Three Years Later

I called it.

Happy April Fool’s Day, but this post is not a prank. Counting today, my 25th birthday is in 27 days. That surreal feeling has come back and it is stronger than ever.

Actually, I think about it a lot. How my mother was a parent at my age. My mom’s birthday is in July, so she would still be 24, but at the time, she had a nearly three-year-old child (me) and was about seven months pregnant. I cannot imagine. In that post, I said I couldn’t see where I’d be at 25. I wasn’t sure this blog would still be around. Well, at 25, I’ve finished school and am looking for a job in what I studied while dealing with retail for the time being. I also have student loans and credit card debt.

I don’t know if my mom had any debt, but I know her circumstances at the time weren’t much different than mine. I try to imagine having one child, but I can never figure it out. People say “you’ll figure it out”, but I genuinely can’t. I’m barely keeping myself above water. My retail job barely covers my monthly expenses. At best, I may have an extra $10 or $20 after I cover my bills from week to week, and that’s far from enough to care for a child. Heck, just if I were pregnant, I’d be in hot water. I have health insurance, but I’ve still had to pay out of pocket for some medical expenses. What about things like pre-natal vitamins and maternity clothes? And what if I couldn’t keep working while I was pregnant? I know many women work up until just days before they’re due (I had a manager who went on maternity leave and gave birth a week later!), but not everyone can do that. Pregnancy itself isn’t a cakewalk, but some are worse than others. And it’s not free to give birth! You get a bill for giving birth in a hospital, despite that’s the safest way (statistically speaking; there is sexism around childbirth).

If I’d be in deep mud before the child arrives, I’d metaphorically drown when the kid finally is here. Sure, I don’t have to spend $300 on baby clothes they’d quickly outgrow and constantly throw up on. But a crib? Diapers? Changing pad? Stroller? Bottles (don’t say breastfeed; the kid wouldn’t be in my care 24/7 because I’d have to work)? Bibs? Formula? Daycare? That alone would be nearly an extra $1,000 a month, and that’s cheap. That’s actually more than my monthly expenses. And these would be the expenses for a healthy baby!

But it crosses my mind a lot because of the way I’m currently struggling and knowing my mom did it over 20 years ago. A popular meme I’ve read is about how having your kids young means you’ll be free in your 40s and be able to do everything you missed out on when your kids were young. The problem is that assumes you’ll be well off by the time your kids are grown, and they’ll move out at 18 and not move back in. My mom’s financial situation is no better now than it was when I was an infant, and my sister and I aren’t well off either. It may be worth mentioning my grandparents also weren’t well off. I think this is what’s called generational poverty.

I know this surreal feeling will pass, but I’ll never not be astounded that people do this. For the record, I know how my mom did it. She had government assistance. And no, I don’t think that’s shameful. But to see in twenty years, her situation hasn’t changed – and to know it’s been this way for two generations, three if I count myself and my sister without kids – is depressing, to say the least. I hear “there’s never a good time” and “you’ll never be ready”. Maybe that’s true, but if I wanted kids, I sure wouldn’t willingly have them when I couldn’t pay rent if I needed to. Maybe there really never is a good time, but I’m sure it’s a bad time when daycare alone would take more than your entirely monthly income.

For the sake of my curiosity, and my absurd enjoyment of creating lists, I’m going to add up those expenses. Let’s say I get what I can what from the store I work at.

Crib? Cheapest they have is $200.

Baby outfits? Let’s go with a set of four. Those usually cost about $8.

Bottles? We have packs of three that are about $4.

Bibs? One set has four, I think, and that’s another $4.

Stroller? An umbrella one is $20, but those aren’t exactly sturdy and probably not good for a newborn child. The sturdy ones are $50 at cheapest.

Changing pad? I can’t remember how much in-store, but according to their website, their cheapest is $15.

That’s all the necessities I could get from my job. My job is near Wal-Mart, so I could get diapers and formula from there. Lowest is a pack of 20 diapers for $5, but on average, a newborn uses around 10 diapers a day, so that’d only last two days. So, that’s $20 for a week’s worth of diapers. Baby formula, for a box of one quart, is $7, and that would last only a day (a quick Google search tells me newborns drink 2 to 3 ounces per feeding every 2 to 3 hours; a quart is equal to 32 ounces). A week’s worth of that would be $49, and that’s for 7 individual boxes. A pack is more expensive!

So, let’s add all of that up.

