Those soft and cuddly feelings you get when you are pregnant, or have a baby in the house are an irreplaceable part of parenthood. It is in fact THESE exact feelings that prepare you for the often stressful, sometimes hellish series of events that will start to occur about the time your baby begins to walk. From the time they take their first step, children are moving away from their parents and doing their best to assert their independence. And as expected, children asserting their independence results in big bucks and lots of responsibilities for mom and dad.
By the time your child is school age, you will realize that you are not just a mother. When people ask you what you do for a living, you will likely respond with something like, “I am a mom. I mean taxi driver. I mean bank teller. No wait, hair dresser, and short order cook!” In fact, you will have so many responsibilities to add to your life resume that might be just surprised how well you single handedly handle of them. In the beginning of parenthood, not many parents realize just how many different skills it takes to raise children. While you are just a mom (as if there is such a thing) right now – in a few years you may be a softball coach, a teacher, or find yourself learning something so new and unexpected in order to help your child grow and develop that even YOU will be amazed by your talents.
The good news is that parents get broken into the new job description pretty softly. It starts with picking your child up from school a little late so they could attend an art workshop after school. Then, you are carting your child to play dates at friend’s houses that live several miles away. Eventually, you are signing them up for tball or hockey or ballet or gymnastics. The practices start out as one day per week for an hour or so at a minimal cost and then graduate to two or three times a week. The costs also begin to double or triple. One day you are buying a leotard or a new bat, and the next you are fitting the bill for entire uniforms and costumes that cost more than nearly all of the clothes you have in your own wardrobe.
School systems have also become adept at allowing parents to merge slowly into the new lifestyle. In kindergarten, you have to supply your kids with hand soap, crayons, and markers. In 1st grade, they add a few more items to the list. By the time your child is in 2nd grade you are having to pay for $50 fieldtrips to the zoo. (Which seems ironic considering that you took your entire family to the zoo for $50) Then there are the parties and the festivities at school that either ALWAYS require some sort of donation in the ways of food and drink – or of course cash.
Fast forward a few more years, and suddenly your children are asking your for money for things and don’t even tell you what they need it for. They are also asking for (and expecting) you to deliver them all around town to friends houses and after school activities. To tournaments and games and recitals and shows that always occur after school and almost always interrupt the nice and calm routine of dinnertime or require you to get off work in order to attend. Then of course, there is all the money that is required to whiz the kids cross-country and back day in and day out.
At this point, with an empty wallet that seems to be getting thinner and thinner by the minute and the realization that you spend more time in your car driving your children around than in your own bed – you may check in with the past. Remember the days when your baby just wanted to be held. When your skin was so raw from being touched all the time that you cringed at the thought of it. Remember back to when more than anything you wanted your children to have some sort of independence so that you could at least use the bathroom by yourself. Well, now – you got it. At a price.
Now instead of hounding you about going to the playground or asking you to watch them perform some silly trick they have done a million times over, they are texting you while you using the bathroom, from the comfort of their bed. Wondering if you have any extra money so they can buy a yearbook at school, or asking if it is okay if so and so comes over – or if you could drive them to so and so’s house for the weekend so they can do God only knows what while spending more of your money.
You may look at your life and realize that over the years you have been a mother. But along with being a mother, you have become a taxi driver. An automated bank machine. A nurse. A short order cook that is open 24 hours. A counselor and a teacher of subjects that even you didn’t know existed. You have been a cop and a private investigator all at the same time. You have become a cheerleader and a coach, and you have paid dearly for all of these job descriptions in more ways than one. You may feel like along the way you have lost your parenting touch, the one that comes so easily when your child is just a baby. Truth be told, your child will remember the days since babyhood more vividly than they will all those nights you rocked him or her on your lap. And in the end, your job has brought you – and your children, much joy. So hang on for the ride and try not to worry too much, about how thin your wallet is getting.