Unexpected Turns in Life When Kids Are Along for the Ride

For years now, Drew and I have been tossing around the idea of trading in our condo for something with a little patch of grass and a long list of maintenance woes we’ll never properly address. We’ve yet to pull the trigger for a number of reasons – one of which being that we can’t properly budget for a house without having a final verdict on the kids-or-not issue. But that doesn’t stop us from trotting out to every decent open house in a twenty-mile radius or yelling at these fools on House Hunters (Why, why can they never see past the paisley wallpaper? And WHO is doing all this entertaining on their balconies? And why does every wife look at the master closet and say to her husband, “This is great for me – I don’t know where YOUR clothes are going!” Ha ha ha ha ha…).

And it doesn’t stop us from plotting various means to extricate our upstairs neighbor for a 3-hour window (free movie vouchers, bomb threats, etc.) so our open house guests can’t hear the earthshattering footsteps of her children. Yes, the pitter-patter of little feet eventually turns into the thundering elephant hooves of teenagers leaping down stairs three at a time. To steal a line from one of my writer friends, there are times we’re convinced they’re regularly hosting a midnight furniture re-arranging league. Not something we’d like to advertise in the listing.

But as we discovered last week, all our diabolical efforts were in vain – an eviction notice was tacked up to her garage door when we came home. In true neighborhood snoop fashion, I read through the details and found that she was behind on her rent by two months and was given three days to pay up or vacate the premises. I can’t say I was completely surprised, as I thought back to my one and only conversation with her: me coming back from a run about a week after she had moved in, and her heading out for a walk with the dog that had been barking its head off for days on end.  Feeling bad that he was having trouble adjusting to his surroundings, I mentioned that the poor little guy had been wailing non-stop. She indicated that she was surprised that I could hear him, and I told her, as politely as I could, that our ceiling gave a Richter 5 rattle when her kids jumped down the stairs every day. All day.

Instead of an apology, she laid into quite a sob story about an ugly divorce, no money, no job, no prospects, poor dog has no yard, poor kids have no real house to leap about in, et cetera, et cetera. She bemoaned the loss of her former home (some 2,500 square foot gem in a pricey neighborhood) and her nanny. In case there was any doubt, she WAS, in fact, wearing a pink Juicy Couture velour jogging suit. I made sympathy noises and nodded until I felt I could gracefully escape back to my own sane-by-comparison life.

The dog barking eventually tapered off, but her children continued to canvas the hardwoods with cinder blocks tied to their feet. So I must admit that my first reaction to the eviction notice was relief, shortly followed by disbelief that this unemployed, newly-single mother thought moving into a $3,000 a month rental was a good idea.  Setting aside the colossal stupidity and irresponsibility for a moment, I had to feel just the tiniest bit sorry for her. The life she’d imagined for herself had completely derailed and not only did she have to re-rack her own game plan, she now had to do it for two kids as well. With what appeared to be little to no support.

And here I am, vacillating back and forth about whether or not me and Drew – happily married, gainfully employed, in a home we can afford – can handle the idea of raising kids. Never once have I thought about how it would be to do it alone, on less than half the income. Or on NO income if I’d quit to stay home with the kids. Maybe that’s because I can’t even process the idea of getting divorced from Drew. But those same words have been uttered, and retracted, by more than fifty percent of all married people (whose spouses are named “Drew”). But let’s go with my wild confidence and assume we stay married – what if Drew lost his job? What if he died unexpectedly young? What if he hit himself in the head at the driving range and permanently wandered off in an amnesiac haze? What if we lost everything in the stock market? What if either one of us developed a debilitating illness that rendered us essentially useless as a parent?

I’m not really big on Chicken Little-ing things like that, but it’s hard not to when you get a front row seat to someone else’s complete and utter derailment. So is this one of those “big questions” everyone needs to ask themselves before having kids – would you still want to do it if you knew there was even the slightest chance you’d have to do it on your own, under much more adverse conditions?

Yeesh. I think I’ll have to come up with my “all things being perfect…” version of this answer first.

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