I just returned from a vacation in France with my wife. It was great. Two weeks of walking through Paris, eating at brasseries, drinking wine and champagne, wearing scarves, and pretending to speak French. Not a care in the world. No thinking about work and clients. No keeping up with the news. No answering e-mails, text messages. No driving the kids to school and band rehearsals, no rushing to pick them up. No waking up at 5:30 to make them breakfast and lunch. No nagging them to finish their homework and go to bed. No straightening up the house. No bothering to be the reluctant handyman. No loading and unloading the dishwasher. No grocery shopping. No worrying about trying to exercise regularly.
That's only my part. You should see my wife's list of chores. Infinitely longer, more critical, and more taxing. Seriously.
There is little time left over for that once-a-week date which my wife and I occasionally remind each other we have to do. Often, the best we can manage is a Netflix movie on the weekend... but not too late, otherwise one of us will inevitably end up falling asleep halfway through.
My mother-in-law took care of the children while we were away. A real trooper. After a few days, she commented to us how amazed she was that we could keep up with so much stuff and still manage to have full-time careers. Well, there's no denying that we are good parents. But the fact is that both of us have been given so many advantages in life (including happy childhoods, solid and supportive immediate and extended families, wonderful friends, good health and educations, travel abroad, social and economic opportunities, plenty of luck) that we were positioned well for parenthood, which commenced when we were fully mature and ready... in our late-30s.
When things at home get a little hectic or even overwhelming, my mantra is, "Oh, we have it so easy compared to so many parents around the world." (I tend to annoy my wife with that one.) I think of parents in my native country of Honduras and other poor countries, where it's a struggle every day simply to feed and clothe your children, give them a basic education or care for them when they are sick.
Perhaps most often, I think of my paternal grandmother, Francisca ("Panchita"), who was left a widow in her mid-30s. She never married again. She successfully raised and educated three young children by herself, working as a seamstress in Tegucigalpa. It was truly an amazing feat when you imagine the fears and hardships my abuela had to endure and overcome. My grandmother was a single mom in a developing nation. My siblings and cousins do not recall her that way, but that was her daily reality for so long.
Suddenly, my immense respect and admiration for my grandmother are enlarged. Suddenly, my own accomplishments as a parent seem, oh... very modest, even puny. Abuelita Pancha lived into her early-90s in good health. She would have been 100 years old today. Cheers.