Friday, June 25, 2010

Doing It All For My Baby

"You have a lifetime to work, but children are only young once." -Polish Proverb

Being a parent means being unselfish, even if everything you've done from the moment you were born to the moment your child was born was indeed selfish.

It means spending the only $6 in your wallet to buy your daughter the book she really wants at the book fair at school. Before you had children, that spare cash would have easily gone towards a smoothie, a sandwich, or a beer.

It means eating less pasta when all you're having is leftovers for dinner because your daughter is really enjoying hers... even though she's unaware that you're only eating leftovers because you're flying solo, didn't have time to cook, and wanted to make sure you finished them before they went bad. It means having a bowl of cereal after she goes to bed because you didn't eat enough at dinner because you wanted to make sure your daughter was full and happy.

Before children, I looked forward to the rare opportunity to eat the last one of anything - the last cookie, the last bowl of cereal, the last chicken cutlet - because growing up as the youngest of four, I rarely had the chance. Before children, I wouldn't even ask if anyone wanted the last one. Before children, I would finish the pot of coffee and not make a fresh pot for the next person (I still actually do that sometimes). Now, my daughter gets first crack at the last of anything.

Having a child means getting talked about behind your back and sometimes to your face by your co-workers because sometimes - a lot of times - you leave before them, come in after them, take sick days because your child needs you. I can't count the number of times, before children, I complained about or made fun of a fellow employee who was habitually late or absent and used their children as an excuse.

Luna Keeps Penelope company when she's sick
Well, now I know, and so should everyone - it's not an excuse. It's a selfless act of self-sacrifice to knowingly and willingly make yourself look bad professionally for the sake of your child. For the good of your child. For the well-being of your child. You do it, albeit sometimes begrudgingly, out of love and loyalty. Because no one else in the world can do it, will do it, should do it. And when all is said and done, when you're making cinnamon toast for your feverish, stomach-ached, groggy little girl, lying on the couch under a blanket in her feety pajamas, a thumb in her mouth and her Lammie under her arm, Sesame Street on the television, you know... there's no place else in the world you're needed more.

Your co-workers call it a 'day off,' a 'vacation day.' But only parents know that it is anything but. That caring for a sick child in her pajamas and barely making it out of your own pajamas by dinnertime is by no means anyone's idea of a vacation. Still, there's no place else you should be.

When you don't have kids, you're pretty selfish. Trust me, it was not so long ago for me. When sleeping in and going to the gym and climbing the corporate ladder and buying that cool new bike or gadget or outfit and meeting friends for drinks and seeing all the cool movies right when they come out and going to a bar to watch the game or even going to the game in person were my priorities. Some of those things still are my priorities... they're just not the top ones anymore. Not even close.

And that's the way it ought to be. There's no place else I'd rather be.

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