Finding Balance When Life's Not Fair
As an only child, the running joke before I had kids was that I was intensely curious about how multiple kids would claim their territory in the back seat. As a mom, I realized that "to the victor go the spoils" is probably not the best parenting method.
From having one child to being pregnant with the second, I worried about how I'd love and pay attention to both equally. It turned out that I shouldn't have worried about love — for me, that grew instantly — but I did have to figure out how to divide my attention, especially in a world where other things also vie for it, like marriage, friendships and work. I still feel I fail at splitting my attention, but I feel like I'm more mindful to at least aim for fairness.
Except it'll never be fair. My daughter got three years of undivided attention from me before her brother arrived. What may even out that extra time is that she had probably the worst of me as a new mom — overwhelmed, tired and wholly inexperienced. He got the benefit of a slightly more relaxed mom. Was he not rolling over as quickly? Eh, he'll get there. Did I remember what happened with kids and the edge of a bed? My reflexes had grown snakelike, snatching onesies before he toppled into doom.
A while back, my daughter alluded to the time her brother was born in a comic she drew. He was boring, and it wasn't a fun time. I understand her. All she knew was that a little interloper had come in and stolen her Mama.
She also surprised me by saying that her memories started when her brother arrived. On the one hand, great; I'm more than a little glad she doesn't remember my early parenting mishaps. On the other hand, does all that one-on-one time remain only in my memories? Do all my successes with her evaporate, or will they linger in the recesses of her unconscious?
All fodder for her therapist someday, I'm sure.
It doesn't seem that just the young have their memories evaporate; it seems similar for the old. Older generations' memories tend to start with their success. The times of hardships faded away, only to be turned into golden-hued journeys they walked through alone when most had more support than they realize or remember. For example, many could pay for college with what they made from their summer job. They didn't need a loan.
I needed loans, but luckily not too many because I had scholarships and help from my parents. Yet, when I looked back at my resident undergraduate tuition in 2003 at New Mexico State University, it was only $3,372 for one year. The same person coming into the school now is paying $8,409 per year. In 20 years, that's a 150% increase in just tuition, let alone paying for a place to live or food. The federal minimum wage was $5.15 then, and it's $7.25 now. That's only a 40% increase.
Those differences are a problem, but so are the predatory loans signed by teens, those in the early twilight of adulthood, to offset what they could make on minimum wage — or what their parents can help with — to pay for tuition. When I hear laments from the old and those my age about how unfair it is that some will have help repaying loans, it doesn't sound like a rationed examination of the predatory nature of loans and interest for teenagers. It sounds a lot like petulance, and entitlement to a fair life.
Everyone who goes through this life knows that things are not always fair, but they can be balanced over time by focusing on making it better for the future. Progress for those who come after you doesn't detract from your success, just like my daughter's sibling didn't steal her mother's love.
Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.