Bad Lessons From My Family

“Stranger danger”

This one is bad for so many reasons, namely that most people are not out to kill you. I mentioned this once to a parent, and she (admittedly, to my surprise) agreed. Yes, kids should know not everyone is a kind person and some people will hurt them, but there must be a better way than teaching them to assume everybody outside of their family and schoolhouse is a murderer in waiting. For me, this got so bad, I feared walking down the street alone (not that I was allowed to begin with). In truth, most strangers couldn’t care less, and statistically, a child is in more danger with their own family than from a stranger. Abduction by strangers are the least common. Most kidnappers have a familial relationship with the child, or knows the child via friendship with the parents or other family. In other words, in most cases, the kidnapper isn’t a stranger to the kid.

“If you don’t behave, the police will arrest you.”

Bad police officers will do this (aka police brutality or profiling), and I know there are cases of children being arrested for temper tantrums and given charges. I’m not going to pretend there aren’t some bullies out there in blue with a badge (I also believe if you work with kids and your solution to a tantrum is calling police, you need an immediate career change; on different note, all of those cases happened in the south and every child was black, so I think that says enough). If you live in a community where the police are notorious for profiling, maybe this is a legitimate worry, but I didn’t grow up in any such area, so this was nothing more than a scare tactic. It failed spectacularly when I found the police to be a lot more helpful than my family. I know some officers have gone so far as to ask parents to stop doing this because if a child is in legitimate trouble, especially life-threatening trouble, the police will probably be the people you want involved. In fact, when I was growing up, one bit of advice I read is if you think someone is chasing you, run into a police station. A kid who’s scared of the police would probably assume they’ll be in more trouble if they do that.

In same vein, “that [lady/man] will kick you out if you don’t behave” when it comes to store workers. As I’ve said several times in my posts, I work in retail. No, I am not going to kick your kid out. I can’t kick actual bad customers out. If I had the authority to kick anyone out, your kid would be very low on the list because as annoying as their screaming is, this person at my counter having a fit her receipt is invalid is much more annoying.

That everyone cares how you look

Just like most people aren’t out to kill me, I learned most people couldn’t care less what I look like either. In fact, the only people who did care were my family and the bullies at school. The passersby on the street have their own lives and problems, and a stranger’s appearance does not make the list. I confess I am self-conscious about how I look, but that insecurity came entirely from my family. Even my job, the people who pay me, don’t care how I look as long as it’s within their dress code. One of my jobs does have a rule about hair: tie it up. Surprise, surprise. It’s a safety rule, not a “avoid being ugly” rule. And if any stranger is taking a huge issue with how I look, that’s on them. Interestingly, constantly belittling others and needing constant praise are signs of narcissism.

Similarly, “you don’t like to look pretty”. There’s totally nothing wrong with teaching girls they’re ugly if they’re not in a dress and jewelry, right? Yes, that’s sarcasm.

“You shouldn’t do what everyone else does” at the same time as “Don’t you want to be like the other girls?”

In case it’s not obvious, contradiction. Many times in my teens, my family told me not to do what other teenagers do until it came to attire and hobbies. Suddenly, I was questioned about why I wasn’t like the other teenagers. Normal teenagers spend every Saturday at the mall with their friends, going shopping and dressing like fictional high school characters. Recall I said above my family was paranoid of letting me do so much as walk down the street, and they certainly weren’t willing to be my weekend ride or give me money for these supposed mall trips (before you ask why I didn’t get a job, this nonsense started when I was 12; 12-year-olds cannot legally be employed and I wasn’t interested in the mall anyway, nor were my friends). Ironically, nowadays, I do shop a lot and go out frequently, and my family wants me to stop because I’m almost never home. Can’t win. Perhaps it’s not surprising I got into certain hobbies and likes when I stopped being told I should like those things.

Pressure about going to college

I understand this came from a place of good intentions, as this often does, but it turns out going to college for the sake of going to college is a really bad idea. To my family, specifically, it mostly had to do with bragging rights. The majority of them do not know anything about college besides it’s simply “the next step”. This was more annoying from my mom, however, because she did go to college and nothing ever came of it. How the heck can you pressure someone to go to college to have a better future when the outcome was the very opposite for you?

