Today’s guest post is written anonymously by a mother of four boys:
When Lainie first asked me to write a blog about being the mom of 4, I figured it would be quick, easy, and take about 2 days – one to write, then one to review, edit and send. It is now over a month later and I have yet to email it to her. Sure, it would be easy to blame the delay on the craziness that comes with being the mom of four wildly rambunctious boys ages 17 months to 12 years, with all of the school projects, homework, play dates, sports teams, doctor’s appointments, bill paying, cooking, cleaning and laundry that entails. Sure, I could blame it on working a full-time job with no “end” time (I’m a travel agent, and my clients constantly call me at all hours of the day and night, despite time zone differentials, whenever they need me) – or on the fact that I am also a religious school teacher, the “go to” mom for my friends when they need someone to watch their kids due to work or school conflicts (did I mention I work from home? That’s its own bucket of worms….) or the coach of two different soccer teams who each meet twice a week, plus games. Heck, if I were truly desperate, I could even try to add in the two cats and the dog who constantly demand to be let in and out and in and out and in and out all day long.
But the truth? The truth is that no matter what I wrote, no matter how often I edited, re-edited, or plain old started over, what came out in my blog was anger. Why anger? And at whom? Good questions…. in the end, ones I figured would be more important to address rather than a plain old description of the helter skelter / willy nilly chaotic schedule that is my daily life.
Quite honestly, it doesn’t take much introspection or hard thought to figure out when this whole anger thing started. By the time G, our third, turned a year old, my husband and I had the routine down pat. J, our oldest, was a fantastic assistant – he absolutely LOVED helping with the baby, running to get me clothes, or a diaper, or a sippy cup. A, a mere two years older than G, was a bit hesitant at first with the whole middle child idea but soon grew into a strong, independent little man. In fact, he never did the baby babble thing; he went straight from pointing for things to speaking in complete complex sentences by the time he was 20 months, including proper noun and verb placement. His Montessori preschool teachers were floored, and loved to bring him out to show off to prospective parents. As the boys grew, it seemed everyone had found their own niche – J was the sports man, A loved to cook, clean, and care for everyone in the family, and G was our little Romeo, quick as whip with eyes and a smile that could melt even the Grinchiest of hearts. We were chugging along, secure and strong, a solid family unit.
And then……….. And then. Despite precautions to the contrary, I found myself pregnant once again. As the shock wore off, my husband and I braced ourselves for the gentle ribbing and teasing we were sure to get from our families and friends, just like when we found ourselves pregnant with our third child. What we WEREN’T prepared for was the veritable shit storm that we ended up dealing with instead. Apparently, unbeknownst to us, there is a magical line in the child-bearing sand – 3 kids, and you are a cute family; 4 kids, and you are a crazy, selfish, irresponsible redneck family whose only goal is to do all you can to end up not working, living scot-free off of the government dime. Think I’m kidding? I only wish I were! I can relate numerous times when I have been out with all of my boys and had people look at me and the kids, and then deliberately close doors in our faces rather than hold them open. Instead of helping the woman with the stroller, people stepped in my way, refusing to let me through the aisles, frowning at me as I said “excuse me” and tried to wiggle through. I have been subjected to glares, eye rolls, and whispers any time and any where I take all four of my kids at once. And while they are indeed kids, they certainly aren’t hooligans – my boys know better than to not use their manners, or to run screaming through a store knocking things off of the shelves. They are always clean, dressed in appropriate clothing, and know how to use their indoor voices. In fact, these same children receive nothing but smiles and praise from strangers when out with us singularly or in pairs. So how did I miss the memo on the “appropriate” number of kids per family?
I think the worst episode happened before I even gave birth to little J. There I was with my 3 already born boys, walking into Motherhood Maternity as a very obvious 6 month pregnant lady. Some random woman, a complete stranger, jumped in front of me from out of nowhere and spent about 10 minutes viciously blessing me out for being pregnant again – telling me how awful I was for being selfish, how I would be denying my existing children opportunities due to the expense of another baby, to say nothing of the one-on-one time that would be taken away from them. I was subjected to accusation upon accusation, calling into question my fitness as a mother, my intelligence level, my financial status, my sexual habits (yes, really), my ulterior motives……. and she finished her speech with the assertion that “people like you should be sterilized for your own good.” All I could do was stand there, mouth open, in tears. My first gut response was to slug her in the mouth just to get her to shut up for a second – but I managed to realize in time that having the boys watch their pregnant mother get arrested for assault probably wouldn’t be the best solution or teaching moment in this whole wonderful scenario. I ended up telling her, “Thank you for your opinion,”, as I took out my cell to call my husband (a few stores away in the mall) and continuing inside Motherhood, ensuring that all of my kids were directly in front of me and not anywhere near where the psychotic nutcase could grab them.
