Only I Can Call Me Crazy

So we did a house-/child-sit stint last week for Auntie S. We stayed at her house and watched over her youngest girls, ages 11 and 4. We've also been watching the little boy of our houseguest while his mom gets situated in a new job, etc. So, lots of kids, a little bit hectic, I've had a few ugly moments and I really am running mostly on empty, just tired. Not a big deal. Really, it comes with the territory.

The thing is, each time I've had one of those moments that the houseguest has witnessed, she makes a comment like, "And you want to have more children?"

Every time.

And she has even said a couple times that I must be crazy. It may be only jest, and the first few times I laughed along. But then it started grating, even though I know where she is coming from, as an overwhelmed single mom. But the fact is that she's not the only one who thinks a bad day with the kids is a signal that you are insane to be doing it or that having more would be a huge mistake.

Maybe I'm just sensitive because I grew up as the oldest of seven hearing people actually say to my mom with clever little hahahas in their voice, "Don't you know what causes that (meaning pregnancy)?" or, "I don't know how you do it - I can't even handle the one I have!" (To which my mom would mutter, "That's exactly why you can't handle it - because he's only one and doesn't think anyone in the world matters as much as he does." But I digress...)

It never ceased to amaze me - or to really hurt and embarrass my mom - that people actually felt OK saying what they did about the number of children in our family.

So will you allow me to froth a bit here? Thanks.

A. It's no one's business except me and my husband's whether we want to have more children. But if it was anyone else's business, the answer is, yes, we do. I don't think I'd adopt internationally on the eve of giving birth to twins or that I'll have fourteen children. But that's just it - I know my personal limits, and they are none of anyone's business or concern.

B. The children are not a problem. They might exacerbate problems and emphasize problems, make it difficult to deal with problems sometimes, but they are not a problem. They are people, members of the family. Do we really believe that a child-free life is a trouble-free life? Last time I checked, there are phases in everyone's life that are hard to make it through. I'm personally glad that I have someone (even lots of someones) to share those times with. My life would not be better or easier and definitely not happier without them.

C. Children are not a liability, either. Yes, life is more expensive and taxing (on a number of different levels) with them in it, but they are not a damper on my existence. They don't hinder my longterm progress and they haven't derailed me from doing anything that is truly important. They might infringe on my alone time - heaven knows that's the hardest thing to cope with - but the truth is that there is nothing I want more than, or instead of, them in my life.

D. I'll be the first to admit that the addition of a baby increases the demand on time and energy, there's always an adjustment, and sometimes it's hard. Each successive pregnancy gets a little more difficult for me to handle gracefully or comfortably. But, really, since when is wanting something wonderful so much that you'd do anything for it, crazy?

E. Children are a gift and a blessing, whether they are hard-won and long-awaited or whether they come pretty easily or unexpectedly - they are an absolute miracle no matter how you look at it. Every time I've given birth I've felt the gift each one was that God saw fit to give especially to me, to teach me and show me things that nothing and no one else ever could have. Most of all, they make me realize there are higher powers and greater needs and more important goals in the universe than myself. They help me get over myself. (Something a lot more people in this world could use...) They show me how to be more patient, more faithful, more trusting, more curious, more adventurous, more loving, more spontaneous, more desirous for good in the world. Not crazy.

F. Each child shows me how great it is that even though I am not a big famous someone to everyone, I am very nearly everyone to each one of them. Who wouldn't want more of that?

G. Mostly, I just want to say that I think it stinks that for every other profession in the world, it's OK to occasionally express frustration or disillusionment or exhaustion or...overwhelmedness and no one suggests that you were crazy to embark on that profession in the first place or that you are maybe too fragile or worn out to take on more. They just talk you through your rough day, call it what it is - a bad day, and that's that. In fact, they often encourage you to work harder and push through it, to ask for a raise or promotion or more responsibility, and remind you kindly that your office is lucky to have you on their team and it will get better, you didn't make a mistake in choosing your career, just keep keeping on, there will always be a learning curve and personality conflicts to work out...

Yet it seems that when you're a mom and you have a hairy day or sometimes cry about it, very few people understand how you can love what you are doing, that it's what you want to do, and even though it doesn't have a paycheck, it is real work and you can't quit. Sometimes they even think they are empathizing when really they are minimizing the choice to mother children, the 24/7 work that it involves, and a person's ability to do it.

Wouldn't it be great if more people said to a mom, "You're having a seriously bad day. But you're doing a great job - your kids are lucky to have you, and in fact you are so good at what you do that you should have a million kids if you want. You could totally do it. And you know you really love it. So don't give up. You didn't make a mistake, there's always a learning curve and there will always be little personality conflicts to iron out, but you can do it!"