I did eventually go to college – trade school – and I wish I didn’t because the jobs I got didn’t require college. They were jobs I could’ve succeeded at in high school. On top of that, the job I currently commit myself to pays higher than both jobs and involves more than sitting at a desk for the majority of a shift with nothing to do. I’m not against desk jobs. I would love to have one again. Just give me something to do besides talk endlessly until the phone rings. Getting paid to do nothing sounds fun until you realize it means almost literally nothing. Not fun at all.

Finances

Non-existent. My family is the absolute master of bad finances. From my mom spending her last bit of money to ensure I went to the hair stylist that month as a kid to my dad pressuring me to go into further debt to have a car, and considering a bus pass and education a waste of money (fun fact: Dad has never 100% supported himself; he can afford to trade in cars like candy). Unfortunately, this is very hard to learn on your own and spending impulses don’t make it easier, but I’m trying. At the very least, I can say I have more in savings than anyone in my immediate family does and I’m now trying to save at least $100 a month to continue growing it (after it being stagnate for a long time).

Family planning

Why does this seem to go hand-in-hand with the above? To my family’s credit, they never let me believe having a child is easy. The problem is they still went the paranoia route and discussions about sex were closed. I never dated until I was 19 anyway, but it still would’ve been nice to know pregnancy does not randomly happen and isn’t inevitable. I’m not fond of the whole “children will ruin your life” shtick either. First of all, no child deserves that. Second, that probably wouldn’t happen if any thought was given to having kids anyway instead of parenthood being treated as something that happens outside of someone’s control. Speaking personally, yes, parenthood would destroy my life because I absolutely do not want to be a parent and I have no support (financially and emotionally) for that child. But if I wanted kids, the latter alone would stop me from having them until that situation changed. A common retort to this is “you make it work” or “you figure it out”. As the product of such, I can tell you my family definitely didn’t figure it out. They still haven’t.

“Don’t trust men.”

This came from women and men in my family. Unsurprisingly, the men it came from aren’t stellar themselves. Projection much? I’ve had my fair share of bad relationships (and I wouldn’t even call them that) with men, but it taught me to be more careful and not to expect my profile to be read. And don’t sleep with anyone I’m prepared to kick out of my life the next day. Sadly, the only long-lasting relationships I grew up with turned out to be toxic, so they weren’t good models at all. This is another difficult thing to learn, and my own relationship is struggling at the moment.

So, what did my family do right? Well:

  • I’m incredibly far from perfect, but they did raise a person who works hard, tries to learn from their mistakes and her own, and is no longer ashamed to be herself (though I don’t think they’re happy about that last one).
  • They taught me to never be fully dependent on anyone, especially if you do have kids. Before the stay-at-home parents stab me with their pitchforks, I’m simply talking from a place of practicality. Spouses do leave, get sick, die, get fired, and so on. My point is anything could result in me suddenly needing to support myself (and my supposed child), so there must be a back-up plan. TV Tropes calls this “wisdom from the gutter”.
  • They showed me parenthood is not a cakewalk. I don’t like how they did it (making me paranoid of pregnancy, and that parenthood is always a disaster), but parenthood is difficult, even in the best of circumstances. There is so much more to it than cute clothes and photos, and helping someone grow into a functional adult is a huge, demanding job that takes everything you have and more than that.
  • Both of my parents called it quits after I was born. My mom had another child, but my sister’s father supposedly had a vasectomy. Either it failed or he lied, but either way, my mom really was trying to be careful. She’s had no more kids since then, despite she wanted at least one more, so that’s saying something. Neither of my parents ever pressure me for grandchildren either.
  • They were open-minded when I finally introduced my boyfriend. As much as I disagree with their teaching style (“don’t trust any man”), it still came from a place of concern and not wanting me to end up struggling to raise a child with a man who couldn’t care less. It probably helps I waited three years before letting my boyfriend meet them. Three years isn’t really long (I don’t think…), but it was long enough that it was obvious we weren’t a fling and he wasn’t knocking me up.

In spite of the above, I still think my parents would’ve been better off not being parents because it was all too obvious they didn’t want to. My dad was involved from age two, but didn’t care for fatherhood (I was more like a tiny roommate) and while my mom tried her best, it was obvious to me as a child motherhood wasn’t her forte. And I don’t say that as a kid who was a terror because even she says I was an overall good kid. Kids don’t come with a manual, but that doesn’t mean everyone can “get into the swing of it”. Some people never do and merely deal with the cards as they’re tossed.

