The nights of sleep lost to a wakeful kid, a sick kid, a broken kid, a restless and growing kid.
The days spent in doctor's offices, interviewing child care, touring daycare centers, meeting babysitters, school registration offices, teacher conferences, graduations, passport offices, DMV, college tours.
The evenings at back-to-school nights, school plays, PTA meetings.
The hours spent figuring out how to make a costume, make a Spanish mission, make a molecule, make a science fair board stand up.
The tears and frustration at trying to get rid of a fever, of worms, of head lice, of vaccination scars, of poison ivy.
This work is treated as women's important work. As precious. And yet, it has no value. We don't call it work. We call it "balance." The balance between working hard at work and working hard at home doesn't leave room in the equation for the moment when you get sick from the kid, get lice from the kid, have your own paperwork/doctor/celebration to deal with. It doesn't leave space for Netflix and ice cream and no one in your face.
Everyone with a kid knows this. Single parents know this more.
In every relationship with kids, it's never discussed, but someone gets to be the person whose career is less important than the kids. Often it's the mom. Sometimes it's the dad. Sometimes there's a grandmother. Or an aunt or a neighbor or an older sibling. Sometimes there's enough money that someone gets hired to make it a bit easier - but it still isn't easy.
In a world where we say, "It takes a village." We have less of a village than ever before.
We cut government services and public schools and the safety net because the people that build those things and are in charge of those things have paid a village of workers to help them accomplish it all, they have a stay at home spouse, they are old enough to be done and don't see the value of the work. The number of politicians who are also the parent that gives when everything breaks loose is... slim? Invisible? At least in the US.
And yet everything that's broken? Everything that's wrong? It goes back to parenting. Being a terrible parent is the worst thing you can be and causes so much incredible, ridiculous, and lifelong harm. But being a good parent is completely and utterly thankless - and even financially detrimental.
I will never find the balance - in my day, in my week, in my life. Even as parenting is easier than it's ever been before -- she sleeps in, she takes care of things, she is mostly independent, I have the money to smooth out the rough things -- there is still so much labor that I feel the weight of.
Or at least that trip to the passport office to be the designated guardian of someone who's about to travel just completely used me up.