On this blog, Amelia, Heidi, Mary Beth, Susan and I have been playing around with the word Enough. We’ve been exploring how much is the right amount of X.Y, or Z in order to bring peace, happiness and fulfillment. In our society of consumerism, in our world where so many don’t have enough and others have too much, we are trying to stay conscious and stretch ourselves in intentionality without losing a sense of humor. I have believed in this is conversation and work for a long time and will continue to invest in it. For me. How far outside of me, however, does it extend? Are these choices deeply private? Where does my responsibility end?
I remember a scene from the very end of About a Boy, a movie based on the Nick Hornby novel, where the staunch vegetarian social-justice loving hippie mom asks her son if he wants to go to McDonald’s. Excited and utterly shocked, the child takes the mother by the hand and they walk off toward the Golden Arches in their matching knit cardigan sweaters. The mom had been projecting all of her adult beliefs on her child. It is a moment of moral concession for the mother that makes the child joyful. The movie came out in 2002, twelve years ago when I was still in college. But even way back then, that moment hit me hard.
I knew somehow that I was supposed to pay attention to that moment. I knew that I had the potential to become this staunch vegetarian social-justice loving woman. I knew that one day I could have kids, too. And when I did have kids, I’d have to decide which of my personal simplicity morals I was going to enforce and which I was going to be willing to negotiate. Should I take my kids to McDonalds? Where does my responsibility end?
The day has arrived.
I’m in my third trimester, pregnant with my first child. My spouse and I have had six years of marriage together to build a life of intentionality that we love and keep working at together. We constantly talk about how much is enough for us, two grown adults. We don’t, in fact, go to McDonald’s. My siblings have made fun of me for years, telling me that Dan and I will raise hippie children and it will be their jobs to “corrupt” them with McDonald’s. Soon that corruptible child is coming. Soon I will be holding a little tiny person who will be completely dependent on me to keep him or her alive. This tiny person did not choose me as a mom like Dan chose me as a partner. Will this little person appreciate the decisions that Dan and I make for ourselves? Do we make concessions for the child’s happiness? Which ones? Maybe this little person will love loud, plastic toys and McDonald’s and the Miss American pageant and Fox News and…
About a Boy continues to haunt me. The child is made fun of at school for being weird because he loves his hippie mom and joins in her lifestyle. Hugh Grant’s character tries to save him with his over the top rich consumer fixes. He buys the boy cool shoes and reprimands the mother for setting the son up for ridicule. And in the end, the tension remains. The child lives somewhere in between his hippie mother and his materialistic older friend. The adults who are responsible for him have to manage who the boy really is, and who the boy is becoming, and how much is enough for him.
With generous and excited friends asking where I am registered for baby stuff, I am swimming with questions of Enough. Questions not for me, but for this little person who is very much not me, yet who I am responsible for:
How many onesies does a baby need? How many bottles do I need? How many blankets do I need? Burp rags? Pacifiers? (You get the idea.)
Should we use disposable or reusable diapers?
Do I need a video monitor? A Ergo and a sling?
Some moms encourage me to buy things for me like new pajamas, sheets and nursing pillows since I will be lounging a lot. The word need may not be used, but the word deserve is. Other items are presented to us as life-savers. The child doesn’t technically need a sound machine or a swing, but if it helps the couple get some sleep, can we call it needed in terms of mental and physical health? It becomes incredibly difficult to know what we will actually need. What our child will actually need. We’ve never done this before. Newborns have real needs, and it is my job to figure them out. The stakes are high. And the questions about a baby registry so quickly escalate to questions laced with morals and societal judgement and pressure about parenting and enoughness:
Do I stay a vegetarian and feed my child meat?
How long can you keep your child phone-less and off Facebook without them being considered “weird”?
Where does my responsibility end? Which Enough ideals should I pass on to my children, and when does that passing on become projecting?
This buyerarchy of needs has been a great anchor. Dan and I are borrowing, swapping, thrifting and making in addition to buying for our child. That makes it more fun. And McDonald’s? Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.