My parents are not good parents, but they are good people. Close enough.

“Don’t Make Any Babies”

Quick note: No, I didn’t make a birthday post this year because my birthday was terrible. I don’t want to talk about it.

I don’t want to be a parent, but I feel like the “scare her out of pregnancy” tactic is getting old.

I’m 25. I’m in no financial place to have a child, but were that and my lack of desire not issues, I don’t think I’d be terrible if I chose to be a parent. The matter with my family is neither of those things are why they still tell me “don’t make any babies”. The reason is they believe it’s impossible to have a romantic relationship without having kids.

What’s most annoying is this often comes from my grandfather: a lifelong addict and marriage-long cheater who had kids with his affair, and went on to cheat on her. Of all the people to try to give me any kind of life advice, he is the most unqualified. This is the same person who didn’t want me around my friends’ brothers or fathers if they happened to be present when I visited. I genuinely feel it’s a kind of projection for him. He assumes every man is unfaithful and thoughtless because he is, and he has no remorse for it (he calls it “satisfying his needs”). My father and my uncle aren’t unfaithful, but they’re also not much better when it comes to relationships. One thinks it’s the girlfriend’s or wife’s job to take care of 90% of the household and bills, and the other thinks women are too complicated and tricky (but also refuses have any male friends; figure that one out).

I’m not claiming to have everything figured out, but I don’t think any of them can lecture me on relationships, let alone the choice to be a parent outside of common sense. Unfortunately, my family’s history only backs them up. Every parent I know within my close family had their child with someone who left them, even if they have more than one kid with the same man (in that scenario, the other kid(s) is the result of the couple getting back together for a few months, only to break up again). Obviously, I don’t know the details of all of their situations, but I despise it’s ultimately held up against me about why parenthood is terrible. Really, it has nothing to do with parenthood. Outside of unfortunate circumstances, they suck at choosing partners.

It’s weird to me they still feel the need to talk to me about “having babies” like I’m still 15. And even then, I thought it was ridiculous. I didn’t have any interest in dating until I was 19 anyway, but the automatic assumption I would’ve been a teen parent if I did annoys me beyond comprehension. At 25, my immediate family still acts like I’ll become pregnant if I so much as breathe on a man. I really wish that was an exaggeration. If I really wanted to become pregnant against all logic, I would’ve done it by now. Their scare tactics really didn’t work when I was a teenager either. I knew from a young age – about nine or so – children were a huge responsibility, and I only saw more and more of how huge when I became a teen and learned about pregnancy and childbirth. That’s the one good thing that came out of being an older sibling: taking care of my sister was more than enough for me to realize I don’t want to do it voluntarily. For the same reason, it’s probably not surprising if I wanted to be a parent, I’d be “one and done”. To this day, I envy only children. And no, siblings don’t prevent loneliness. Outside of school, where my friends were, I was always lonely. You can be lonely with other people around. “Lonely” and “alone” are not interchangeable.

Since I haven’t “made any babies”, my family assumes their scare tactics work, and I don’t think worth it to tell them they’re wrong. Part of me does wish I could prove them wrong – that it’s possible to be a parent in a committed, healthy relationship and raise kids as a couple – but aside from being a terrible reason to have kids, I doubt they would change their minds. They are stubborn (not hard to see where my own was inherited from), and I’d rather not spend my life fighting to prove them wrong. Some people are motivated by that idea. I find it tiring.

Three Years Later

I called it.

Happy April Fool’s Day, but this post is not a prank. Counting today, my 25th birthday is in 27 days. That surreal feeling has come back and it is stronger than ever.

Actually, I think about it a lot. How my mother was a parent at my age. My mom’s birthday is in July, so she would still be 24, but at the time, she had a nearly three-year-old child (me) and was about seven months pregnant. I cannot imagine. In that post, I said I couldn’t see where I’d be at 25. I wasn’t sure this blog would still be around. Well, at 25, I’ve finished school and am looking for a job in what I studied while dealing with retail for the time being. I also have student loans and credit card debt.

