“I’m looking at the list right now. Yup, there are about 80 people ahead of you on the waitlist for a parking space.”
“(Sigh). Well, thanks for double-checking. I was hoping y’all were April Foolin’ me about how there really are that many people ahead of us for parking since we bought our co-op over two years ago, but I guess the joke is really on us. But thanks for at least understanding what it’s like to look for parking with a toddler and infant in the backseat.”
“Wish I could help. It is even awful with my older kids but yes, there are about 80 people ahead of you.”
After I drove home with my two little morsels in the backseat today, trying to keep #1 from falling asleep so that he can clock at least a two-hour nap at home (don’t rob mama of her Halleluyer time), I could not find parking. AS ALWAYS. When I say I could not find parking, I don’t mean parking on my block. I mean parking within 10-12 blocks of our home. Time was of the essence and I grew more desperate as I saw #1 drowsily drop his apple chips and burrow into the sides of his carseat to drift off closer to REM sleep.
I had been praying for parking as I looped around and around the neighborhood but I knew I had to give up.
I parked in the first metered parking spot available. “Oh, so you have metered parking available you drama queen!” one might exclaim. Metered parking allows you to pay for only two hours at a time until 7 pm. This means after I pay for the first two hours, I have to come back at least two to three times to feed the meter. Not a huge deal if it were just me but this means no exhaling the rest of the day as I have to bring the kiddies out every two hours to avoid getting a costly ticket. Coax myself out of my pajama pants, coax my toddler back into his outside clothes, put him in his socks and shoes, wait for the elevator, give daps to the doorman again, wrangle my boy to come directly to the parking spot and not go wandering off to a puddle or patch of grass that happens to interest him. And wear my infant. And plead with #1 not to demand being carried when he catches mama cooing at his chubbier, roll-ier baby bro as she wears him.
Parking and weather are two of my greatest woes living in NYC. They affect me deeply. “Cuts me to the white meat”(!) as The Real Housewives of Atlanta say.
I feel I cannot vent properly about them and how they affect my quality of life, how they zap me of my mojo, because of three STFU words that are getting on my last nerve because they are being overused and wrongly used: “First World Problems.” YES, the problems we face are largely problems that can exist only in the First World but it is not fair or helpful to minimize everything down to “First World Problems.”
At first, I liked the label. “First World Problems.” Catchy. Calling out our spoiled Americannness. Puts you in your place as you whine about how the organic market ran out of your favorite kale chips. The phrase was sassy and punchy. Could really shut it down in one fell swoop if anyone dared to complain about something that is not a problem at all, like stuff I’ve wanted to status update about even in a joking manner.
But I just couldn’t because they were so annoyingly First World: “My hands are all scratched up from shelling that juicy dungeness crab for dinner,” or, “You know your purely functional SAS-looking Mom shoes have reached new heights of hideousness when at a gathering, when it’s time to put your shoes back on, you pretend they ain’t yours and that you still looking for your pair when there ain’t no other shoes around.”
But then I caught myself calling EVERYTHING First World Problems and I choked myself out of sharing what I’m fighting through. And as an external processor, if I don’t feel free to talk about stuff that I’m struggling with because they sounded, well, too First World, then it could definitely mess with my mental health.
I already tend to compound my problems by judging myself for HAVING them in the first place. How dare I complain about how, sometimes, it can be SO hard to stay at home with my two kiddies when they are such gentle and agreeable kiddies, especially the jolly, roll-y infant? It’s not like I have triplets or even twins! I am SO blessed to be able to stay at home and still pay the bills. (And it doesn’t help when my MiL expresses that exact sentiment. “WHAT HAVE YOU TO COMPLAIN ABOUT!?”)
But I want to give myself permission to express how I long for some Me Time even by way of commuting to and from work without two little warm and smushy adorable bodies depending on me for food, entertainment, poop and pee disposal, clothing, shelter, general staying alive-ness, but I can’t make peace with someone else watching them. How I didn’t enjoy the actual work at my office jobs but boy I crave the Alone at Pret A Manger lunch breaks after which I can run a couple errands, just me myself and I, without a double stroller nearly knocking down a display as I enter or exit a CVS.
How I can feel more hairs turning grey when dealing with #1’s tantrum, as rare as they are, on the street for 40 minutes while the infant patiently coos at me and the staff at our co-op look at me with compassion as the sky starts to thunder and the parking space I scored is not really a parking space because of the damn fire hydrant rules.
And how I nearly tear up with envy when I hear local mamas say that THEIR local mama is coming over to relieve them here and there so that every outing doesn’t always have to be as a family of four. And how the long winter of 2012-2013 and the parking situation only exacerbated these feelings. Oh, and how I want to be able to have a washer/dryer unit INSIDE our home. And a dishwasher other than my husband.
It just becomes a slippery slope when we cannot validate someone’s struggles because someone else has it so much worse. Then how can we ever share what gets us down or trips us up?
Now White People Problems on the other hand…