A few days ago I listened to NPR correspondent Pam Fessler’s, “The Other Side Of The Economic Divide”, in which she compares her own lifestyle and outlook with that of the financially burdened population she reports on. At one point, Fessler interviews a woman at a food pantry who recounts encouraging her now-grown children that they could do anything – and warning them that “a baby is a lifetime of aggravation.”
Like Fessler, I’m struck by that line. Not struck in an inquisitive, intellectual way. I feel like I’ve been struck. This description of parenthood as a lasting hardship physically assaults me. In my social circles, babies are blessings. Could poverty really change how I feel and talk about my children?
I often remind students that intellectual pursuits – the kind we follow at the university – are privileges. French thinker René Descartes volunteered for that stint in the Dutch army. Rather than battling, the “father of modern philosophy” lounged in his tent reimagining dreams into scientific thought. He had time. We tend to study the works of old dead white men because they’ve had time to think and write.
But Fessler reminds me that even motherhood – the kind I experience – is a privilege.
I teach at a university. I’m a Lecturer, which is certainly a better paying gig than Adjuncting, but it’s not a tenure-track position. So I’ll probably never make much more than an average administrative assistant. But I’ve got time. Cogito, ergo sum.
Time to think about a world of ideas, and to see the world in my daughters. And to love and celebrate my world and my girls.
When I’m tired or not as present as I’d like to be with my children, it’s because I’m reflecting on a teaching moment found or lost, or thinking about how I’ll engage the next text or class. It’s because I’m just home from my much-appreciated work of sharing ideas with others. Not home from a shift at a factory. Or a slaughterhouse. Or Walmart.
I worry about how I’ll save for my children’s college educations. Not about how I’ll feed them this week.
I have enough time. I have enough money. Because my daughters are a blessing.