Friday, November 19, 2010

The Ultimate Unfairness of Fair

We try to teach our children to play fair with others because as our reasons demonstrate it's in their own best interests to do so.  Would you want someone to take your toy from you?  Would you want to play with someone who will not wait their turn?  Would you want to play a game with someone who doesn't follow the rules? Who will want to play with you if you don't play fair?  Well ideally, the answer would be no one.  We teach them about fairness supposedly because it is in their best interests, but the reality is that they will grow up and go out into a world that is ultimately UNFAIR.

We tell them to do their best and that will be enough.  We try to brace them for the reality that "you can't win them all."  But what we don't tell them is that when they grow up, they will be living and competing in a world full of adults that simply didn't learn this lesson as a child or who simply disregarded the archaic idea that it was in their best interests to be fair.  What to do?  What to do?  One day when we get frustrated enough we will tell them "Life is NOT FAIR.  AND there is NOTHING we can do about it."

I have lived through plenty of loss, lies, betrayals, and broken promises to be the walking Poster Girl for UNFAIRNESS.  I lost my dad at fourteen before I even had a chance to push him off the pedestal.  I've worked for years for a promotion that was promised to me and ultimately denied and after fianlly quitting was doled out to a stranger free of charge.  I work hard and at every pass am made to feel that my best is not good enough because mistakes carry more weight than good ideas and intentions.

For me, I have no choice but to be the good girl that I am.  Somewhere way back in my past it must have been burned into my brain, or else we are born hardwired with the personality we have.  In any case, being UNFAIR simply doesn't register as the thing to do.  I'm not saying I'm perfect, oh I'm so the Poster Girl for UNPERFECTION as well if such a word existed.  I have been angry, frustrated, disappointed and saddened by the UNFAIRNESS of life, but knowing my children will meet it head on one day scares me.  Some part of me wonders if my training in FAIRNESS will leave them completely unprepared to survive in an UNFAIR world. 

Should I be teaching them the truth; that people who put their needs first, who take short cuts, who simply don't care whose feelings get hurt or don't look back to see whose lives are left drowning in their wake are the ones who succeed in the UNFAIR "real" world?  Am I dooming them to failure?  The short answer is most definitely YES.  But here comes my hard wiring again - I simply can't show them a roadmap that I don't have.  I will probably never know what it means to have SUCCESS by life's standards.  I have no grandiose notions of acquiring enough money not to give a crap about how I spend it or having strangers know my name and thinking that they perhaps know me too.  Happiness for me,  survival for me, depends on drowning these notions.  These notions are simply not compatible with my brain.

I fear for my children like all parents do.  We want to protect them from anything bad.  We want them to be safe and happy and healthy and we tell ourselves that if we can just accomplish this holy trinity of parenting then life will be fine.  It will open to them all the opportunities we never had.  It will give them the happiness we dream for them.  But the cynical me will always think in the back of my brain that life isn't going to GIVE them anything.  They will simply have to TAKE IT for themselves.  But my brain starts to overload at this juncture in thought because is TAKING what they want ULTIMATELY UNFAIR?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Will Work For Daycare

Today a very clear and distinct vision of my life came into comical view.  I stand on the side of the road with a dirty rough cut piece of cardboard in my hands with the words WILL WORK FOR DAYCARE written in magic marker.  (Side note: Anyone have any idea what is so magical about a magic marker?  Will I get what I write as long as it's written in magic marker?  Totally wish that were the case.)  So in my vision I am like that jobless person who stands by the side of the road, desperate for work, so desperate they will work for food.  There is something especially captivating about these people.  They don't ask for handouts; they ask for help and it's really hard not to really SEE them.  So too am I, standing on the side of my career path if you will, asking for help - WILL WORK FOR DAYCARE.

Since my mother is currently in the hospital with a broken ankle, I'm left in limbo with childcare.  I work part-time (3 days a week) so you'd think that there would be some monetary break for less than full-time childcare.  But I have not ONE but TWO children. Here is where the real exponential cost of having more than one child comes into play.  The cost of one more plate at the table, the cost of one more pack of diapers, an additional toy, none of them really level your budget like the cost of daycare.  For the first time since I was pregnant with my three-year-old daughter, I've starting pricing out daycare.  I'm hoping my need for it is for the next month to three months while my mom recovers.

I priced out a local daycare center, you know the kind, full of amenities like feeding your child, reading, singing, playing, changing them (the things moms do automatically, for free, but perhaps without the formal agenda).  It would cost me, not one of my two monthly paychecks, but basically one and a half of them.  After the cost of gas, I would be left working to pay for my children to be cared for by strangers.  Sigh....  So I thought, let's ask anyone who might know anyone who might be able to watch them in their home.  So I talked to a stay-at-home mome who watches children in her home. Yes, it's a decidedly cheaper option, but still regretably expensive when you consider my budget for childcare was $0 and there is really no extra money in sight.  Believe me (and if you don't just ask one of my friends) I am one of the most frugal people on Earth. 

I don't know for the life of me how working families pay for childcare these days.  I understand how important it is to have someone you trust caring for your children when you're not around, ESPECIALLY if you have ones far too little to tell you if something bad happened or they were ignored or...let's step off that bad path at the turn here.  I get it, but I also know from working in a daycare for my whopping two days (yes it was that stressful and oh yes I was already getting a fresh cold) that you pay people WAY TOO LITTLE money and put them in a room filled with more children then they can responsibly care for and even the caregiver with the best of intentions can't care for your children the way they would like to.

It's so beyond frustrating.  I keep thinking, this is NOT what I signed up for when I had children.  When I hatched my brilliant job-share plan, I did it with the belief that a stranger would not be raising my child.  I would raise my children and my mother who loves them would care for them, if not exactly like I would than equally as well.  So for now, they are being looked after by other family members for as long as my welcome and wallet aren't worn out.  I'm grateful for the help, but I am woefully worn out from stressing about money and childcare and work.  I realize there are a lot more women with less resources and options than myself and I wonder how they do it.  For weeks I have felt frustration, shame, failure, and guilt.  I go to my job and my day is punctuated with moments of utter sadness.  I know I'm rowing against a current I cannot possibly overtake.

In college, when things got bad I came up with my very first Erinism as I now call my quotes, my snippets of life philosophy.  It was meant to keep me going when I wanted to give up.  I wrote it down and hung it on my wall.  "It's a hard lesson to learn that sometimes your best is not good enough, and a harder lesson to keep going when it's not."  I guess it's about that time to write it down once again and hang it, preferably at height level, where I might be inclined to bang my head if it weren't there offering me a more positive option.