Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Martha's Note To Parents: Sacrifice Schmacrifice

I am not a parent. But I have seen parents. I know parents. I have my own parents. And it is no sacrifice. It's an investment, sure. Even a poor one in some cases because not every investment pays off. But sacrifice? Well, schmacrifice.

I'm getting to that stage where a lot of my friends are becoming first-time parents. They have their complaints - they're tired, hungry, poor and miss going out. They have less sleep, less personal time, less money and less sanity. They deal with poop, lots of it. And soon they'll deal with backtalk, sasstalk and shittalk. They worry. All the time. About everything. And they wonder whether one can be paid for being a professional carpooler.

I say, hey dude, the rest of us have complaints, too.

I've accepted that I'm now second (or, more accurately, fiftieth) fiddle.

That if we're going to spend time together, I'm the one who should initiate and drive my ass over because hey, parents are busy, so they get a free pass, right?

That once I get there, I will become a de-facto unpaid babysitter for an hour or two while they snatch every opportunity to put in a load of laundry and clip their toenails.

That I get to ooh and aah over photos and stories and drool and pureed peas.

That any story I have going on in my life will inevitably be interrupted by steps (so impressive!) or babbling (almost a word!) or poop (uh oh!) and this will be followed by an apology for being cut off but no real effort to pick up the chain of conversation because goo-goo-gah-gah-how can one speak of trivial matters like my life when a baby is around?

That every moment, my friends are building a life, an insular family unit, that will exhaust and sustain them for the rest of their life to come. That they are awash in snuggly baby kisses, chubby baby thighs, laughter like bell chimes. That their lives are now driven by love and that feeling that only a parent gets. That they have a new found sense of community, of connection. A reason to trick-or-treat. That they are constantly drugged by the high of seeing a little version of themselves have their first booboo, first word, first date. That they have someone to take care of them for the rest of their lives.

I'm cool with that. But let's remember one thing - the friends you leave behind, dear parents? The friends like me?

We don't tuck anyone in at night.
We don't see a miracle grow into a person.
We don't have someone to care about us, to call us on our birthday, to wheelchair us to hospital visits.

And from society's standpoint, we don't get to claim that we've sacrificed. We're perceived as selfish. I've even been told my choices are unnatural.

You don't get to have the best of both worlds, parents. You can't have the best job on earth and have made the biggest life sacrifices. It shouldn't be a sacrifice to have the best, most rewarding job on earth. It's like hearing an actress complain about how her million dollar job is accompanied by the annoying task of having to deal with the media.

While it may not be anthropologically correct, when one thinks ritual sacrifice, one usually thinks of this:

Here's the deal: the person with the knife? That's not the sacrifice. The dude bleeding out? That's the sacrifice. Why? Because whatever they might be sacrificing for (crops, weather, favorable gods), the dead guy will not benefit. The dude with the knife does.

So next time you as a parent want to go down that long and whiny road, ask yourself what you're gaining and if you'd trade it up. And if not, know what to do....


Sophie Littlefield said...

martha this is great. eighteen years ago i was one of those parents...lived and breathed my children...nothing was more sacred...blah blah blah. Now i love babies in the abstract, i like looking at them in restaurants and i don't mind them on planes and their little bitty clothes are as cute as ever, but i'm really glad that all my conversations don't revolve around them!

Anonymous said...

Martha, you're awesome. You speak the truths we long to hear.

Juliet Blackwell said...

LOL -- this reminds me of the comedian David Cross who once said that while he respected the rights of his friends to have children, he thought it was pretty darned RUDE of them ;-)

This is a classic post. Oh, BTW, you've highly insulted me as a loving parent.

Unknown said...

M--as always a delightful take on life.

Personally I'm a believer of free choice on the issue of parenthood and you can whine to me any time about any thing and I promise not to interrupt. Except before you start let me tell you what Ross did away at college.... ;)

Martha Flynn said...

Ha! Lisa, I'm always up for Ross storise. Stories of children are welcome as long as they are entertaining, and he always is. :)

Dang, Juliet, of course David Cross would find a way more succint, clever way to say everything. Bethany would appreciate, too, I'm sure!

Sophie, I am now picturing babies. In the abstract. Literally. (Which, btw, is also a David Cross routine...hmm...must bog about David Cross soon....)

Poppy said...

I never got the whole selfish thing. It's not like our potential children are sitting in some stork's waiting room watching as all the other children get parents and they get left behind. We're not putting our needs first. It's a set of one. There are no other needs.

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