Every month or so, I receive an actual paper card in the mail from my mom with mysterious contents. It could be coupons for Fancy Feast or the Banana Republic outlet. Or a Whole Foods gift card as a hint to stock our bachelor fridge with more than just Bud Light and dijon mustard. But more often than not, it’s an article on writing or the baby issue pulled from an actual paper magazine or newspaper she still reads. Her most recent find was an article from the Wall Street Journal called “Getting Junior to Move” and she’d circled this excerpt:
One of my college friends had kids many years before anyone else in our group was even considering children, and he used to give the following advice (mostly unsolicited): “Think,” he used to say, “about how you like to eat. There are some people who like to eat reasonable food three times daily, while others would prefer to save their money and eat mediocre food most of the time but occasionally have an amazing meal.
“If you’re one of the second type, go ahead and have kids, because life with kids isn’t all that fun for the most part, but from time to time they bring incredible joy. And if you identify with the first type, you may want to rethink the kids idea.”
I’m so used to my thoughts and behaviors more closely matching that of the Childfree, that I was quite taken aback to find myself 100% camped in that second group, in almost every aspect of my life. I’m a save-n-splurger. A starve-n-binger. A delayed gratification sort of gal.
Monday through Friday, I’m a pretty disciplined eater – breakfast muffins chock full ‘o fruit and nuts made with applesauce instead of oil, salads every day for lunch, something packed with veggies and whole grains for dinner. I’ve developed some kind of health nut reputation around the office, but none of my co-workers are around to see me make a complete animal out of myself on the weekends. Grilled cheeses before bed. Four-figure calorie tallies in “light” beer and martinis. Omelets the size of hubcaps. Animal-style fries off the In N Out secret menu. I had seven chocolate chip cookies last night after powering down a full plate of Chicken Tikka Masala and basmati rice. Friends, I get after it. I’m like a death-row inmate on her last meal, every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. And I enjoy the hell out of it after a week of those loathsome salads.
These are the major categories of delayed gratification that come to mind, but when I dig a little deeper, I find that this behavior manifests itself everywhere in my life. I re-use Ziploc bags long past their prime because it makes finally plucking a fresh one from the box is so exhilarating. I pull on the same pair of socks after work for a week at a time and when I finally toss them in the laundry basket, it’s not without some overly dramatic commentary like, “We had a good long run, didn’t we, Argyle?” before turning back to the excitement of choosing next week’s pair. I keep a spreadsheet of my id="mce_marker"6 SuperCuts haircut dates to see how often I can hold out and beat my average of going every 12 weeks. I struggle to keep myself awake in the afternoons at my desk, but allow myself a second coffee only once a week on whatever I deem to be the most deserving day.
Why do I do this to myself? [At first blush, it may seem that it’s because I’m paralyzingly cheap and limitlessly disgusting with a borderline social disorder, but indulge me for a moment.] Why not spend a few bucks and a little extra time to have nice, fresh, new things all the time? Why not add a few carbs, toss in a slice of pizza now and then during the work week so I won’t need to go on a binge session every weekend? Well that just sounds plain old boring. What then is there to look forward to? Does not every day seem just the same as the last?
I suppose it all comes back to finding satisfaction in delayed gratification. Something, it appears, I’m rather good at. Something that the author of the aforementioned article believes makes me well-equipped to handle the daily self-denial of life with kids in support of bigger rewards down the road.
But I’m not sure this is a fair comparison. Are we looking at apples and oranges here? Or is this a pretty accurate indicator of parental fitness?
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