Monday 18 February 2013

To Three or Not To Three: I Like Doing Other Things, Too

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.


  1. I so appreciate your frankness. I feel very similarly. Today is day three of a three day weekend over here and I am just hoping not to lose my temper before the end of the day. So glad they have school tomorrow. They do use me up! I love them and sometimes really enjoy them, but it is a constant struggle over here to keep my sanity and try to be a good mom. It is hard not to think I am failing at this. I could not, will not do three. This is all I can barely do. Great description of the unanwerable why's. We have that over here, too! Drives me bananas.

  2. We would have loved to have given Bicicleta Girl a sister but Good Gosh Almighty, she took the wind out of my sails. I consider myself a "survivor" of her childhood (only slightly joking) and when I think about it, sometimes it amazes me that we both made it out alive. :-) Had I been younger, had I had more energy, had she been a little "easier"....we might have adopted again but alas, it was not to be. And that's ok too.
    Good luck as you continue to ponder this.

  3. Finding time to do the other things is such an important part of parenthood, but one that is most often overlooked. Try to schedule yourself some you time every day, even if it's only for 5 minutes at a time till the kiddos are older.

    Hang in there!

  4. As they get older you do get a little more time, I promise. Mine are 6 and 4 and I have time. A little bit of it, at least. So another one extends the period before you have that time, but it does come! (And this is said as a woman who knew before adopting her second that she was DONE and would go insane with more than two!!)

  5. So...just curious... at do you think are your reasons for wanting a third child? I think for me it's a combination of wanting Baby Spouse to have someone else (both as a child and as an adult), and wanting to experience the stages of parenthood more than once.

  6. I don't think it's bad at all to say you'd rather watch TV than raise another child. But this is coming from someone who knew she was done at two the moment we boarded the plane home :) And I'm speaking from the position of having one having tantrums that are trying me in ways I never knew they could...
    And I miss little pieces of me. I can only go running, for God's sake, in the dark, when they are asleep and the Mr. can be in the house with them. I never knew I'd become such a proficient nighttime runner.
    You'll figure it out. There isn't a wrong answer, that's the beauty. You'll either parent another child and do it brilliantly (although you will be tired, no doubt!) or you'll continue parenting the two you have and do it brilliantly as well (although maybe a wee bit less tired). See? I boiled it down to the nitty gritty for you :)

  7. You are so right about everything here - the positive and the negative to parenting, not reading a novel within a month and being surprised by that (my childless self would be horrified), preferring doing other things to parenting sometimes. I was actually about to write a post about why we're stopping with two kids, so this is timely for me. Before we got into parenting two with their very different needs, I wondered, "Well, if we can figure out how to afford a larger place or buy this house and have our downstairs neighbors move out in a few years, could we fit one more child into our lives?" For me, the answer to the question has become pretty clear. I just don't think that we could provide the care our kids need if we had another. I feel pretty maxed out tending to the needs of the two I have. I adore them, and I am so glad to have both of them, but if we added another kid, someone's needs would fall through the cracks in a big way. And that's not even looking at the needs of the adults in this house. I don't even know where to start with our needs, though I'd like to start with asserting my need for a solo vacation. I'd rather take a solo vacation than parent another child. I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

  8. Oh this resonates. Thank you for your honesty. And your last paragraph. "They may not ever remember, but I will." Bam, straight to my heart. The same moment can go from a sort of depressing "WHY DO I EVEN TRY?" to a sweet blessing from the Lord, with just a perspective change. Thank you.

  9. So... I totally hear you. But let me tell you a little secret about having more than one or two: sometimes it means you get MORE selfish, read a novel, watch trashy TV time. Sounds crazy but I wouldn't lie about this. I am not a good "build a bridge for your snails" mom. I don't play nicely with toddlers -- I lack creativity and truthfully find it to be painfully boring. But guess who plays great with my toddler? His older brother. While I read blogs or sweep the floor or fold the laundry in peace (PS when did uninterrupted chores become the best part of my day?). Is 4 kids hard? Yes. It's kicking my butt. But does it always mean dividing myself 4 ways? No -- my kids give things to each other that I could never give them. There is less of me, but there is not less for them.

  10. I feel compelled to come back and say that I cried many tears during our wait for Zeke when I had two kids at home because I felt completely inadequate at parenting my two: how in the world would I handle three?? What were we thinking?? I am of the opinion that we will always feel inadequate - 1 kid, 3 kids, 10 kids, we're just not enough and we never will be. There is something to be said for knowing your limits and respecting the needs of the children you already have when making decisions about adding to the family. I just can't really trust my feelings on these things because I know my perspective is often out of whack. God knows, and eventually he lets us know too.

