My (step)sister-in-law has two adorable little girls, and she made a post on her Facebook page that started me thinking and led to me noticing commentary from other moms I know that sort of terrified me. Maybe it's because summer is coming, but everyone's all a-twitter about what their kids are going to be doing this summer.
"Just enrolled Gracie in Dance! Starting next week we'll be living at the dance studio every night!"
(S)SIL is enrolling her younger daughter in dance classes that, inconveniently, meet on the days that her older daughter has off, which puts them at the dance studio almost every night of the week. The level of commitment blows me away.
I have my commitments. Gaming every odd Thursday, a rotating dinner-and-a-movie party with friends every Tuesday (hosting once a month). Additional hosting on weekends and such. It gets exhausting but it's fun for me. I get to host friends, make delicious meals for everyone to enjoy. It's something I could conceivably manage with a baby, possibly, but one or two young children who are already getting into extra activities? When I think about my life becoming that of a (hardly) glorified chauffeur, driving my child from this practice/class/birthday party to that, I start looking for myself in the picture and can't find me.
Other moms are struggling to find activities for their children over the summer. One stay-at-home mom is fretting because activities that don't put her at the center of everything are hella expensive. Send the kids to the neighborhood community pool? $500 for passes… PER CHILD. And that's not even the private club, which involves a $1500 buy-in *before* the annual fee. Park classes? When I was in elementary school in the '80s $5 bought a supervised afternoon at the park and craft supplies to make with friends. Now? $300 please, to join the summer program in their upper-middle-class neighborhood, and then individual class fees. Why yes, that IS per child, TYVM.
It's ridiculous. And for parents who don't have the luxury of staying home? Now suddenly there's a full day worth of childcare for three months that is now a problem. I've said it before and it's certainly not news, but kids are damn expensive.
I don't know what's worse, really, the financial cost or the time. For me I think it would be the time. I don't have a problem, in general, with throwing money at the problem (supposing I have it). But my time is a non-renewable resource. I need time to be me, to do things I enjoy. I could find joy in my children, I suppose, but I know I'd be miserable living at the dance studio every night. The novelty of "look what I can do" would wear off quickly. The pressure to be perky and enthusiastic among the other moms, to not look run-down and tired like I would surely be, would be devastating. I imagine high school all over again, full of gossip and cliques. I wouldn't fit in with the other moms, of course. Flashback to sitting alone at the lunch table in high school, in college, looking around for people who look like me. It's almost panic-inducing. No; strike that "almost".
Okay, fine, I don't need to enroll my kid in anything like that, but that doesn't help matters. I'd want to nurture my child's interests, which would get to be exhausting. My god, how much time it would take. It isn't any wonder that so many parents lose their own identities. Time alone makes it almost impossible to nurture yourself anymore without being branded a neglectful parent. "You're leaving your kids for the weekend to do WHAT?" "You're going on vacation without your kids?"
Judgment. Ridicule. The constant fear that you're ruining your kids. Keep it.
I'll be busy traveling with other grown-ups, eating in the best restaurants in the country and spending my time living my best life. If it's not your idea of the good life, that's fine. Ask me if I have regrets and I'll throw it right back at you.