"Nobody ever tells you beforehand how ridiculously hard it's going to be."
That utilitarian line from the late Adriennne Shelly's screenplay, The Waitress (1:14:15), is so much bigger than the context from which it was delivered. It was the only line from a fed-up, disenchanted mother of a bratty toddler warning Keri Russell's character about the burden of motherhood. The scene was so small, the line so obscure (so obvious?) that Jessie Nelson didn't include it when she turned the film into a Broadway play.
In the case of parenthood, there's no doubt it's true. Until my two granddaughters were born, I'd forgotten how ridiculously hard it is to have a babies and raise them into good, healthy humans.
Beyond having a bottomless tank of love, it takes an off-the-charts work ethic, an abundance of patience and a deep reservoir of stamina. With two under-two's like these beauties, uninterrupted sleep is their mommy's fantasy.
Coale James and Dwyn Bay
But the line is much broader than the exhausting effort raising kids requires. It explains the sorry state of the world.
For almost 600 pages in Enlightenment Now, Harvard professor Steven Pinker argues that life on Earth is better than it has ever been. He cites longer life spans, huge increases in literacy and startling decreases in extreme poverty.
Great. Except that if the world is at its best now, how chilling is it to consider how bad it has been? The bar for improvement barely clears the ground. Example: The Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics put out this memo proclaiming a "Historic Turnout and Performance by Young Voters" in the 2018 midterm elections. "Historic" because 31% of youth voters (ages 18-29) voted - a 36% increase over 2014 and "the highest rate of turnout in at least 25 years."
Whoop de doo.
Thirty-one percent? Is anyone impressed by that? What were the other sixty-nine percent doing? Vaping? Playing Fortnite? What planet do they live on where they hadn't heard about how important this election was going to be and how crucial it was for them to vote in it?
Oh yeah, Earth! The planet that looks beautiful from afar,
but, up-close, is full of ugly problems and flawed inhabitants.
"Nobody ever tells you beforehand how ridiculously hard it's going to be"
In the scene, "it" is having and raising a child. And if doing this, the most basic Homo sapien responsibilty, is ridiculously hard, it makes depressing sense why as a species we're defective. One of those defects is our inherent laziness. Most people are too lazy to properly raise a puppy, let alone put in the brutal, underrated, under-appreciated work required to be an A+ mom or dad.
The result? Indolent, apathetic kids who, like a lot of their parents, are too lazy to register to vote (takes five minutes) or fill out a ballot (takes ten). To increase the vote, there's a movement to make voting simpler and easier (on-line voting for example). Talk about efforting down! Unless you live in one of those corrupt precincts, voting is not that hard!
During our hospice talks, my mom shared much of the wisdom she earned during her 97 years. My favorite slice of it was, "Living a good life is a full-time job." A demanding full-time job that starts from scratch each day. Even if we live perfectly today, new obstacles and challenges are waiting for us the moment we wake up tomorrow. If we stop working at it, our life deteriorates.
Want robust mental health?
Recognize and accept how ridiculously hard not just raising a child will be, but how doing pretty much anything worthwhile will be. Stop looking for easy. Accept and embrace the hard. Easy is fools gold - a temporary high that inevitably morphs into despair.