Beginning a new week, I have come to the realization that I’m inundated by a host of firsts and promised lasts, all at the same time. No wonder I’m feeling confused. I recognize that for me, this is a year of many lasts. The end of a portal of time that I have personally invested so much of myself in, only to see now the culmination of all my efforts come to fruition and in some cases, completion -at least with this phase. What am I referring to? Raising children of course.
By the time this year is over, I would have been engaged as a mother for over 35 years, full time, no pay, no 401K, no retirement plan or pension. But is this true? Have I worked all these years for no pay? Voluntarily? Technically- you bet. As a matter of fact, each year the Social Security Department sends out their little torture reminder mailing notifying me that my monetary contribution for x-amount of years has been net zero. In that same letter, they go on to explain why I shouldn’t expect anything financially from them down the line unless of course I am considered a legal and recognized appendage to my husband- Mr. Contributor. Then, and only then will I be awarded half the amount of what he has earned as a monthly payment. And why is that, you may ask? Simple. It’s because society believes that what he does out in the big bad world as a career, while making money is so much more respected and significant than let’s say me, a stay at home mother who has raised six children for the past thirty-five years.
Six children. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? I can’t begin to count the amount of diapers I’ve changed, laundry I’ve washed and folded, or the meals I have prepared. Breastfeeding alone consumed twelve years of my life. I realized this morning at the bus stop that if I added up all the time I have carted my kids around to various sporting events or extracurricular activities alone, it could quite literally add up to years spent. I’m personally surprised my butt hasn’t permanently fused to the seat cushion of my vehicle.
Two weeks ago I helped one of my daughter’s birth her twins. She was a soldier through and through. Poor thing couldn’t keep air in at the end. I was standing next to her, wiping her brow, whispering encouraging words in her ear, holding a bedpan or a bowl to catch vomit, when another thought popped into my head. I have cleaned up more waste than most Hazard Waste professionals. And-I bet they have a 401k plan and an excellent fat social security check coming to them too.
A week ago, my youngest, who plays varsity football, dislocated his shoulder at the Friday night game. Yes they won, he tells me over and over as if that makes up for the sling, the chiropractor, the MRI and the months of rehabilitation I now drag him to. Nor does it alleviate any of the worries or concerns I have about the shoulder I pushed into the world seventeen years ago no longer being able to work the same way.
A few days ago I was passing time on Facebook when I saw a photo of my second oldest son co-piloting a plane over California. Now, that would be okay, except he is a photojournalist- not a pilot. Needless to say, panic wasn’t close to the feeling overtaking my gut as vats of bile began to burn a new hole in my stomach. The previous holes are just starting to heal. Those were made while my oldest son was in Afghanistan – Air Force troop support. I won’t even bother describing that long and frightening ordeal.
One of my other son’s, while growing up, made it his job to keep running straight into walls. I mean this quite literally. He couldn't seem to help himself. Running and playing tag- smack in the wall he went. Playing basketball- smack into the wall of the gym. Had to bring him twice for stitches because of the nice-sized gash over his eye. But not to worry, the second time in the ER, he fell asleep while the doctor was actually stitching him up. I wanted to pinch him. Badly. Instead I rolled my eyes, grabbed a pen, and made a list of groceries to pick up on the way back home for dinner.
My oldest daughter has also included me in the birth of both her children as well. While this is a blessing, it was also one of the most demanding and hardest experiences to digest. Not all births go smoothly. As I -her mother and protector stood next to her, feeling helpless to make what was going wrong-right, I prayed to take her pain and fear and make it my own. I would have -a hundred times over. But that’s not how life works, does it?
Soon another social security letter will arrive in the mail. And it will once again inform me that I have made absolutely no monetary contribution to society, and, therefore, I should not expect any financial contribution back. But here’s the thing- I truly understand and accept that I made the choice to have my children, despite the despicable fact that I would not be considered by society to be a contributor. It was I who signed up for all the parental hills, bumps and curves, tears and laughter and joy. However, in my lame defense, I might not have been able to foresee the amount of work and emotional toil involved with raising a family, and maybe that’s all for the best, because who honestly in their right mind would do this job if the pre-description stated that you would work 24-7, for approximately the rest of your life at no pay. Ulcers included for free.
However, despite voluntarily choosing to be a mother -six times over, I firmly believe that until society begins to fully respect and monetarily honor mothers [Both those who stay-at-home and work 24/7 or those who must work outside the home as well as work at home 24/7], we will continue to foster a dismissive mindset that equates the care of our children, our blessings, to one of an afterthought. Trivializing whole bodies of hard-working individuals, given the responsibility of raising the next wave of citizens and future so-called contributors. And by no means, am I abdicating or ignoring the responsibility and hard work fathers do- because they are just as important to the mix. Parenting is the actual issue. Parenting is the job. Parenting is the solution to many of our societies problems. But-parenting has been made unnecessarily complicated and challenging precisely because in many ways our system punishes those who have opted to parent. This is done by financially making it near to impossible to either survive on one income or to survive on two incomes with added childcare costs. It is done by forcing people to have to choose between eating and having a roof over their head and spending time with their families. It is the same ridiculous system that reminds me every single year with a form letter that I am basically a non-worthy contributor, a slacker, and a lazy parasite on society.
But for the record, I did contribute. My oldest son served his country for six years- during war. My second oldest son is an international photojournalist who has won awards not only for himself, but representing the United States of America. His work continues to be outstanding. My oldest daughter, a mother herself, works as a director of a daycare. She makes sure other working mothers and fathers don’t have to worry about the safety and care of their children while they are forced to procure a check and a promise of a 401k payout. My son, the one who loved to run into walls, he is now an RN in the ICU, in the same hospital that stitched his head up years ago. My younger daughter, now a mother of two newborns, continues her college degree while preparing to return to working full time after her maternity leave is over. My youngest son, ready to graduate from high school, is already a Marine Reservist in the Delayed Entry Program. He plans on attending college, attending law school, and serving his country.
So no . . . no financial reward at the end of my job is expected. No 401K, no pension, and certainly no watch or gold ring or retirement party, but that's okay by me. Everything I did, everything I invested into these six amazing people was more than worth it. Even the headaches, ulcers, lost sleep, and gray hair.
But for now, today, at this very moment, I'm still 'employed' as Mom, and as one hell of a lazy slacker, I must now sadly end this blog post so I can quickly throw one more load into the washing machine and empty the dishwasher, which for some unknown reason, won't empty itself. Then I have to prep dinner and finish straightening up my house. Oops, I have to remember to phone the insurance company once again to find out what their latest issue is. Then I need to get myself ready to pick up my son from school to take him to his next medical appointment, right after I finish up the next chapter of my sixth book. Oh? I’m sorry. Didn't I mention that I am an author? My lazy non-contributing ass must have forgotten.