We’ve all heard clichés about life being full of choices, but I didn’t understand the magnitude of these choices until I became a parent. When you are single, your choices mainly affect you. Getting married adds some complexity, but nothing compared to the responsibility you take on when you have kids and the decisions you make, both good and bad, affect them.
We make decisions every day that impact our kids. Some are less serious, like earlier this week when I took them to a park 15 minutes from home. We have five parks within walking distance of our house, so we rarely drive, but we tried something new. So, of course Avery had to poop while we were there. Not a big deal, right? Except Avery puts it off until the last possible minute, so she had to go “right now!” Because all the parks near us have sand, my kids immediately remove their shoes within a 50 meter radius of a park. We grabbed Avery’s easily in our rush to the bathroom, but Clay’s were nowhere to be found. I had to make quick decision: let Clay come to the bathroom with no shoes or let Avery poop in her pants (actually, her bathing suit because there is a lake at the park. A non-swimming lake, in the middle of winter, but you try telling Avery what to wear these days. No, thanks!) I haven’t had to clean poop in months, so I made the choice. Clay would pull a Britney Spears and enter the park bathroom with no shoes. I made myself feel better by comparing the park bathroom to the one at the beach, and lots of people use that one barefoot. And dirty feet are slightly better than poopy bathing suits. I scrubbed his feet with baby wipes and so far, so good. No weird foot diseases (knock on wood). I took a gamble and made a choice and we’re all okay.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the more important choices parents must make. The first one that every mom faces is whether to return to work after having a baby. I’ve written about this before and since I am happier working, the decision for us was not if I would work, but how could I make it work for us while having a family. I had a family-friendly job and worked from home two days a week, so it felt like a good balance for me. I’ve had friends decide to stay home and others who have switched to part-time work. We all made choices, and at times I’m sure we all question those decisions, but we hope in the end it will work for our family.
There are other tough decisions we have to make. What about where to live: close to family, in certain school districts, in an urban or suburban setting? Do you buy a house or rent? Send the kids to public or private school? Feed them organic food? Send them to school with a cold? Let them sleep in your bed? Buy a car or an SUV?
Every day presents new choices, some big, some small. For us, I work. We live close to Chase’s family, in a good suburban school district so we can send the kids to public school. We (along with Bank of America) own our house. I try to feed them organic fruits and veggies, but other food I don’t worry as much about. Both kids have been sneezing since they got their flu shots, but it’s not the actual flu, so they’re at school today. We let them in our bed in the mornings, if it’s after a certain time, otherwise they are sent back their rooms for a few more hours before I drive them to school in my SUV. Chase picks them up in his car. For now, all of this works for us, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be faced with new decisions and dilemmas as the kids get older and our needs change.
Jean-Paul Sartre said, “we are our choices,” but for parents, it’s not just us. It’s our kids. It’s a lot of pressure making decisions on behalf of someone else. For their sake, I hope we make the right ones.