*Dave Pascoe — aka number 3 son by adoption — seems to be trying to write the world (it’s a family thing) so Cedar is pitching in, and he’ll run later this week. He’s not dead. He’s looking after a baby. Which ties in with this essay too.*
False Goalposts – Cedar Sanderson
I recently wrote a post about motherhood. In it, I detailed the ways mothers are expected to leave their children from birth, go out into the world, and have a career. What I didn’t get into was the ways that is a false goalpost. Remember the old Peanuts cartoon, where Charlie would run at the ball, and at the last second Lucy would whip it away, and he would wind up on the ground, seeing stars and wondering what had happened? This is what a lot of young women are wondering.
Things started out so well. They were going to graduate from Highschool, as Homecoming Queen, natch, and have a prom of the ages, and then trip lightly off to college on a path of rosepetals. After school, they would land their dream job, and somewhere in there would be the perfect 2.1 children, boy and girl (no one ever talks about that poor 0.1 child…) who would themselves be sweetly brilliant…
We all know where this is going. The reality that includes drunken sex, parties at college until the GPA dips too low to keep going, or the parent falling ill and the child dropping out of school to care for them, or… I know a lot of these young people, trying to get through school on their second try. Heck, I am one, I just left a lot more time between my first and second try.
Whoa! Where did the ball go?
So, we have established that not all young women will make it through college. A high percentage of those young women will drop out of school because they are pregnant, either before or after having the baby. Pregnancy isn’t all glows and happy baby kicks in the belly. It is a huge job, of carrying a growing being that is consuming all your energy, nutrients, and then there is the wash of pregnancy hormones that turn a woman into someone she may not recognize. Not to mention the issues that can crop up near the end of pregnancy. I had four happy healthy pregnancies, and one of those where I was on bedrest for two weeks with very high blood pressure. Things happen. Do young women figure this into their plans? No.
Let’s say she manages to avoid all this and keep going through school, get a degree before baby. Now she has a bachelor’s in… something. Let’s make it Liberal Arts, for a catch-all degree. Our girl bounces down the commencement aisle to get her piece of paper, all smiles and sunshine in her cap and gown. Wipe away that tear, and think about what’s coming next for her.
Kids these days think that’s it. Get a degree, get a career. I remember working in an office, talking to a coworker, who was still in shock over having graduated the year before with his fresh history degree. He wound up in the office doing customer service work, and barely able to pay his loans. He was working seven days a week just to make ends meet, and his fiancé was working, too. They didn’t know when they could get married – not soon – or start a family. Buying a house? Out of the question. And yet, both of them had their pieces of paper that were supposed to be the keys to illustrious careers.
Whoops! There goes that ball again.
So now our girl has that piece of paper. She also has a baby now. Where does she find work? Well, in the motherhood essay I talked about the woman who was expected to do it all: have a career, have a family, so off she went, leaving her baby in the care of minimum-wage daycare workers. Guess what, that’s where our girl is, working in the daycare. This is the illustrious career she worked so hard for. Of course, having her own children in the daycare she works at costs her almost as much as she is making. Gas for commuting takes the rest of her pay. But she can’t give up her career for her family, that would be admitting defeat. My parents told me at some point they sat down and crunched the numbers when my sisters and I were young. For my mother to go back to work would actually cost the family. Oh, not a lot, and for most it would be breaking even, not a loss. But this girl never looks that close at the budget, she just drags home exhausted every night, to pizza or something unidentifiable in the slow-cooker.
Where the heck is that ball?
Girls are promised in school that they can be doctors, and lawyers, and… So they can. Nothing wrong with shooting for the moon. The difficulties come when they are reaching for false goalposts, and not re-evaluating when circumstances change. Motherhood is not a penalty, it is a score, but it’s not without consequences. A new life, a tiny daughter… what is our girl going to say to her, when she gets old enough to start running up the field toward the goalposts? Shoot for the score, but when life knocks you down, get up and dust yourself off. Recognize that the goalposts might be false, and it’s ok to have goals that are smaller, or less socially acceptable to the world around you. And above all, it’s dangerous out there, take a friend. He’s called a husband, and he’s meant to be your partner, confidante, and supporter. Don’t undermine him, and he can help you score all the goals.
Charlie Brown could never thump Lucy for being such a pill about the ball, nice boys don’t hit girls. But I’m not a boy, and I can look at her, and walk away. Time to play my own game.