The happy gloriousness of children, according to my cousin.
So every year around the holiday, ever since my daughter was born, I have this cousin who comes over to me and says “Wow, aren’t they great? Kids? The BEST! Don’t they just make life worth living? Doesn’t it feel like your life has so much more meaning and purpose. And how magical is it being a parent? Betcha never thought it would feel this good hey? And can’t imagine what your life was even like before having them!”
I force a smile and nod. My cousin moves on and my thoughts begin to spiral. Of course I remember what my life was like before kids. My husband and I had a standing date night at a sushi restaurant which included wine every Tuesday night. I slept in on weekends while my husband got to catch up on MIT physics lectures (his weird hobby/interest). I got to go shopping in New York and buy clothes, we took great vacations. I went for runs with our golden retriever Haley. There was even a time when Jack and I would get up early and watch the sunrise on runs before work (we lived in Bermuda at the time, the sun rose up over the most perfect aqua blue ocean and our run route was on the south shore where we would overlook the sea from cliffs above.) Yes. That good.
This year when my cousin started up the yearly conversation with something to the effect of “what a blessing, how life changingly amazing children are…” I actually tried something new. I was completely brutally honest.
“I’m exhausted. Most. of. the. time. My daughter gets up at 6am everyday. I still get up at night to nurse my son. I can’t remember the last time I slept through a full night. I’m really not sure I’d do it again. I say that now that I’m in the thick of things. I really really really love them. And yes they have changed my life. But they’ve also infringed upon everything I ever I thought was important to me. My yoga, my nightlife, my sex life. Things I never even thought would be affected. Like daily showers. Or brushing my hair, or teeth. Yes somedays it is that bad. Not everyday. But it’s really really hard. More than I ever thought. I feel like there is none of me left in my life.” My cousin was shocked. Then other family (mostly moms) also joined in. How hard it really is. That nobody really talks about fighting back tears when all your kids are chorusing their screaming together. The days when the old you has been shoved so far back you never feel like she will re-emerge.
The little voices in my head start up again “You will NEVER get your life back. By the time the kids are old enough to be independent your sense of self will be long gone. You will be a stranger to yourself, with no current interests, hobbies, friends or life.” Oh the voices. So I pack my shit up, and head to the gym. The kids get dumped at childcare there and I work my ass off for an hour. (Literally, I lost my ass…there is a vast flat area where my ass used to be. The kids; or pregnanies rather, took that away too.) I get to shower and sauna and get the voices to shut up. See I did something for myself. Don’t think I’ll be back again tomorrow. Five days in a row is enough. Actually the truth is I don’t think my body can take another day of it. My levels of lactic acid must be so high they are toxic. Maybe the toxicity will kill off the voices. I smile.