I don’t know if my mom had any debt, but I know her circumstances at the time weren’t much different than mine. I try to imagine having one child, but I can never figure it out. People say “you’ll figure it out”, but I genuinely can’t. I’m barely keeping myself above water. My retail job barely covers my monthly expenses. At best, I may have an extra $10 or $20 after I cover my bills from week to week, and that’s far from enough to care for a child. Heck, just if I were pregnant, I’d be in hot water. I have health insurance, but I’ve still had to pay out of pocket for some medical expenses. What about things like pre-natal vitamins and maternity clothes? And what if I couldn’t keep working while I was pregnant? I know many women work up until just days before they’re due (I had a manager who went on maternity leave and gave birth a week later!), but not everyone can do that. Pregnancy itself isn’t a cakewalk, but some are worse than others. And it’s not free to give birth! You get a bill for giving birth in a hospital, despite that’s the safest way (statistically speaking; there is sexism around childbirth).

If I’d be in deep mud before the child arrives, I’d metaphorically drown when the kid finally is here. Sure, I don’t have to spend $300 on baby clothes they’d quickly outgrow and constantly throw up on. But a crib? Diapers? Changing pad? Stroller? Bottles (don’t say breastfeed; the kid wouldn’t be in my care 24/7 because I’d have to work)? Bibs? Formula? Daycare? That alone would be nearly an extra $1,000 a month, and that’s cheap. That’s actually more than my monthly expenses. And these would be the expenses for a healthy baby!

But it crosses my mind a lot because of the way I’m currently struggling and knowing my mom did it over 20 years ago. A popular meme I’ve read is about how having your kids young means you’ll be free in your 40s and be able to do everything you missed out on when your kids were young. The problem is that assumes you’ll be well off by the time your kids are grown, and they’ll move out at 18 and not move back in. My mom’s financial situation is no better now than it was when I was an infant, and my sister and I aren’t well off either. It may be worth mentioning my grandparents also weren’t well off. I think this is what’s called generational poverty.

I know this surreal feeling will pass, but I’ll never not be astounded that people do this. For the record, I know how my mom did it. She had government assistance. And no, I don’t think that’s shameful. But to see in twenty years, her situation hasn’t changed – and to know it’s been this way for two generations, three if I count myself and my sister without kids – is depressing, to say the least. I hear “there’s never a good time” and “you’ll never be ready”. Maybe that’s true, but if I wanted kids, I sure wouldn’t willingly have them when I couldn’t pay rent if I needed to. Maybe there really never is a good time, but I’m sure it’s a bad time when daycare alone would take more than your entire monthly income.

For the sake of my curiosity, and my absurd enjoyment of creating lists, I’m going to add up those expenses. Let’s say I get what I can what from the store I work at.

Crib? Cheapest they have is $200.

Baby outfits? Let’s go with a set of four. Those usually cost about $8.

Bottles? We have packs of three that are about $4.

Bibs? One set has four, I think, and that’s another $4.

Stroller? An umbrella one is $20, but those aren’t exactly sturdy and probably not good for a newborn child. The sturdy ones are $50 at cheapest.

Changing pad? I can’t remember how much in-store, but according to their website, their cheapest is $15.

That’s all the necessities I could get from my job. My job is near Wal-Mart, so I could get diapers and formula from there. Lowest is a pack of 20 diapers for $5, but on average, a newborn uses around 10 diapers a day, so that’d only last two days. So, that’s $20 for a week’s worth of diapers. Baby formula, for a box of one quart, is $7, and that would last only a day (a quick Google search tells me newborns drink 2 to 3 ounces per feeding every 2 to 3 hours; a quart is equal to 32 ounces). A week’s worth of that would be $49, and that’s for 7 individual boxes. A pack is more expensive!

So, let’s add all of that up.

$200 (crib)
$8 (set of baby outfits)
$4(x2) (pack of bottles and set of bibs)
$50 (stroller)
$15 (changing pad)

Minus 15% employee discount, and the total is $238.85 before taxes. Add in the diapers ($20) and formula ($49), and the total reaches $307.85 before taxes. So, at minimum, I’m spending $300.

“But you’ll only buy one crib, one stroller, one changing pad…”

Okay, but I’ll need more clothes when my baby gets bigger, and diapers and formula for a month still total $276 (again, before taxes). Also, I need to work, so again, daycare. Using a local one here I searched, that’s over $900 a month. Round up, and baby’s expenses are about $1,200 a month, on top of my own and not including new clothes for the baby. If my retail job barely covers my expenses, where am I getting an extra $1,200 a month? Once again, this is assuming the baby is healthy and born with zero health issues.

