When I announced my first pregnancy, my friends and family congratulated me and told me all the ways my life was going to change once I became a mother. They were all so happy, and said that a baby would be life altering and the absolute best thing that had ever happened to me. This made me pretty excited, because I had just been to a really good Killers concert, so “life altering” and “best thing ever” had fierce competition.
Then a co-worker advised me to go home every night and have bubble baths while reading books that didn’t use simplistic a/b/a/b rhyming schemes and trademark characters. She said that after this baby came, never again would I make a decision based solely on my own wants or desires. Nothing I did after that baby came, no scenario or plan would have me at the centre, ever again. I couldn’t possibly imagine a future where I wasn’t the main character in my own life, and so I laughed, and assured her that this baby was going to fit into MY life, and not the other way around. Then I laughed again, only stopping because debilitating morning sickness caused me to throw up on my desk.
I should have taken that as a sign: a glaring, Times Square-esque electric billboard fluorescent pink sign.
Once my daughter was born, any luxury of personal selfishness was instantly gone – quickly tied up in a bio-hazard bag along with the placenta. I couldn’t be selfish anymore, because it’s wasn't just about me anymore. Oh, I have my moments; I’ve hidden in the bathroom eating the last of the chocolate chip muffins, and I’ve knowingly used the only piece of toilet paper in the house, but overall those things won’t matter. (Although two years later my daughter is still mad about the muffins.) What I’m concerned with are the big things: child care, medical decisions, schooling options, and television remote control rights. I have been reminded daily since the birth of my children that I will never again do anything of consequence without first consulting the parent’s dreaded “Flow Chart of Horrible Possibilities and Likely Catastrophic Outcomes Due to Your Own Selfishness.”
The chart’s importance intensified when my husband and I separated, and I had some choices to make. If it had been just me involved in the coming changes (sadness over a failed marriage aside) this would have been a bump in the road. But it wasn’t just me. We were all tangled up in this together, and I had to think of the kids first, while dealing with the guilt that came from knowing this was not what they wanted.
Should I go to University instead of returning to work? The chart says we’ll starve and be forced to live in a refrigerator box.
Do I go back to work after a 10 year absence and relinquish my dream of a degree? A quick consultation with the chart chides, “You think you can get a job in this market? Better get two refrigerator boxes – the kids are going to want their own rooms.”
For any decision I need to make, I must now consult mental flow charts rife with arrows and boxes, so complex that they resemble Dijkstra’s algorithm or the molecular structure of a fast food chain chicken nugget.
But now with 12+ years of parenting behind me, I do have a bubble bath occasionally, sometimes even without a visitor in a swimsuit "offering" to join me. And once in a while, I am able to put aside “Scaredy Squirrel” for something heavier in theme. There is give and take, but my flowchart has not become any less complicated. In fact, the boxes on it are now larger and contain premises like “Thinking about buying a new car?” I’m being advised against it. The chart shows that it will lead straight to “Matchbook Cover Trade School for Child #2.”
Previously published at highly-irritable.com.