I always envisioned myself as the mother of many children. Not a Duggaresque line of baby quails trailing one mother, but maybe three, or four. Five was not out of the question.
Now? Not so much.
As Marta put in in the comments section a few posts back, heck, I could have a baby a year, every year, but when they get big? And kind of mouthy? I would require a phalanx of Julie Andrews clones to help manage the lot, and maybe some sort of kitchen staff as well. Except, no, I like the kitchen part. Maybe a housekeeper. Because apparently some people consider wet-mopping a more-frequently-than-annual event.
I could handle the cooking, because with my Trusty Julie Andrewses to amuse the crew, it could be a solitary activity. I like solitary activities. I like them an awful lot. And -- surprise -- that's something you don't get a lot of when there are small children about.
I also have less tolerance than I imagined for the whim and whimsy of childhood. Especially when that whimsy involves pouring a glass of tea into the sofa and climbing on top of a large plastic car to unlock the deadbolt and leaving the apartment door cracked for most of the morning. Hi, neighbor! Hope you didn't mind the frank and loud discussion of the stinky poopoo!
These things are enjoyable in retrospect, and I'm glad they happen to me because they make good stories (and what else is the point of mildly unpleasant human experience?) but in the context of a day, sometimes they're more than I can handle, especially when the almost-four-year-old is screaming about some goddamn thing every ten minutes.
I like the baby part. Babies are easy for me -- the constant physical need doesn't trouble me in the least, I'm happy to nurse and bounce and change all the day long. Where some see unformed larval humans, I see expressive aware beings -- and I love it. Some women absolutely HATE that stage, though. But they love their three-year-olds! Now, I love my own personal three-year-old, and every day there are moments of breathtaking awesomeness, but every day, no matter how awesome, I feel like I've been through a wringer washer. It literally takes all my reserves to get through almost every day.
As a result I stay up 'til midnight, tanking up on solitude -- I'm tired the next day, but the idea of going to sleep right after putting the kids down is like the thought of crashing into bed unshowered after a ninety-minute aerobics class.
However: I still have this weird judgy voice in the back of my head telling me that unless I have more kids than X number, I can't win. At mothering. I know; slap me a little. Being a content yet exhausted mother of two is not NEARLY as good as being an equally happy and tired mother of three. Or four. It's stupid calculus, no? And yet I didn't realize it was in my head until about last week. I don't know where I got it from, but there it is.
Reality itself is slapping me around a little bit, though, and I'm realizing that I have to reconfigure the expectations. I love being a stay-at-home mom, and I want to someday be a going-to-nursing-school mom, and thence a working-outside-the-home mom -- that part of the plan is intact -- but it may need to happen on a rather different time scale than I had originally intended. Like, school sooner. I'm not taking the possibility of a later-in-life child off the table -- after I've started working, several years down the line -- but I'm painfully aware that you can't bank on fertility at any given point, let alone after 35.
But oh, what luxury to get to choose anything at all! We didn't get to start having kids when we wanted to (if we had, we would have an eight-year-old!), but other than the "when," the "what" is pretty much exactly what I wished for. I'm so thankful every day for that, even when I'm being kicked in the shins by a tiny furious person. Sometimes especially then. As much as her inner fire drives me bananas, I'm so glad Sophia's the pistol she is -- as a formerly docile, terrified-of-not-behaving child myself (can you believe it?) who only later in life found her voice, I'm hoping she'll be better equipped to deal with the slings and arrows of outrageous middle school. She's an intense, careful person who feels things deeply, and I want to be able to tune into her and give her what she needs.
I'm the same kind of person. And I need to feed my own needs too. I was raised in the culture of the completely self-effacing mother, and let me tell you, there is no good outcome possible there. I can't do it -- and I'm finally starting to realize that I shouldn't.