Exactly. I have no clue and I’m not curious enough to find out. The whole idea makes my head spin. And yes, I know there are people my age and younger who are supporting kids on minimum wage jobs. I have a supervisor who does it. Let me put it this way: just because it’s doable doesn’t mean I want to find out how. And just because one person can do it doesn’t mean someone else can. Assistance doesn’t cover absolutely everything.

I’m sure this surreal feeling will pop up every so often. Maybe near every birthday. I don’t know.

I wish those who are financially struggling, with kids and without, the very best. As for myself, right now, I only wish to find a better-paying job in my field.

Eve of New Year’s Eve

Counting today, there are two more days left of 2018. Truthfully, I am glad. I hated this year and I’ve been dying for it to be over since it started. Usually, there’s something that makes me not entirely regret a bad year, but 2018 is not in that category. I can call it the second worst year of my life (first worst was 2010).

In chronological order, and from bad to worse:

  • I lost my full-time position because I couldn’t keep up with the workload. Actually, I had to step down from it to avoid being fired for incompetence. If I’d know taking a promotion meant putting your employment on the line, I never would’ve asked for it.
  • I had to delay school by two months for the very stupid reason of my birthday falling after the deadline! Seriously, what pompous a**hole thought that was a good set-up? I would’ve been done with school by now, and wouldn’t have had to struggle with the hell of juggling holiday hours and school hours.
  • Falling out with my sister. We didn’t get along to begin with, but she tried to blackmail me and attempted to start a family feud via my boyfriend. I very nearly cut our relationship completely because he went behind my back to her, but he apologized and I did find out part of it was her taking advantage of his anxiety (which does notoriously make him do stupid things).
  • The Black Friday shooting I was part of. I didn’t have the heart to return to that job, and I still haven’t set foot in that mall. I’ve thought about it, but knowing that’s an annual event at that mall is too much for me to feel good about going back. And yes, I know a shooting can happen anywhere, but when it’s so commonplace that knowing it happens every year is supposed to be comforting instead of terrifying, that’s not my idea of a safe working environment. Or shopping one, for that matter. (Interestingly, I’ve been more easily startled by loud sounds since this incident, especially crowd noise)

Not a damn good thing came out of this year, and I’d gladly burn it to the ground if I could. I don’t have hopes for 2019, especially since it’s supposed to (key word) be the year I finish trade school and go into the field I studied. Note to self: avoid anything to do with networking at all costs. I’m almost expecting it to be worse than 2018, considering certain circumstances I don’t feel like getting into.

500% done with this year!

Who Comes First?

Something recently told to me: “Your spouse should always be your #1 priority, and you should be theirs.”

I really hope there’s context included in that because if not, I have a big problem.

First of all, if I find out my boyfriend is “ranking” who he loves more, the wedding is off. Yes, I know everyone has people they love more than others. That’s human nature. However, I didn’t agree to be his girlfriend to enter a love competition.

Yes, I love my boyfriend and I know he loves me. But his family was there first. His friends were there first. It’s one thing if we agreed to certain plans and he suddenly cancelled them, but if that’s not the case, I have zero problem if he wants to go hang out with his best friend/sister/niece/whoever else instead of me. And if this is one of those “that’ll change when you marry him” things, I think we need to push the wedding date further down a few years.

Even cancelling plans has exceptions. There was an occasion some time ago where we finally managed to make some (admittedly last-minute) plans to be together, only for him to have to cancel because his niece had to be picked up from school and no one else was available. He was actually more furious than I was about that (mostly because it was suddenly sprung on him, and he wasn’t even asked if he would be okay with that; he could’ve easily been stuck at work), but as much as I wanted to us to get together that day, I would’ve rammed my foot up his behind if he didn’t pick up his niece. I was bitter about it, I admit, but I was not about to let a child be endangered, and thankfully, neither was he. We did get together the following week without trouble, though that didn’t go as planned because of our own pettiness. Such is life.

All of the above said, we do have our own troubles with our families, which is why that quote desperately needs context to it. No one should always be someone’s top priority. Priorities must change periodically. Even without urgent matters like the situation with his niece, I certainly wouldn’t feel neglected because he wants to spend a night, or a week, with a relative or a friend. As long as he does nothing he shouldn’t – and yes, he knows what falls under that – I couldn’t care less. Heck, after the “honeymoon” phase wears off, I’ll probably appreciate having the house to myself for a while. Except for when I feel scared in the dark. Then, I’ll miss him.