What makes the ‘having 4 children’ situation worse is that all of my kids are indeed boys. For the record, it wouldn’t matter if they were all boys or all girls – the questions from friends, neighbors and complete strangers would be the same. “Are you going to keep trying for a boy/girl?” “Wow, giving up yet?”, “Don’t you know what causes that by now?”, “Have you tried a different (sexual) position yet?” “Man, you must really like being on top / doggy style / in the shower / etc” or my personal favorite, “So, were you disappointed that this one was the same as all of the others?” – this last one usually said directly in front of my children. That query always sends me into a blind rage, for many reasons: 1) How DARE they ask that in front of my kids, and possibly give them a guilt complex for something that could never, ever happen! 2) As if I could EVER be disappointed in ANY of my children’s existences – don’t project your own issues onto me! 3) My last son was born extremely early in an emergency C-section, after I spent 21 days in the hospital (over the winter holidays, might I add) on lock down, flat on my back, allowed to sit up for only 5 mins at a time 3 times per day. He was then in the NICU for 23 days himself, and had to have kidney surgery at 4 months….. and when he did, they discovered he was within about a week of losing the kidney permanently. And no, you had no way of knowing that before you asked your inane question – WHICH IS EXACTLY WHY YOU SHOULD KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT. All of my kids are miracles, but little J even more so, with all that he has battled and overcome. The whole concept of “disappointed” doesn’t even exist for us. 4) “The same as all of the others”? I am going to assume here that by “same” you mean “same sex” – but still, to equate one as interchangeable with the others completely invalidates who they are as individuals, including what they have accomplished and what or who they might yet become. My children are NOT mass produced items – they each have their own specific likes, dislikes, fears and strengths – and to insinuate otherwise is one of the gravest insults imaginable to me……. But thanks for asking. I realize that at this point, I am once again infusing this blog with anger and vitriol, and I apologize.
I wish I could say that my experiences were isolated incidents, but every one of my friends who have more than 3 children have all encountered the same prejudices, the same nosey questions, and the same ignorance. One day, a few of us decided to bring the gaggle out to eat for lunch – 3 moms and 11 kids. When the maître d’ asked us if we were escorting a school group (never mind that all of the kids were obviously different ages) we just laughed and said, “No, they are all ours.” Her response – “Seriously? On purpose???” We just smiled at her. Our waitress kept looking at all of the kids and then us, and finally worked up the nerve to say, “You’re brave to take so many of your kids’ friends out on play dates all at once.” When we assured her they were all siblings, and all ours, she smiled at us as if we were playing a joke on her. I don’t think she ever quite believed us. However, the lady sitting one table away from us came over after her meal, leaned in between us moms, quietly handed us each a card for Planned Parenthood and said under her breath, “There are resources available to help women like you – you shouldn’t be ashamed to ask” and walked away. Unfortunately, you just can’t make this kind of stuff up…….. but MAN, did we have a great time laughing over the whole thing that day!
I guess, to answer Lainie’s original question, being the mom of 4 is more than just an extra round of diapers and bottles, more than the realization that your youngest will be graduating from high school and first starting his life when your oldest will be 30 and firmly established with (hopefully!) a family of his own, or that you will still be driving the mommy van long after the rest of your friends begin their second honeymoon……. It is more than the struggle to decide which hand-me-downs need to be retired, which passed on, and when a child has just been drowned in too many clothes from others and truly deserves his own things, financial constraints aside…… it is yet one more round of Little People, Barney, sports games, art shows, musical concerts, science fairs and parent teacher conferences; it is one more body burrowing into your bed, shoving you out onto the floor; it is one more teenager to roll their eyes at you, or argue that “everyone else has it / is doing it / is going!”; it is one more plea to stay up juuuuuuuuuust a little bit later and by the way, can you come read and snuggle with me? It is one more set of handprints on the heart-shaped picture frame in your office; one more “I love my Mommy” present made in kindergarten and warped looking clay pot made in 4th grade. It is one more set of arms ready to crush you close and whisper “Thanks, Mom” as you drive him and his girlfriend to the movies – and allow them to sit by themselves for the first time. It is also 4 little (and eventually not so little) ones who depend on you to meet rudeness with a smile; disrespect with a gentle rejoinder; ignorance with information – and all of it delivered with a swift kick in the proverbial rear when needed. Or maybe not so proverbial…… I’ll get back to you on that one.