What kind of person does it make me if I would rather shut myself away and write a book than raise another child?
Because sometimes I would rather do that. Hey, sometimes I would rather do that than raise the children I already have. They wear me out. They have hit the Whys, and they have hit them hard. I really thought that people complained too much about the whole why thing: after all, what could be more of a privilege than explaining the world to my two little treasures, thought 2011-me? HA HA HA, says 2013-me.
I thought the whys would be along the lines of 'Mummy, why do I need to hold your hand when I cross the road?' And of course, the answer would be both honest and loving: So you don't get squished, my little angel.
I didn't realise the questions would be not just incessant but unanswerable:Mummy, WHY can't you find my gloves?' /Because I'm a terrible housekeeper, my sweetheart. 'Mummy, WHY do we only have red jam?' / Because Daddy did the shopping and Daddy has no culinary imagination, precious darling 'Mummy, WHY you wearing those clothes?' / Because I like them... I think... hey, what's wrong with these clothes? You're too young to be criticising my clothes! Mummy, WHY does Nathaniel have a big house but we only have a small house? / Errrrrrrrr.....)
Today, it was even stupider. One of my children requires constant verbal interaction: 'Mummy, look at my feet! Can you see my feet!' (yes I can). 'Oh look, Mummy, THE QUEEN' (that's right, honey, that's a statue of Queen Victoria I think'') and then "Mummy! We are climbing the stairs!" and while I'm trying to think of the appropriate response to that, the other one chimes in with "Mummy, why are we climbing the stairs?"
Why... hang on... what? I have no answer for that, except because we have to. So many of their questions have no response except that's just the way things are, honey; I don't know, I guess that's culturally determined; I have no idea, why DO we bother with cleaning?I'm pretty sure it's all just a chasing after the wind. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. There really is no meaning to so much of what we do, it turns out, when every single thing is interrogated. Mummy is officially weary of it all. It's like living in the book of Ecclesiastes over here.
They are delightful, but they are tiring. And they use me up. I want to do other things too but they need me all the time. For the times I am home with them, they are my job. And when they are asleep I have to do all the things I didn't get a chance to do when they were awake. It's a never ending treadmill. (See here. None of this has changed).
I know that if we added another child to our family, the tiny bit of time that I have left in my life to do things that I actually - gasp - want to do would shrink to be even tinier than it already is. The tiny portion of my brain that remains to me as mine alone feels so small already. I hate that I have so little time to do things that fill me up, as a person - the things that recharge me. I want more time to be creative, in ways both big and mundane. I that this is no less selfish for being an educated sort of selfishness. I know how privileged it is to be yearning for things that are right at the top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, but that's what I'm yearning for.
I mean, some of the time that's what I'm yearning for. Because other days, I ask myself: What kind of person does it make me if I would rather watch TV than raise another child?
Because really, that's no less true than the other stuff. I just want a break, sometimes. Why would I make things harder, faster, busier?
The best description of parenthood I've ever heard is: Lots of joy; not a lot of fun. That's the tradeoff. That's the opportunity cost. We trade one sort of pleasure for another. To be a parent, to do parenting, means sacrificing time that could otherwise be used for other things. I won't get my thirties twice. And I love being a mother, but this really is a real sacrifice. If the joy / fun thing looks like an easy win to you, looks like an equation with a payoff that tends to infinity, I think that you are really underrating how awesome fun can be.
I haven't read a novel all month. I would never, ever have believed that could be true of me.
The other day, I lay on the floor with them and we built roads out of their blocks. I built some tunnels for Blue's trains and he started using them as bridges for a family of imaginary snails, imaginary snails that I hadn't met before and haven't met since. As it was happening, I realised that he would never remember this. He will never remember the day we spend building a block bridge to take his snails to safety.
And I grumpily thought what's the point and then I realised that I will remember this. Days like this are much more a gift to me than to them. When this has all faded into a subconscious childhood blur for them, I will be the one who remembers him, his small pudgy hands, his tiny body, the look of intense concentration on his face, the way he compliments me without quite knowing how to do it: "Oh wow, Mummy, I love your hairs! They look really... similar!"
I treasure these days. There is so much joy. Why would I not do all this again?
I love them so much. I love being with them.
But I like doing other things, too.