My husband and I have five kids. But when our oldest four are with their other parents we get to pretend that our youngest is an only child and it's "just us three." We take him to the store, out to eat, to the playground, or just stay home. We get to actually be ourselves, and our youngest gets all of our attention. And it's in these moments that I find myself daydreaming about life with only one child. Honestly, sometimes I can't help thinking that having more than one child was a mistake.
From time to time I remember what life was like when I had my oldest, and when I'm waxing nostalgic about those years as a new mom with only one child I feel a sense of overwhelming dread. My oldest and I were a team, we did everything together, and, for the most part, I loved being a mom. Then I had another child and suddenly it was two against one. I wasn't on "their team," but quickly became my kids' main opponent. As a single mom I couldn't help but feel as though I had made a crucial life mistake by allowing my own children to outnumber me.
That was years ago, though, and way before I met my current husband... who also had, and has, two kids. When we decided to get married and blended our families together we instantly became this weird version of the Brady Bunch. Thankfully, however, and even though it was a slow process, my husband and I eventually adjusted to having four kids. It was (and still is) loud, chaotic, and at times incredibly rough, but we made due and, to our surprise, eventually decided it was time for us to have another baby.
I regret being a mom to so many children who need so much from me.
I love my child, don't get me wrong. In fact, I love all of my children, and I'm incredibly grateful to be their mother and to have them in the world and in our lives. But there are moments when I must be honest and admit that I feel a tinge of regret for having five children living in our home. I regret the decision to have more than one baby. I regret being a mom to so many children who need so much from me.
I know life wouldn't be the same if I didn't have every single one of my children. They are unique and lovely people, and they are truly special to me and each in their own way. I wouldn't want to exist in a world without them, or live a life that didn't have them in it. I also love the fact that our kids have a close relationship with each other. They are each other's first and best friends, partners in crime, and I know they will have one another long after my husband and I are gone. I wanted that for them, and I'm so thankful they have a chance to experience sibling love.
I know that motherhood in any capacity is a challenge, regardless of how many children you have to care for. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't long for the days when I only had one mouth to feed.
As a mom to five children, however, I make no apologies for admitting that I need a damn break. I need a chance to hit pause from the noise, from the chaos, and from five sets of voices asking me for five sets of very different things. Being responsible and beholden to five little human being is so much harder than caring for one singular child. I only have two hands. I only have two ears. I only have two eyes. I only have one brain that can handle a certain number of tasks and responsibilities at a time. So by the end of the day my temper is short, my stress levels are high, and my patient is thin.
Of course, I'm not trying to imply that being a mom of one is in any way "easy." When I only had one child I spent way too much time trying to perfect. I was way too hard on myself, not at all kind to myself, and obsessed with my child in a way that was (arguably) unhealthy. I know that motherhood in any capacity is a challenge, regardless of how many children you have to care for. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't long for the days when I only had one mouth to feed. And, more often than not, I find myself looking at one-and-done moms with envy.
I'm also not trying to imply that I hate my life or that being a parent to multiple children is the worst. As a mom of five I feel way more experienced and self-assured than I ever did as a mom of one. I know what's really important, like keeping your kids fed, clothed, and relatively clean. And when I do get to spend time with my kids one-on-one I cherish and appreciate those moments more intensely.
I miss the quiet and the calm that comes from only having one human to worry about.
Our house is never lonely or quiet, either. I have kids who are old enough to entertain each other and watch out for their younger siblings, too, so from time to time I can take a break or, at the very least, use the bathroom by myself. I watch my children from relationships with each other, even if they fight with each other or gang up on me, and our home is full of the kind of chaos that makes it known that love lives there. Like I said before, and am constantly reminded every single day: I am very, very lucky.
But feeling lucky doesn't negate the fact that more often than not you can find me hiding in the bathroom, listening to my loud children on the other side of the door and silently asking myself, "How did this happen?" And in those exhausting, overwhelming moments I can't help but think that having more than one kid was a huge mistake. It's not that my kids, as individual people, were mistakes, because they absolutely were and are not. But why didn't I stop while I was ahead? I really miss the freedom of having only one kid. I miss the quiet and the calm that comes from only having one human to worry about. I miss how easy it was to travel to restaurants, go on vacations, or simply enjoy a weekend morning.
I can love my children and, at times, wonder if I am capable of handling them. I can love being a parent and, at the same time, resent the fact that I have so many incredible responsibilities.
Now meal time is loud, chaotic, and overwhelming. At least once a day someone will inevitably say "I'm not eating that" and after I have spent hours in the kitchen. Every night our bedtime routine becomes a full-contact sport and at least one child will swear up and down they "can't sleep," no matter what. I'm constantly overworked, under-appreciated, and even ignored if I'm not needed or giving someone something they want. Was this the life I planned? No, it was not.
But while we have more than one kid, more messes to clean up, more fights, more people at the table, more bedtimes, and more people to ask, "are we there yet?" on road trips, we also have more kids to love. So feeling like I made a mistake and loving my chaotic life are two juxtaposing feelings that co-exist. I can love my children and, at times, wonder if I am capable of handling them. I can love being a parent and, at the same time, resent the fact that I have so many incredible responsibilities.
So maybe my choice to have more than one child was a mistake... but it was my mistake and I believe it's a "mistake" that has paid off. I am excited to see what the loud, chaotic future holds for each and every one of not only my kids, but myself.