I'd just like to be able to have a bad day (week, month) sometimes without people blaming my number of kids for it or telling me that wanting more is crazy.


Real said...

Giving you a standing ovation! I bumped into an old college roommate at a store a few weeks ago and the first thing out of her mouth was to ask how many kids we had (8--the baby was just a few weeks old!) and then to respond with, "Don't you know what causes that? I don't have to have 'the talk' with you right now, do I? Or do I need to talk to your husband?"

There was no, "Wow! Good job!" or "Tell me about your kids." Or even , "How close apart are they?" or "Is your baby a boy or a girl?" Just the wretched insinuations about our intimate life and that my husband was perhaps forcing me to have kids.

Anyway, a long time ago, I wrote a post about why I continue to have children. Some of our points are similar.


Oh yeah. One time we had our home teachers come over and the kids (4 at the time) were quite rowdy and out of control as they seem to get whenever there are houseguests and we are requiring them to stay in the room and listen to a message that isn't geared for children. One of the home teachers said, "See? This is why we could never have a large family."

And as much as I hate it, I feel like if I'm overweight, pony-tailed, no make-up, peanut butter and snot shouldered and my kids are throwing tantrums, then I'm a poster child for why people choose to only have one kid. I feel that pressure all the time. Like you said, if I have a bad day people think (and sometimes say) "Well, you chose to have that many children. What'd you expect?"

But I've also found a lot of support from ward members who tell me that I have my priorities straight and I'm doing a great job and my kids are good and blessed to be in our family and we are doing things right and they are impressed with us. And I'm not saying that to toot my own horn. (In fact, secretly I think that they think I must be a great mom because my house is messy. Like, obviously I must be so involved and planning killer activities instead of washing dishes and mopping floors. But most of the time, I'm not.) I'm just saying that I NEVER get tired of hearing these things and they give me so much strength to get through those hard days. And right now, I think there are probably more hard days than pay-off days. But I think that as they get older, the hard days are fewer and far between and the good days start coming more frequently.

I also try to remember Alma who said that his joy was as great as his pain and sorrow had been. So on those really rough days, I know it means that there will be a day as equally wonderful...sometime.

And sorry to hijack your post and take up all this space on a comment.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post! It sums up my feelings exactly. Sometimes I think people harp on this theme because they want validation for their own choices.
Again, love it.

the lizness said...

No kidding. I just about can't wait to have another baby, even though Z is only not-quite-3 months, because once I made it through those first two months, I LOVE LOVE LOVE being a mom. Even when I don't get a shower before noon ::snark:: it is still the best thing going.

Aimee said...

Amen to comment "G" and the need for more people to offer support than criticism. And just in case you didn't know, some of us Mormon moms who choose to have only two children get comments like "aren't you having any more?" I'm all for couples deciding what works for them. No additional commentary/suggestions/requests/critiques required. Period.

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Anonymous said...

Um...I don't have any free software to offer you (see the comment above - it took my offguard a little...), but I did want to add my applause to the other comments made.

We have 5 and get it All. THE. TIME. I love the "Are you *old* enough to have all those kids?" Uh, apparently so!

I should say, though, too, that I have had complete strangers say "Congratulations!", "Well done!" to me when I've told them that I have 5 kids. Those people just light me up from the inside out. :)

Valerie said...

A hearty AMEN!! Being a mommy is the best job ever and the hardest and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I agree with you 100%. Only you and your husband can decide what is good for you and everyone else's opinion is just that, their opinion.

megachick said...

your well-deserved 'froth' just hit my internal reset button. thanks for that.

your family is what's right for your family, not the community, the church, the planet, or even your parents (well, unless they do your babysitting...)

Super Happy Girl said...

Makes me want to print that out on a little card and hand it to moms I see struggling with their kids :(
It's not easy, but it's toatlly worth it.

YAY for you!

An Ordinary Mom said...

Props to you for writing this post and for making all of us mothers out here feel normal, real and validated. And thanks, too, for all the insightful comments that have been offered, especially the one from Real.

My thoughts are all over the place right now, but I just wanted to sincerely say thank you for taking the time to write this post. It gives me the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I love being a mother, but it sure is the hardest thing I have ever done.

I am sending oodles of hugs your way and I want you to know that you truly are one of the most remarkable mothers out there. And your kids (and the kids you are watching) are more than blessed to have your influence in their life. And no I am not just saying all of this to make you feel better. I have felt this way since I first stumbled upon your blog almost 2 years ago.

So keep up the good work and keep your inspiration coming :) !!