Time vs. money

As a single mom solely responsible for my son, it seems as if the demands are constant. The bills for food, clothing, activities, and basic living expenses are unrelenting, creating an unending pressure that requires me to be innovative, flexible, and not too picky in terms of what I am willing to do to make ends meet.

As a result of this tangible and ever-present requirement imposed on me from the outside, I find myself constantly in conflict with my desire for the good life and the desire to simply pack up, retrench our lifestyle, and devote myself full-time to spending time with and raising my son. It is in these moments that a childhood memory comes to mind.

In grade school, I had a close friend named Christy. She lived in the best part of town, in a fantastic house that was always immaculate and stocked with the coolest goodies around. She was also always kitted out in the latest fashions, in possession of the hottest new items, and in the ‘best’ school.

What slowly became apparent throughout our high school years, however, was that she was missing one crucial thing: her parents’ love and attention. Both high-earning lawyers, they were away most of the week from dawn to midnight, leaving her in the care of the housekeeper who came in daily but left in the evening to take care of her own family.

Throughout the years, Christy became embroiled in many escapades. These ranged from being kicked out of both grade school and high school for sexual misconduct, kicked out of university for unsatisfactory grades, and a series of failed relationships and careers.

Over the course of our friendship, I reflected on the differences in our upbringing. Unlike her, my brother and I were rarely given ‘the best’. Instead, we were taught how to enjoy hitting a garage sale, delight in finding a bargain, revel in being different by possessing the unique, and to be creative in figuring out how to get and work towards obtaining the items that we really wanted. Most importantly, though, we had our parents by our side: guiding us towards our goals, cheering us on when we felt like we lacked the ability or strength to accomplish what we had set out to do, providing us with the scaffolding that we needed in a hundred invisible ways while consistently showering us with love and a belief that we could do whatever it was that we set out to.

And so, as I scrub my floor for what feels like the thousandth time this month and feel the pressure of keeping up with the Joneses, I remind myself that more important than providing my son with the ‘right’ material goods is the importance of giving him a strong and unyielding current of love composed of my presence and the values that I inculcate in him as it is these that will weave for him an invisible tapestry that he can don at will, providing him with the strength and resources required to believe in himself and accomplish whatever he dares to envision.

Self-efficacy

After I split up with my husband and found myself to be a single mom solely responsible for a boy that had just turned one, I couldn’t help but reflect on where I had gone wrong. I constantly thought about how I could have made the mistake of marrying someone who couldn’t go the distance and take the final, irrevocable step into adulthood. While there were indications along the way that my husband was more of a dreamer than a finisher, it never occurred to me that he would be incapable of stepping into the role of father, caregiver, and provider.

Hiking around a desolate lake on Vancouver Island months later, as I ascended and descended the rugged terrain that was quietly in bloom with the promise of spring, I silently reflected on my new lover and his potential. And, in that moment, it occurred to me that while some people have many obvious talents, skills, and aptitudes, it is the rare person who has a strong sense of self-efficacy.

When I ran this thought by my cousin, she asked me what I meant by this. In trying to disentangle the jumble of my thoughts, I explained that, for me, it meant not only the ability to dream in Technicolor but the ability to believe that you can and, if you choose to engage, that you will effect the outcome you dream.

As I warmed up to my explanation, I asked her why it is that there are people like Jim Carey, who believe so strongly in the future that they want for themselves, that they are able to write a check to themselves for $20 million dollars, knowing, with certainty, that they will one day be able to cash it. Or, on a smaller scale, the infinite number of people who set a life vision or goal for themselves, and systematically go about accomplishing it, regardless of the setbacks that they encounter along the way.

I believe that what makes these people different is their ability to envision a future world that they, themselves, want to live in and place the full power of their intention behind their unique set of energies, creativity, and human potential to make it happen.

Although I myself came from a uniquely bizarre family constellation, often exposed to and forced to deal with uncomfortable and inappropriate situations from a young age onwards, the one thing that I never doubted was my ability to accomplish something that I resolutely set my mind to. My parents were always firmly in my corner, believing in me and my power to create whatever I could envision. As a parent, I believe that if I can pass this sense of control over one’s destiny on to my son, I will leave him an important and long-lasting legacy, enabling him to embrace the beauty of the present while tapping into his talents, develop himself, and create the Technicolor world in which he wants to live.

Everyone’s got an opinion

When I was pregnant with my first child, aside from the ‘Big Love’ everyone guaranteed me was coming my way, parents, family, friends, and even complete strangers started giving me unsolicited advice and tips from the parenting trenches. It quickly became clear how much I didn’t know and needed to learn in order to create a healthy baby and then raise a well-adjusted, intelligent, happy, and contributing member of society.

So, I started to read. I read about what I needed to eat during my pregnancy. I read about the ideal delivery method for minimizing birthing trauma to the baby. And I read about what to do once the baby came home and parenting officially began.

By then, I was eight months pregnant and almost insane with a craving to engage in gluttony with anything deep-fried or composed of pure refined sugar. I refrained, of course, because all the books promised that as long as I followed their listed recommendations, I would be the perfect mother raising the perfect child.

Then, I gave birth and reality set in. It first appeared in the delivery room when the doctor pulled out the forceps and all I could hear were fourteen scandalized voices whispering ‘She won’t push anymore, she just won’t! And she took the epidural!’.

Reality then followed me home. And it was there, subject to randomly unsolicited proclamations about how ‘This baby needs an undershirt’ and dictates about the unequivocal superiority of specific feeding and sleeping schedules, that I realized something. Everyone’s got an opinion. And when it comes to babies and parenting, everyone feels entitled to air it.

When I asked my cousin, a veteran mom of three kids, if she had ever noticed this trend during her mothering career, she started to laugh. Oh, do you mean when people from older generations let you know how much better their way is (In my day, we had babies eating solids and toilet-trained by the age of three months, sniff)? Or, do you mean when people talk to you through your baby (Poor you. Your little hands are soooooooooo cold. Your mommy didn’t dress you warmly enough this morning.)? Or, do you mean other parents who don’t tell you what to do directly, but let you know what they think anyway (Oh, are you doing that? or Oh, I wouldn’t do that!).

Listening to her, I laughed and the tension that had enveloped me in my endeavor to be the perfect mom that never made a mistake started to dissipate. In that instant, I realized that parenting is a process. There are no last chances for success. As long as you love your child fiercely, do the best that you can do at any given moment, and forgive yourself for the moments that you don’t, things will turn out more than ok.