Does anyone have kids anymore?
I want to recount a few little blips of conversation I had recently, which made clear to me how much of a non-breeder world I live in. Despite recent exclamations about how “this blog is not remotely private” I actually am a little nervous to relay this stuff because I don’t want the friends quoted here to feel bad. I still say stuff like this all the time to people, and much worse.
Okay, first. A writer friend of mine and I were talking about doing freelance work and she said, “You’re lucky, you can get up whenever you want to.”
I got up today at 4:43. Yesterday I slept in until 4:50. One day last week I made it past 5:30.
Now she’s one of my closest friends and she knows Wally and sends him T-shirts that say “Wally Whale” on them and asks to visit him whenever she can. So it’s not like she’s a professional contact that wouldn’t know my daily life. She knows what flavor iced tea I’m drinking right now. She later recanted and said, oh yeah, that’s right, but in a distant way. Not like, wow, it’s actually the total opposite.
Second. I was at Hein’s art opening a few weeks ago. After an hour I told two friends of mine, (a couple), “I’m gonna go. Alex has to leave.”
“Alex? I didn’t see him, where is he?” asked B.
“He’s home,” I said.
“Then why do you have to leave?”
“No, he has to leave, I have to go home.”
His wife turned to him. “That’s how it works. They have to trade off. They can’t leave at the same time.”
Third. Back in February at Birch on 27th street at what was supposed to be a meditation hour (the leader never showed), my friend asked me how things had been lately. I launched into an incredibly self-indulgent and annoying monologue about how overwhelmed I felt, how unable to fit everything in. She said, “Imagine if you were working.”
I smiled, waiting to see if she was kidding but she wasn’t. I actually felt kind of proud of myself for telling her that my life was much simpler before I got laid off, even after Wally was born. The “old Rachel” would have said, “I know, right?” just to keep the conversation going and not make things awkward.
I’ve had two hard jobs in my life. One was working at Friendly’s Diner in Concord, Massachusetts at the end of my senior year of high school. No one was ever around to make the food or clean the dishes so I had to do that on top of being a waitress and making the sundaes and ringing up the bills. Once I had to chase two teenagers out to their car when they left without paying. I developed a pronounced forearm muscle on my right arm from scooping nearly frozen ice cream. Multiple times I got screamed at for mixing up the Reese’s Pieces Sundae and the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Sundae. I left most days in tears and quit after only two weeks to go work a desk job at the Automotive Information Center. The only other hard job I've had was being a substitute teacher at MS 54 in Morningside Heights. I once took thirty 8th-graders whose names I did not know on the rush hour subway to MTV in Times Square. By myself. I returned that afternoon with four of them.
That was it. Sometimes at various other places I took work home and worked nights and weekends and been yelled at by bosses and many times I’ve been ridiculously “stressed” and shaky and out of breath and nearly in tears. But the point is, I can imagine what it’d be like if I were working at any of the long-term jobs I've had. It’d be easy. Or a lot easier anyway.
I know of course there are people with five kids (or 19 and counting) and triplets and kids who are in myriad ways much, much harder than Wally to care for. And there are single moms with full time jobs who manage to go to night school and make organic dinners and still have lunches packed by 6 am in the morning. I know my day is an absolute walk in the park compared to most people on the planet. But I don’t always feel that. Often I feel I’m the only person I know who has kids, other than my parents, and certainly the only one dumb enough to stay home with one. These days, especially in New York, being a parent is just so passé--isn't it?