$200 (crib)
$8 (set of baby outfits)
$4(x2) (pack of bottles and set of bibs)
$50 (stroller)
$15 (changing pad)

Minus 15% employee discount, and the total is $238.85 before taxes. Add in the diapers ($20) and formula ($49), and the total reaches $307.85 before taxes. So, at minimum, I’m spending $300.

“But you’ll only buy one crib, one stroller, one changing pad…”

Okay, but I’ll need more clothes when my baby gets bigger, and diapers and formula for a month still total $276 (again, before taxes). Also, I need to work, so again, daycare. Using a local one here I searched, that’s over $900 a month. Round up, and baby’s expenses are about $1,200 a month, on top of my own and not including new clothes for the baby. If my retail job barely covers my expenses, where am I getting an extra $1,200 a month? Once again, this is assuming the baby is healthy and born with zero health issues.

Exactly. I have no clue and I’m not curious enough to find out. The whole idea makes my head spin. And yes, I know there are people my age and younger who are supporting kids on minimum wage jobs. I have a supervisor who does it. Let me put it this way: just because it’s doable doesn’t mean I want to find out how. And just because one person can do it doesn’t mean someone else can. Assistance doesn’t cover absolutely everything.

I’m sure this surreal feeling will pop up every so often. Maybe near every birthday. I don’t know.

I wish those who are financially struggling, with kids and without, the very best. As for myself, right now, I only wish to find a better-paying job in my field.

Life Is Hard… Isn’t It?

Yes, it is, but for the sake of this question, let’s say it’s more in the middle. It’s not easy or hard. It’s just average.

When I was a pre-teen and starting to drift into adolescence, there was a time I feared becoming an adult. After spending every year of my life from the time I could speak complete sentences spouting how much I can’t wait to be grown up, that desire turned into one of fear. It seems when you’re a teenager, people love to pound into your head being an adult spells the end of any amount of fun in your life. That’s not an exaggeration in the slightest. I lost count of how many adults told me as a teenager, and a very impressionable one at that, how 18 essentially marked the end of any fun, pleasure, and joy. Telling me I had no choice in the matter, despite it already being a fact, did not help either. That only served to make me paranoid and further push me into a depression I was already struggling with.

I view it similar to how some people may speak about parenthood. Similar to the above, I heard countless times that having a child meant your life was over. Yet, the same people who said this either already had a child or asked why someone else didn’t want any. Gee, why wouldn’t I want any kids after hearing for 5+ years they spell the end of my life before I could even feel like I lived it? Yes, I know why people say this to teenagers, but the memory of those words don’t exactly vanish after age 18.

My frustration here is it’s apparently mature to make your life as hard and joyless as possible and I want to know why. Why do some adults push children and teenagers into believing adulthood means you never have fun again? Why is 18 treated as a magic age where you’ll suddenly know all the answers and you’ll do a 180 into an all-knowing, always serious person with no joy or empathy? I heard so many times during my adolescence that nobody cares about your hardships as an adult, yet I find more people care now than when I was a child! More people listen to me now! Not everyone, but more.

More so, what’s wrong with not wanting your life to be hard? Many people see someone who doesn’t want a certain responsibility – parenthood, the top of a career, etc – as lazy, lacking ambition, and a perpetual child. Why? Would it be better if they did those things and screwed it up? Why is a relatively lax life seen as a bad thing? If life is not supposed to be a competition, why the need to one-up someone else with who has it harder? If everyone is doing what they need to do, making their way, and managing in life, who cares who’s more tired than who? Everybody’s tired at some point. Go to bed.

Now, I’m not saying people shouldn’t be acknowledged and appreciated. If someone has worked 72 hours in a row, I’ll have more sympathy for their exhaustion than someone whose only exercise was getting out of bed once a day for the last week (assuming said person is mentally and physically healthy). I’m saying if life is hard, why make it harder if you don’t want to? Where’s the maturity in pushing yourself to the brink of exhaustion everyday because someone sees you as a child if you don’t? Most of all, where did this “adults don’t have fun” concept come from to begin with? If adults don’t have fun, why do R-rated movies and TV-MA rated shows exist? Why do bars and wineries exist? Why do nightclubs exist? I hope no kid is plastered on the dance floor at 2 AM!

The reverse is true as well. Adults also make Disney, toys, and video games. What I described above is not my favorable scene, so I stick to PG-rated fun. My bedroom looks like a child’s paradise and society can have my stuffed animals when they pry them from my cold, dead arms!

