Why am I stating these fairly obvious truths? Because I have started to encounter an odd group of people who seem intent on trying to bring me down. The conversations generally go like this: they offer their congratulations on the pregnancy, I thank them, and then they start catastrophizing what it’s like to bring home a second baby*. Then I smile and brush it off, instead of saying all of the things that I’d really like to say. So now I’ll say them here. Below, some of the gems that I’ve heard, and my inner responses. Stay tuned for the big bitter finale.
*Important note: I’m not talking about friends/family who will crack a joke about the chaos of more than one kid, or who will shout over their wrestling children, “I hope you’re ready for this!” with a wry smile. That’s funny and sarcastic and tongue in cheek and harmless. I’m talking about the seriously negative, not-at-all-joking, joy-sucking people who deliver the gems below straight faced and in a grave voice.
1. You think one kid was hard---you have no idea. Just wait until you have two. Of course two kids are more challenging that one kid, that’s why we waited this long to have another. Does anyone really think that adding a new baby to the family would somehow be less work than just having one?
2. I hope you have earplugs, because they will fight constantly. Of course kids fight. I have a sister of my own, and nieces and nephews, and ears, and common sense. Will they fight constantly? Maybe, maybe not. Who cares?
3. The beginning is impossible—the baby cries, the older one wants attention---it was the worst time of my life. I’m sooooooo glad to be done with that. Uh . . . congratulations? I’m not sure how anyone could even respond to this. What I’d like to say is “if having a second baby and an older kid was the ‘worst time in your life’ then aren’t you lucky” . . .but I feel like that would be poorly received.
And you know what I’d really like to say?
I’d like to widen my eyes, and look over at Maya, and say to them “Did you really just imply that I have it easy with my ‘only one’ kid? That my mothering experience has been simple compared to yours, because you have two (perfectly healthy) kids and I have ‘only one’? Are you that unaware?”
And I could keep going . . . here are a few factoids that illustrate how much easier things are for me, since I have “only one.”
-We have seen more specialists that I can keep track of, literally. When I get doctors’ bills I squint at the practitioner’s name and think “Hmm, which one are you?” We switched pediatricians this week (insurance related) and I couldn’t send Maya’s medical file to the new office (as one is supposed to do, per their policy, before scheduling an appointment) because it’s not a file, it’s a full binder, way too large to be faxable.
-We have had (and continue to have) hours and hours and hours of therapy. During the first year that I left my job to stay home with Maya we had 3-4 appointments per day. Most days we barely had time to leave the apartment, because we were in therapy, or she was napping, or I was trying to feed her.
-We had years of feeding therapy and practice (practice meant that every snack and meal was work and exercise) before she was able to move to solid food, and she still can’t completely feed herself. So we still feed her to some degree at every meal.
-We’re still changing diapers.
-Maya has been playing with her princess dolls all week. Since I’d like to talk to her about them, I spent half an hour making buttons for her talker so that she would be able to say Belle, Tiana, etc. I have to make buttonson an iPad, then teach her where to find them, then practice using the new buttons with her, in order to talk to my kid.
-She didn’t walk until she was nearly three, and even now walks very unsteadily. She tires easily. She can’t walk up and down stairs (a few stairs at the playground, yes, a flight of stairs, not without a lot of help). She goes completely limp when overwhelmed. All of this means that being Maya’s parent is a very physically demanding job.
I don’t need to keep going, right? That’s enough to get the idea.
So when someone tries to rain on my parade by telling me how inconceivably hard life will be when I add a second, it’s hard not to laugh at them. The truth, as I see it, is that these parade-raining types, the ones who see so much of life’s negative side and love to point it out to a captive audience, they would find a day living my current life to be “inconceivably hard”.
And you know what? It’s not at all. It’s just life. It has its challenges and it has its joys---just like every person's life has challenges and joys. I would never try to tell someone that my life is harder than theirs is . . . because, well, first, that’s the weirdest competition ever . . . and second, I’m smart enough to know that no one can ever really understand someone else’s baggage without trying to shoulder it themselves. Who am I to claim that mine is heavier than yours?
At the same time, if your kids are able to climb out of their own beds this morning, get dressed, eat breakfast independently, walk and run and wrestle, speak intelligibly to you, yell at each other, climb in the kitchen to get a forbidden snack, throw things, play video games, get into trouble, use the bathroom, whine at you, whatever . . . well, to me that sounds like a damn good day.
So I’ll concede that two kids will be more complicated than one, if you would kindly stop telling me how easy I’ve got it now, having “only one.” Because, really, you have no idea.