  11. Just half an hour ago:
    "Mama, which picture should I paint?" (from a coloring book of vehicles)
    "Hmm. Oooh, the train!"
    "Okay. Why?"
    "Because I like trains." (More than, say, 18 wheelers or garbage trucks, which were among my other options.)
    "Yes, but why do you like trains?"
    "Um...because I like to travel?" Knowing this is the wrong answer because it leads to more Whys, I hastily amend it to, "Because I like to sleep on trains."
    "Well, because the way they move kind of rocks you to sleep."
    "What color are you going to paint the wheels?" Sometimes the only defense is a good offense.
    And I suck at imaginative play. Linden pulls out the dollies, and it bores me to tears. Activities, yes. Board games, mildly crafty stuff, walks, the park, reading, singing, cooking...but please God no, don't make me play with the Barbies.

    I'm done with two. The actual nuts and bolts of parenting might extend to three, but helping these two little people make sense of their f-ed up lives and build on their cores of strength is already taking all the research and emotional energy and late night talks and early morning therapy appointments this family can handle. You didn't ask; just responding to your thoughts with my own. Not the best listening skill; sorry.

  12. Ahhh, what I love about your blog is that you take my daily thoughts and put them down into words-tangible words and suddenly, I don't feel so insane. :)

    We're also in the crazy 'why' phase (I also have a kid who demands constant verbal interaction) and as I consider adding a second (yes, I 'only' have one), I think about the alone moments I must steal for my sanity now and how those would likely be gone. That can mean only one thing, right? That my sanity will also be gone! Anyhow, thanks for normalizing what is totally normal in parenting. It's not all a walk in the park, but at the end, yes, it's so worth it. And even though we all begged and pleaded with the universe to grant us this, it's still OK to want to step aside and take a breath.

  13. I feel this way every time I wake up before anyone else for some alone-time, only to be followed twenty seconds later by a child who heard my whisperings of a creek as I descended the stairs next to their room. It's a defeating sort of feeling that I understand well. It makes one grouchy. I understand.

    About a week ago, I discovered an old video of our son at age three, standing on our front porch, talking about "crow food." He is now five and has changed so much in those two years. They never stop asking 'why' questions, but at least the 'why' questions get smarter. We used to tell them, "That's not a 'why' question," which would deter them long enough to make it a 'how' question.

  14. We are considering our approach for another adoption, maybe. I have days where I am totally up for it, and days where I am just spent. I just don't know how it would all play out in the end, and anticipate that the beginning of the transition will be realllllly hard. I'd love my kiddo to have a sibling as I value mine so much...but it's also kind of a hard call sometimes.

  15. I have no advice. I don't even know what I'm doing so how can I help here? I just want to confess that the last time you did this post I talked about how you know when you're done. Apparently I'm full of crap, because we're not done actually, we're adopting again. Older child, 8-10ish.

    Definitely not done. So for future reference. Do NOT listen to ME!!

  16. As a mom of five, I get this! My kids are between the ages of 5-13 and I am slowly, slowly learning to make space for my.self. Just doing a couple things I love, reading a novel (seems to be a theme here) and asking for help more often from my husband gives me so much life. I notice that I go between feeling guilty about this and loving every second that I can enjoy these things.

  17. p.s. I've been trying to just read at least one chapter of a book per day. It has helped me step back into more reading, though if it's really good I disappear for far too long and forget to make dinner.

  18. I'm laughing and crying. I get this.

  19. I was a single mama and I very much wanted to adopt again after my first. And then, reality....I could not do it. Every time I thought about another child I wondered how I could possibly manage. I was so terribly tired. As life got easier (she got older) I kept thinking, "Should I do it again?" and then realized that I could be a really good mama to one, or an exhausted and broke mama of two. Economics and time made the decision for me. Beloved Child asked for a sister (but then again, she asked Santa for a servant once too), and I considered another and have had to make peace with my one being enough for our family of two. (And one day she did say to me, when I found time to read again and heard "just wait til I finish this chapter, "Mom, You love books more than you love me". She reads now and totally gets it!)

  20. I have to agree, I deeply appreciate your honesty as well as the honesty of all the commenters. I do find that now that my child is 5 she is so much more independant and I love it. However, as much as I sobbed when she was a baby and toddler that we might never get to have another baby, now I find that I adore the independance of the 5 year old so much I'm not so sure I want to start it all over again. So rather than comfort me into feeling like yes, we can do this again, it does get easier and we will sleep again, instead I feel like wow, I got through all that and now I don't want to start again. But I really want her to have a sibling. And so I continue to waffle and over analyze how many and how to approach adding to our family and do we want to add at all to the point of driving myself insane. So we are trying it all. We are trying to conceive, we are trying to become foster parents and we feel that if neither of those work out in the next 2 years we will be happy as a family of 3. I feel like all will be well with each of these options. Still, I wonder. It is good to have a decision, but it is hard that it all requires an active decision. For me having to make a decision about it means that I could make the wrong decision. So in part I have to work on letting go of that.
    Sorry, like another commenter I have a bad habit of just spewing out my process rather than really helping with yours. Melissa in Durham


Over to you!