The amount of paperwork accumulated over the 18 years required to bring a child up to adulthood could probably be compacted into a mass dense enough, and with enough gravitational pull, that scientists would have to hold a summit to determine whether it should be given planetary status. Like, you could launch this mass of paper into solar orbit, terraform it, and when World War III threatens the existence of humanity, send a small colony of breeders to Planet Paper and thereby save us from permanent extinction. You could literally save the entire human race with your kids’ paperwork.
It’s that much paper. I’m not exaggerating even slightly. The paperwork of parenthood is omnipresent and more abundant than air.
It starts before you even have the baby. You’re huffing and puffing through contractions in the hospital registration area, and the nurses (for the love of god, are they insane?) are asking you to fill out the forms that will begin the Encyclopædia Britannica (Volume I) of your child’s existence.
Before you leave the hospital, you will fill out another 20 pages’ worth of forms, signing off on various procedures, acknowledging privacy terms, and promising you won’t leave until you’ve “evacuated your bowels.”
Finally, exhausted and hopped up on pain meds, you’re pushed out in a wheelchair holding a baby and a stack of paper that weighs more than he does. These are documents referencing other future paperwork you have to remember to fill out and file with the social security administration and a bunch of other important places that I can’t even recall because my youngest is 6. But dammit, if I hadn’t filled all that paperwork out, I’m absolutely positive the earth would have opened up and swallowed her whole, and I’d have no proof whatsoever that she ever existed at all. Or, at the very least, she would be legally nameless. And that would be terrible.
So you’re already up to roughly one filing cabinet drawer’s worth of paperwork, and your perineum stitches haven’t even dissolved.
If you’re a stay-at-home mom, after the initial hospital adventure and subsequent registering your baby with the government, you get a bit of a breather for a few years. If your kid needs to go to daycare…well, I’m just so very sorry. Not because of the daycare thing, because daycare is totally cool — go, working mamas! — but because of all the fucking paperwork.
You’ll need proof of immunization, emergency contacts, all of both parents’ information — including their address, phone numbers, life history, future goals, and entire curriculum vitae (though those last three probably depend on the preschool). And they send home 15 art projects per day.
So by the time your kid is 3, you’ve filled a filing cabinet and two under-the-bed storage containers. And you need a backhoe to get to your refrigerator.
And then there’s kindergarten. When I picture myself arriving at the threshold of my children’s school, I see myself engulfed by a vortex of swirling paper, like Helen Hunt at the end of Twister when she belts herself to the water pipe as the tornado tries to vacuum her into the sky. I imagine myself clinging to the flagpole just outside of the administrative offices, stunned and terrified as I try not to get catapulted into the stratosphere or dismembered via a series of freakishly well-placed papercuts. This could happen, people. It really is that much paper.
There are more forms to fill out, notices for shit we have to remember, login information for various sites our kids have to be able get into for homework (as if we don’t already have a massive pile of shit to keep track of), permission slips, fundraisers (I refuse to participate in fundraisers just because of the paperwork), all that crap you have to fill out at the doctor, registration forms, accompanying waivers for everything your kid does ever, worksheets, and artwork (we’re in agreement that we’re throwing a minimum of 90% of this away, right?).
Every day, it’s something — tornadoes of paperwork, tsunamis of paperwork — and we’ve only discussed up to kindergarten.
Why does no one warn you about how the paperwork of parenthood takes over your life? It gives you carpal tunnel. Your car keys hide underneath it on the kitchen counter. It cuts you, as if it is alive and capable of malicious intent. It hides in corners and under your beds, and it keeps your home from looking like that pretty home decor catalog you keep dripping tears on as you mourn how foolish you were for taking your pre-kid life for granted. Even when you try to throw it away, the paper takes up all the space in your recycling bin. Suddenly, you’re making tough choices about which bin to throw things in and questioning how this became your life.
I only have two kids. I can’t fathom how people with more than two do it. I applaud you. I bow to you (not that you can hear or see me from beneath that massive pile of paperwork).
Should I go get my backhoe?