As if simply being a parent weren't already stressful enough, it seems there's an ever-growing list of things we're supposed to enjoy simply because we've been "blessed" with the "privilege" of raising fresh humans. This is completely unfair. I mean, just because I'm an adult, it doesn't mean I suddenly enjoy laundering piles of clothing (black hole-like in their infiniteness), going to the dentist or watching M*A*S*H (6-year-old me really thought that was a pleasure reserved for adults, as I could not have been less interested). Sure, there are plenty of things I've discovered that I truly enjoy on account of doing them for my children. Soccer spectating, soup making and public transportation as entertainment, to name a few. Yet there are several things for which I've given myself a "guilt-free loathing/straight up not gonna do it" card. It feels good. Real good.
1. Pet ownership.
I had a dog growing up. I remember thinking what a pity it must be to be a kid without a pet. Likely because I wasn't the person taking time out of my schedule to care for it beyond conveniently snuggling when watching my programs or occasionally dumping food in his empty bowl after being asked to do so roughly seven times. Nor was I the person who had to foot the bill for vet care, nourishment or medication. And I certainly wasn't the one who made the final call and heart-wrenching last drive in the car to end the suffering of dying from the inside out. I never picked up a dog turd in my life. I don't really want to start now. Nor do I need anything else to clean up after. Both of my kids are 100 percent potty trained and their bucket aim for puking is at about 85 percent. I'm not about to bring another freeloader with bodily fluids into my house. I've occasionally considered a goldfish, and deemed them too much hassle less than 24 hours later. We are gloriously pet-free, and I refuse to feel bad about that.
Martha Stewart is bad at taxes and takes disgusting photos of food. Clearly, no one is capable of doing it all. Honestly, I WISH I liked crafting. I wish it were a talent I possessed. However, it's just not. I can glue googley eyes to socks like a champ or buy those two-dollar wooden birdhouses from Michael's to slap some paint on in the name of not being totally neglectful, but the bar is set low and my kids haven't needed therapy because of it.
3. My children's friends' parents.
In every child's life, there comes a day their friend circle expands beyond that which is made up of children you've forced on them. They go off to school or camp and start choosing friends for themselves. Now either my son has impeccable taste in buddies or I'm just damn lucky, but I truly enjoy the adults who have come into my life by way of our children. That said, I'm not scheduling double dates or co-family vacations with all of them. Do I feel safe sending my child to their home? Yes. Proceed. Do we share morals and ideals? Maybe. Enough that our children have found common ground and enjoy one another's company. Are we now obligated to be BFFs? Nope.
4. Music time.
It happens to many first-time parents especially. Society tells us we've got to get started enriching our children's brains with music before these budding Mozart fetuses even have actual formed ears. To some extent, I don't disagree. I personally traveled around the country in a 12 passenger van with no AC for three weeks with my husband's band when I was four months pregnant with my son. Granted, it was no classical music he was jamming to in there, but he got to hear more live racket in that short time than some get in an entire childhood. We're a musical family. It stands to reason that I've sought out my fair share of music times for both of my genetically noisy kids. And some of them made me want to beat myself in the head with the provided maracas. I once attended an introductory class led by a woman who really should have sought out some local karaoke nights instead, as it seemed the only draw she had to leading the class was to hear her own (shrill and somewhat painful) voice. On the other hand, I've found some killer ones where the tunes are sweet (Rockin' Robin is TOTALLY a kids song, FYI) and the musician is as talented at singing as they are at working a crowd of (sometimes) hecklers who might crap their pants. It also doesn't hurt to find one that's held at an establishment that serves coffee. Or alcohol. (OK, maybe don't take them up on that offering at that point in time. But it's comforting to know it's an option.) Maybe what I'm saying here is don't feel obligated to liking boring music times. Your kids will thank you for it.
Here's a transcript of a 100 percent true conversation between my husband and me.
Me: "Honey, we have that tent in the shed that we never used last year. You guys should sleep out in the yard this summer!" (Notice how I did not involve myself in this equation at all.)
Him: "Uh, well, um. I don't know. There's a lot of wildlife out there. That groundhog that lives under the shed, the chipmunks and squirrels. There's a skunk that runs down the driveway sometimes. That husband and wife raccoon..."
Me: "OK. So I guess camping in the woods is out of the question."
If my kids reflect back on their childhood and feel we dropped the ball on providing any particular experiences, I won't feel terrible if they're the sort for which you need to provide bug spray and your own toilet paper.
Follow Sara on her blog Oddly Well Adjusted.