of the time (and possibly more often than that). She knows that those fights are a rarity (as do I). I have invested not in a 401K but in my kids. I put in time, effort and energy to help them become full-fledged adults (one down, one to go, in that department). In short, I’ve put in so much time listening that nothing is off-limits. This is an effort launched at birth (and nanny-on-a-cell-phone will not provide it!).
Which is not to say I live vicariously through them or that they are the center of my universe. No, while my investment may be borne of love, it is truly not about the kids but about how they may get out there and have meaningful and abundant lives. Without proper guidance/tweaking/”I’ll beat you if you do that again” threats (no, I don’t beat my children, but there are days!), no child will become a good member of society, wherever that society may lie.
Among the many difficult choices I have made is to work “from home” (many of my gigs require an on-site presence, but I do have the flexibility to be where my kids need me to be… even if that is at the principal’s office!). I juggle a lot and am stretched for “me” time, but it is a commitment to which I am dedicated. In fact, I was always amazed by the level of work most people did in the many jobs I had as a paid employee. Retail was the worst: I actually had a regional manager approach me once and told me to slow down because I was working way too fast and might complete the task ahead of schedule (I think she was afraid she would have to provide me something else to do… I spent a lot of time dusting and redusting). Mid-management jobs were almost as bad; I once had a strict work day that required me to clock in at 7:30 a.m. and take a 30-minute lunch at noon, then clock out at 4 p.m. I would complete all of my work there by 10:30 a.m. and have literally nothing to do for the rest of the day (I went around asking other people for their work, which they never seemed able to complete in an 8-hour work day).
I still work upwards of 50 hours most weeks “from home,” living a vocation of odd hours (and quick blog posts before heading off to the next gig!). However, I see my daughter in a situation of possibly getting a (nearly) full ride to college, along with already having a pretty good foothold in her career, and I know my “choice” to work my backside off in relative obscurity was the correct choice.
My kids will probably thank me. Society, however, will not, because well-behaved, tax-paying, law-abiding, middle class citizens draw almost no attention to themselves at all. If only solid parenting were as valued as success on the gridiron. You can ask my friend: My “gifts” are no less extraordinary than Tom Brady’s. I am happy, however, that I was “drafted” first round, even if the workouts are, often, killer.