Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Carrying Our Own Load

Many couples talk about when is the best time to have a baby, depending on job status of the parents, money saved, health insurance, home situation, etc. If possible, most couples like to plan to have their babies at the right time, when all their proverbial ducks are in a row. Yet, most seasoned parents know that there is no "good" time to have a baby. Babies are demanding, amazing, and all-consuming. Regardless of the apparent material preparation one can make for the arrival of a new baby, there are always unknowns and unexpected issues that pop up, ranging from sleepless nights to illnesses. Many times the best laid plans can be derailed by an unexpected pregnancy, as well. Yet, what stumps me is the couple who is clearly not ready to have a baby, but either society, their parents, or just that old biological clock is telling them that since they are married and "of age" to have children, the time must be now; this, regardless of the fact that money is tight, both parents must work full time, and the tiny apartment in which they live is simply not big enough. I have seen many young couples get so excited about becoming parents that they do not think through what is involved until after the baby arrives.

I know a couple currently who has been married about five years. The wife is twenty-nine years old and the husband is thirty-nine. He has very little background or education and is constantly changing jobs. He is a hard worker, but they would have to go on government assistance if they depended only upon his salary, which is just above minimum wage. He works very long hours, six days each week. The wife is a high school music teacher who also plays in the local symphony orchestra. Although a teacher's salary is larger than minimum wage, life is expensive, and this couple relies heavily on the jobs of each of them. Just last year, the husband felt he was getting older and wanted his wife to have a baby. They both felt very strongly that one parent should stay home with the baby, so they discussed it in great depth. In the end, though they knew they could not currently support their convictions about staying home with the baby, they wanted one, anyway. Surely they could find a good day care.

The baby came and the father was able to take a few days off to help the mom. Thankfully the baby was born in the summertime, so the mother was able to have a bit of time with the baby before putting him in full time day care. The day care they chose is not their ideal, because the day care provider does not share their religious beliefs, but as with many other things, they were forced to compromise out of necessity.

I am not trying to make a judgment here; many parents choose this route and while my belief is that the baby is better off at home with a parent, people have to make their own choices. The problem with the aforementioned couple is that they now are trying to push their unwise decision on those closest to them. The wife is pressuring her mother to quit her job so she can baby sit the infant during the day; the husband hints to friends about how wonderful it would be if they could spend time with the baby so he and his wife could have a date (i.e. free babysitting); and the wife is constantly looking for friends who will accompany her to the symphony so they can watch the baby there, backstage, while she plays - again, free of charge. We, the friends of this couple are feeling as though they want their life to go on as it always has while their friends and family pick up the slack. Yes, the idea of friends and family being a part of this baby's life is very important, but it seems that this couple either should have thought ahead a bit more, or they should alter their current living arrangements. Perhaps a second job on the part of the husband and putting off the symphony on the part of the wife would be a good idea.

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