A chorus of complaint generally follows the announcement of a pregnancy, shortly after “Congratulations”. Before I had children I repeatedly heard parents lament their former lives. “Your life will never be the same again,” and “I don’t do anything for myself anymore,” were common refrains. I had also read articles proposing that childless people were happiest, and that the joys of parenthood were fleeting at best. Surely, this couldn’t be true I thought as I fantasised at what motherhood would look like for me – leisurely strolls with my baby, baking cakes with my toddlers, baby chinos at the cafe and catching up with girlfriends over lunch. Fast-forward three years and life is far from this fantasy…
Raising kids is synonymous with sacrifice. No one would argue otherwise. There are the obvious things a full time mother gives up like sleep, spontaneity, career and freedom. And then there are the less obvious things that you never really consider before becoming a parent.
I no longer read. Full Stop. No books. No newspapers. No magazines. Recently I gave up my five yearly subscription to Delicious magazine after the birth of my third child. I held onto it for as long as I could but I no longer had the interest, time or will to cook and it made me impossibly sad to look at photos of food I knew I would never cook.
Which leads me to my next sacrifice. I no longer cook. Admittedly I cook because I have to; I put food on the table for my kids each night only to have it end up on the floor, walls or in the bin. I cook a dinner for my husband and I because we have to eat, but the love has gone. One of my greatest pleasures has become a chore. One of the things I fantasised about when I became a mother was baking with my kids. I had heard other mum’s scoff at this idea and roll their eyes in disbelief. I now know why. After several valiant attempts at baking with my two older children (3 and 22 months) I am mortified by how unpleasant it is. And it’s not the mess. The mess can be cleaned up. It’s the fighting and constant jostling of the appliances. And you need multiples of everything. Two pink spatulas. Two wooden spoons. Two bowls, exactly the same shape and colour. Two kitchen aids?? I don’t even have one!
Dignity is something that people often talk about losing during the child birthing process. But this is just the beginning of the demise of self-dignity. All personal upkeep is exhibited in front of an audience. Anyone who has ever breastfed knows there’s nothing remotely dignified about expressing milk. My two older children now fight over who gets to help me use my breast pump. One holds the bottle and the other helps me pump the lever and they squeal in delight as they watch the milk drip into the bottle. Dignity and privacy are distant memories to me now.
Other activities that I can no longer do on my own include:
- Going to the toilet and dispensing the toilet paper myself
- Going to the movies, although I do write a list of “must see” movies for DVD’s, which I never see
- Listening to music (with the exception of The Wiggles, Justine Clarke and Rhys Muldoon)
- Having an uninterrupted coffee, meal or shower; in fact anything uninterrupted
- Getting into the car and just going! Oh what a life I lived before car seats and the enormous challenge of rounding up three kids into appropriate car restraints with all the STUFF they require like drink bottles, nappies, bottles, formula, prams, sleeping bags, dummies, comfort toys…and this is just to get out the front door!
- Exercise. Walking. Swinging my arms, not a pram in sight!
- Talking to a friend on the phone without bribing my children and buying time with snacks, TV and desperate pleas to leave me alone for just one minute
- Actually being able to answer the phone in the first place…
- Travel. My husband and I collectively have travelled to over 60 countries BC (before children). Now we know we will never ‘travel’ again. Sure we might go to Fiji or the family friendly gold coast. Kiddies clubs and theme parks will influence our destinations now. Culture, food and history all a distant second
- Looking good. Enough said.
- My body. No explanation required.
These days I do everything fast. I eat fast. Drink fast. Talk fast. Email fast. Walk fast. Shower fast. There is nothing leisurely about my day whatsoever. My baby, now 5 months old, has no concept of what a full feed might be. She hasn’t had a complete feed since we were in hospital. I am always ripping her from my breast to attend to some crisis involving the other two.
But even though I have my hands full with three, I would probably go again if my husband would let me. But conception requires sex and you can add this to the aforementioned list of things I have given up. Just another sacrifice. “Kids ruin your sex life”. That’s what people said to me before I had kids too. Really? I thought. Surely not altogether…
So what do we get in return for all this sacrifice? Fortunately, that list is long too. Recently I was with my kids down on the peninsula and we were all in our gumboots jumping in puddles. I hadn’t jumped in a puddle in about 30 years. At that moment, fleeting or not, I was filled with an indescribable happiness for what my life had become. A wonderful muddy mess!
Kids… who’d have ’em?