Unless your goals in life amount to being an axe murderer, or something similarly heinous, whatever you want to do with your life is fine. Aiming to travel to all the continents in the world? Good luck! I hope you get to them all safely! Comfortable in your hometown and like spending your days off at home? Cool! Me too! It feels great to kick your feet back, doesn’t it?

Unless you have the luck and privilege of being born into a very wealthy family, life is going to be hard in some way. Unless you want to, don’t make it harder than it has to be. Really, it’s not necessary.

At That Age

In 27 days, counting this one since it’s only barely after midnight, I will be 22 years old. For me, that realization is rather surreal.

My birthday is before my mother’s, but had it not been, she would’ve been 22 when she had me. I was not a planned child either and, like me, she had no intentions of becoming a parent. She only did it because she believed abortion was wrong and adoption wasn’t something she could handle (although neither was parenting; go figure).

This is something I continuously think about as my twenty-second birthday draws near, but I’m really not sure why. I knew I wasn’t going to have children at this age. Really, even if I wanted to be a parent, I wouldn’t have tried to become one by 22 because I’m in no position for it. It’s not something that’s bothering me. Just something continuously on my mind for one reason or another.

The best guess I have as to why I’ve been thinking about this so much is knowing this is the age where my mother’s life changed irreversibly. Becoming a parent doesn’t change everybody – heck, it makes them worse in some cases – but I’m certain no one can argue becoming a parent isn’t something you can take back. You can’t put them back up there. Okay, you probably could, but it’d be extremely painful and you certainly can’t reverse the nine months of pregnancy back into non-existence.

Occasionally, I do try to imagine myself in my mom’s shoes when she was 21 or 22, and it’s not an easy visual. I like children in general, so I can imagine the cute stuff like watching a baby sleep, but trying to picture the hard stuff tends to only make my head hurt. I can never picture myself waking up three times or more a night to a piercing wail, going days without sleep, or not having enough time to do so much as take a 5-minute shower. One of the most common things I hear about parenting is “your life is over” and that is more often than not from people who are parents instead of people who aren’t. My life over at 22? I’d have only been an adult for four years!

Yes, I’m aware babyhood is temporary. Eventually, they sleep through the night, gain a little more independence, and stop crying so much. Well, maybe not that last one since the temper tantrums start, but they hopefully won’t be waking you up five times a night until they’re in kindergarten. However, on its own, a year is still a lot of time and frankly, I’ve no desire to spend a year getting sleep three days at a time. I nearly collapsed after one day (a full 24 hours) without sleep, not to mention that can’t in any way be good for your body.

Sure, my mother did it, but she didn’t have a choice. She decided to keep me and have another child, so she had to endure the sleeplessness and all the stress that caring for a tiny, helpless person brings. Failure to do that would’ve resulted in either our deaths or her loss of custody before we became old enough to know she’s our mother.

Speaking of another child, I imagine this feeling will come back twice as strong when I turn 25. At 25, my mother had a three-year-old and a 1-week-old. Admittedly, I can’t see myself at 25 right now. It’s difficult to see myself any more than a year older than my age. I want this blog to be around for a few more years, so if it lasts until 2019, I feel like a certain shock will hit me if I go into my archives that year and find this post.

Less Tolerance

Something I’ve noticed about myself lately is I don’t have as much tolerance as I used to.

By “tolerance”, I mean patience, not bigotry. Granted, I’ve never had much patience, but it seems the more time passes, I have even less. My 16-year-old self actually had a ton more patience and tolerance than my 21-year-old self does.

I have less tolerance for putting up with things and people that aggravate me. I either find a way to avoid the annoyance completely or simply get on with it so I can forget about it as quickly as possible. I still get into arguments every so often, but even those have become less frequent. I’d rather let someone think what they want than argue in circles with them.

I don’t know if my shortened patience comes from it being easier to ignore those things and people, or feeling like it’s simply not worth my time. Maybe it’s both. I will say it’s been very effective. It’s saved me quite a few headaches. Perhaps it’s one of those things that develops naturally as you get older? I’ve heard the older you get, the more you learn not to mind what other people think. I suppose this is similar.

That doesn’t mean I ignore everyone I disagree with. It just means I don’t continue arguments that aren’t serving any purpose except causing me stress.  Really, all that’ll happen in the end is everyone will keep their opinions, so there’s not much point in the first place.

I wonder how long it’ll be before I reached the point of “I’m not having this discussion” and begin walking away before a heated discussion can even begin. I might have to start heavily evaluating myself that day.