For some time now, we’ve been without regular childcare. This is partly our own fault: our old babysitter moved back to England, and we tried out some new ones but they weren’t really great matches. Our little ones have also gone through some phases of separation anxiety so we didn’t prioritize finding someone new. We decided to let it go.
The reality of this, especially with no extended family living locally, is that I spend 24 hours a day with my children (we even share sleep). For either Aaron or I to go do something (a dentist appointment, parent teacher interview, work, a beer/tea/movie with a friend), we have to schedule it so that the other parent will be home, or we bring the kids along if possible. Of course, this also means that it has been nearly impossible for Aaron and I to go out together. In fact, we have sometimes even resorted to waiting until we had family visiting from 2 provinces away before we would plan to go do something together (like belatedly go out for dinner for our 10th Anniversary). Yes, I know–as I type, I can hear whole parts of the internet bursting into flames over our unwillingness to preserve the sanctity of “date night.”
Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this seriously impairs my ability to have my own life in addition to my role as mother. Obviously, I don’t have a career outside of raising kids, I’m not able to return to school, and my hobbies are sporadic at best. I won’t lie to you: sometimes that feels stifling and overwhelming. Sometimes I rage against the whole system (the universe, motherhood, biology–why aren’t men the ones with the boobs!?). Sometimes I just want some time for me. Sometimes I dream wistfully about what I’ll be
when I grow up, I mean, when they grow up. Often, I stay up too late in the evenings, just to squeeze in a couple of kid-free hours after the last of our kids has finally (unwillingly) succumbed to slumber. It isn’t always an easy place to be.
Lately, and by that I mean, since Silas was born (almost 2 years ago), I feel at peace with this. After 8 years of pregnancy and motherhood, have I finally just given up, and allowed myself to be eaten by the needs of my children?
No, it’s more likely that, because Silas is our last child, I am buoyed by the knowledge that the end is in sight.
Though, it’s also true that this peace over my voluntary position as a mother has burned as an ember deep inside me from the earliest days, from the first decisions that I made to set aside some of my wants and needs in deference to my children’s needs.Those choices represented an ever-shifting, intricate blend of willing sacrifice and practical necessity. Through it all, despite the times I sometimes fought against it, there was that sense of peace deep within. Call it intuition. I never questioned why I felt that way. I just knew it for what it was.
So much of what I read or hear in our culture tells me that I shouldn’t be ok with stepping out of the work force for so many years, that I shouldn’t be ok with being unable to go on a date with my husband, that I shouldn’t be ok with nursing my toddler more than 4 times in a night. I hear the cautionary tale of the housewives who live their whole lives for their children, who exist only for the PTA meetings and to drive the soccer practice car-pool van, who meddle in their teenage children’s dramas, and who find themselves completely lost when their children leave for college. Yet, I don’t worry about any of those things. Ever since Silas was born, that little ember of peace and acceptance for the way things are has grown, and with it my understanding of why every single one of these sacrifices is ok with me.
I have come to realize, not just with my head but with my heart and soul, that this is but one season in my life. This time where my children demand so much of me, of my time, of my energy, of my body, of my mental and emotional resources, is but a small portion of the life I have on this earth. I have so much time left ahead of me for all of those things I miss right now: time for sleep, time alone with my husband, time to pee with the bathroom door closed (if I so choose), time to go back to school, time to knit, time to wake up early and enjoy a cup of tea free of toddler hands grabbing, time to set aside money to take a trip to another country, time to go to late night events and linger in bed in the morning, time to hike in the mountains, time to enjoy a clean house. I have all of this waiting for me. In fact, I get excited thinking about all of the things we will do together after the kids have moved out. Sure, I will miss them, but I will also love exploring that time of my life. I look forward to all of the seasons of life to come and I accept the season that is here now for what it is.
I can’t rush the change of seasons, I have to dress and behave appropriately for whatever season it is NOW, and otherwise, all I can do is plan for what’s ahead. I have to live for the circumstances of today, which means that if my children need me now and aren’t ready for a babysitter, I have to adjust my expectations and wishes accordingly. Just as it is fruitless to wear shorts and plant a garden in the dead of winter, it will serve no one for me to rage against the reality that my children are young and dependent, or to push for things to be different. However, by the same token, just as the grasshopper was unwise to play and fritter away the summer without preparing for winter, it would be unwise for me to get caught up entirely in this season with my children and to forget that there will come a time when they will need me less. It is important to nurture myself through these times of caring for my children, to make plans for when I have more time and resources and energy to devote to my dreams and goals.
We all make different sacrifices for our children. We aren’t all stay-at-home-mothers, we aren’t all co-sleepers, and we aren’t all willing to go a couple of years without a babysitter, but every single one of us has had to give up some things in the best interest of our children. The extent to which we are able to make peace with that lies in the recognition that so many of these sacrifices are temporary, that our time with our children really is fleeting, and that before we know it the seasons will have changed and hopefully, we’ll be looking back on these days, without resentment and without regret, but with a joyful heart.