I remember having an argument with my father when I was sixteen years old. I can’t recall what started the argument (probably me complaining about the unfairness and difficulty of my privileged, middle-class, teenage life), but I distinctly remember my father becoming annoyed by something I said.
In response to whatever naïve, idiotic comment I had just made, my father told me that I had no idea what it was like to be an adult, trying to support a family. I sat at the dinner table, rolling my eyes at him, as he stood by the sink, frowning at me. He said, “You don’t realize how easy you have it. Someday you will have bills to pay, taxes to worry about, and a family to support. You think you have it hard now, but you have no idea what life is really like.”
I laughed at him because I knew everything back then. What was he talking about? I understood responsibilities…I had to make it to class on time and meet my eleven o’clock curfew. My life was hard, too. I had to worry about who I was going to sit with at lunch and whether I would have a date to the winter formal.
Fast forward twenty years.
Over the past week, I have been sick with a chest cold. I’m weak, I’m tired, my whole body hurts, and I can’t stop coughing. Even though I have an overwhelming amount of legal work that I must complete by the end of next week, I had to call off of work earlier in the week. My daughter went to daycare and I spent the entire day sleeping, hoping that I would quickly recover from my virus. Sadly, that didn’t work out for me and I’m still really sick.
Yesterday (Friday), I woke up, feeling awful and wanting to stay home again, but I knew that I must go to work. I put on a black suit, pulled my hair back, and put a little bit of makeup on my face to cover my sick pallor. I gathered up my lunch, my purse, and my briefcase. My toddler was sleeping in so I was able to get everything ready without any distractions. Hooray! How lucky for me. All I had to do was wake and dress my toddler, get her some cereal in a to-go container, and we would be on our way to daycare.
I walked into my toddler’s room and I smelled the sour odor of vomit. I gagged and picked up my daughter before realizing that she was covered in puke. I almost vomited, I put her in the bathtub, I called work to tell them that I wouldn’t be coming in again, and I ripped the vomit covered bedding off of her crib.
I wanted to scream. I have so much work piling up at my job and I needed to focus on that, but now my child couldn’t go to daycare so I had to focus on her. I’ll somehow have to find a way to make up the lost time at work. Plus, my daughter is sick, miserable, and not sleeping well. And let’s not forget that I’m still sick and my husband is not available this weekend due to his work. I am responsible for a properly functioning home front this weekend with a sick toddler in tow, including meal preparation, cleaning, laundry, a vet appointment, grocery shopping, repackaging and returning a defective light fixture, paying bills, and chipping away at getting our taxes completed by April 15.
At one point yesterday, my daughter was having a meltdown and I couldn’t take the screaming, kicking, and hitting anymore, so I shut myself in the bathroom and took a couple deep breaths. I thought back to that argument with my father twenty years ago.
I came to the realization, while holed up in my bathroom, that the most unexpected part of being a grownup is that I can finally relate to my parents.
I get it now. I understand what my father was trying to tell me during that argument twenty years ago. The sheer magnitude of a parent’s responsibilities in providing for his or her family are simply overwhelming. For me, the stress of trying to juggle a full-time job as an attorney, maintain a safe home, ensure that the pets and my daughter stay alive, and give enough love and attention to my family creates an unbelievable amount of pressure.
I have to provide for my family. I have to make sure that my child has food and shelter. I have to ensure that the bills and taxes are paid. I have to work, but I also have to drop everything if my child starts vomiting before work. I have to love unconditionally, even if sometimes I can’t stand my child and have to lock myself in the bathroom to get away from her. I have to give lots of hugs and kisses when my child wants them. I have to be there for my child even when the time comes that she is rolling her eyes and saying that I don’t understand anything. I have to maintain the strength to tell my child the things that she doesn’t want to hear and love her regardless of the bad decisions that she makes for as long as I’m still around to do it. This is heavy stuff.
The responsibilities involved in parenthood were unfathomable until I began living the life of a parent. At this point, it is too late to back out. So I try to muddle by, doing the best that I can for my family and hoping that I’m not screwing things up too badly. I’m glad that I now understand what my own parents were trying to do and why they made some of the decisions they did. I hope that someday, my daughter will be able to relate to me and appreciate why I made certain choices. All of my decisions revolve around making a better life for her and keeping my sanity in the process. That is some serious responsibility.
**This is a link-up post for “Finish the Sentence Friday” and the sentence is “The most unexpected part of being a grownup is…” This link-up is hosted by Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine, Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic, Mommy, for Real, and Finding Ninee, and guest-hosted by Left Brain Buddha. #FTSF