How many of us are choosing to be a parent? Probably not many. Not many of us are “choosing” to be parents. I know people are formulating a response to this preposterousness that I’m projecting here but wait a minute! I can prove my point. Parenthood isn’t always chosen by the parents. It’s expected by the society and our family. We just go along with the program and feel like the decision is ours. What helps this nice and smooth coming to terms is the age-old ladder of domestic achievements.
First comes landing a nice match. Second comes getting married to them. Third is automatically bearing their kids.
Parenthood and parenting is considered automatic too. Like one day you give birth and you become a parent. Well, you literally become a parent but how many of us had any idea what parenting was for the first 2,4 or even 10 years of our first born’s life. Not many. Thanks for confirming that.
And then the drill starts. And I’m just talking about the logistics of being a parent. Breast feeding, keeping them fed, keeping them entertained, cleaning them, looking for a good school, then saving for their college, finding a match, wedding them off. The cycle starts again.
I’m not even talking about what we owe our kids in terms of their moral upbringing. That’s a whole ‘nother talk.
How many of us have felt alone on this journey? How many of us have had people drool over the baby the whole day but wash off their hands of all the love when nighttime and essentially bedtime rolls around. Then it’s just the parents and the baby. Then it’s just a light peck on the baby’s cheek and lights out! How we stay awake night after night and stumble through the day with our eyes half-closed, how we battle depression, how we make sure that we don’t come off as harsh or abrupt due to sleep deprivation is our ordeal. No one shares in that. People comment on it occasionally and feel that their civic duty is accomplished. Hardly!
Or how about when the child starts school and we’re pregnant with our second? We don’t expect much from others except may be make sure the homework is all done before the kid shows up to school the next day. We are not expecting anyone to spoon-feed our four year old. She can do that. We wouldn’t have sent her to school if we weren’t pregnant. We fight the urge to lay in bed all day long with our belly down to the knees. We fight the resentment for our unborn baby because he has taken our attention from our first born. Just as our oldest was starting to be chatty and with her own personality, this pregnancy crept up on us. Ugh! Great! Can’t someone just help her with the homework? Why do people think that ” they can’t be responsible for school work?”. Can they help with the meals? Why do they think that “their cooking skills have slacked off?” Who cares if they have? We just want a meal to stay alive these days.
Baby #2 arrives! How blessed! How amazing for the big sister to learn how to be compassionate and loving and nurturing by actually being with a baby! Of course child psychology experts are nuts when they say that having a younger sibling can be stress-inducing and regression-causing for the older siblings. What do they know? They’re nuts. These two kids can be raised perfectly together by parents exhausted out of their minds. They don’t need anything else except each other. They’re a family of four now! Within three years of marriage. How wonderful. Life is perfect, blissful, exactly how it should be.
Dear bystanders! This wasn’t what we expected . We didn’t expect to get married when we were not ready. We didn’t expect to get pregnant while still effectively on our honeymoon. We didn’t expect to be charged with the responsibility of an entire household, kids, husband, in-laws, money matters. We were expecting to ease into the role of a wife and then several years later take on the role of a mother consciously. As you can see, not much turned out according to our expectation.
But we did have one expectation through all of it. A huge hope. That we would have tons of coaching, guidance and help. That was the thing that we expected and hoped far beyond anything. The fact that nothing happened according to how we wanted it to or needed it to doesn’t affect us as much as the lack of help. That’s where our spirit is a little crushed. The lack of empathy that has been shown by people living under the same roof as us has caused the biggest adjustment to happen. When we see how we are expected to spring up to the challenges of life without sleep, proper food, sex, good mental health, enough money, compassion, empathy, we can’t help but keep going back to our psychology books and believing everything that we were taught about “bystander effect”, “pluralistic ignorance”. We see you exactly in that light. You see the struggles but you can’t share in them. The more there are of you, the lesser privileged we are because each one of you thinks that the other can do it. Our husbands are bystanders too sometimes. They think that we have loads of help in the form of family but what they don’t get is that unless we ask for help explicitly, we don’t get it.
If we could tell you one thing that would make our ordeal lighter is to bring a burp cloth when the baby is throwing up, to help the toddler when she’s having a tantrum, to insist that we eat before we engage ourselves in another chore, to make sure that while the baby naps we nap too and you watch the toddler, to help with the cooking once in a while. We know your cooking skills are slacking but you can cut the vegetables. We know you had multiple tutors to manage your own children so you don’t know how to help our child with her academics but you can help her color! We. know you don’t want to carry the infant when he’s throwing up but you can hand us a wash cloth. You know where the wash cloths are. That’s all we are asking.