I’ve been staring at that terrible headline trying to come up with something less clichéd, maybe a little funny or snarky. But I can’t come up with anything more honest. Today is my oldest child’s birthday (the very minute this posted, actually). And while I don’t love him any more than I love his little sister, he’s the one who made me a mom. He’s the one who terrified me, the one I stumbled with and had absolutely no clue with. He’s the one who helped me prove that you can flail around for the first few years trying to figure out who you are as a mom and come out just fine on the other side.
Being a mom is hard. It’s especially hard for someone as lazy as I am. Kids add a lot of work: more laundry, more dishes, shuttling from place to place, overseeing homework, disciplining, and as I found out with a boy, a lot of time monitoring personal hygiene (seriously, just about any mom will tell you: boys are gross and don’t seem to care). And what they take away has even more of an impact: free time, sleep, money, peace of mind. A grape is no longer a grape, it’s the giant round monster that will try to kill your child. Stairs are terrifying and cars are death traps. Bathrooms are slippery and hard and designed to crack your child’s skull open.
But even more than the specific physical challenges to keeping a child alive, the world suddenly becomes a different place, more sinister. And Jake’s timing made this exponentially worse. On September 11th, 2001 Jake was five weeks old. I was hormonal and just beginning to settle into being a mom when everything changed. I sat on my couch watching TV and holding Jake, knowing that his diaper was completely dirty, but I was paralyzed. I was waiting for my husband to call from his job near the World Trade Center. Hours later, even after I knew he was OK, I still couldn’t get off of the couch and take care of my child. I couldn’t help thinking that having him was a big mistake, that the world was just too evil a place for someone so tiny and helpless.
And of course I eventually got off of the couch and that feeling faded. We got on an airplane a couple months later and it didn’t crash and the world seemed OK. But then Jake got older and the world got scary again. It’s easy to read the news and convince yourself that around every corner is a child killer, or a kidnapper, or a pervert. Trucks are waiting for him to cross the street without looking and every innocent piece of Halloween candy is filled with poison. But you push that to the back of your head and let your children explore and grow and learn because frankly, if you don’t, they’ll never move out and you’ll have to invite Dr. Phil’s son over to film you when your child is 35 and still living at home.
That’s another thing that confounds me. I love my children dearly, and try to enjoy my time with them, but I’m always conscious of the fact that the ultimate goal is to get rid of them. That I can measure my success not by how much they need me, but how little they need me. I’m working hard every day to put myself out of a job. The ultimate reward for having them will be when they’re on their own. It’s a strange cycle we’ve all gotten ourselves into.
And then there’s the ultimate betrayal, the fact that just when you’re hitting your stride as a mom, when you’ve managed to keep a child alive for a respectable amount of time, they start to hate you. Everything you do is wrong and stupid. You’re old, uncool, and don’t know anything.
So if kids are dirty, and expensive, and exhausting, and maddening, and scary, why do we do it? I mean, fool me once, sure. But why do so many of us go ahead and have a second kid, or more? Have our brain cells become so deadened at that point by lack of sleep and a diet of Goldfish crackers that we just don’t know what we’re doing?
No. We know exactly what we’re doing. Because even though day-to-day life suffers when you’ve got kids, overall it becomes so much richer. I am amazed everyday at how sweet my son is, how he makes me laugh, how he hugs his sister when he thinks nobody’s looking. How he loves math and music, and is fearless on his skateboard. How he rolls his eyes and says “Oh, mother!” when I get mushy with him. How he hugs me so hard I think my bones are going to break. That’s what’s in it for me.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, and Momtourage.