Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Regrets...I've had a few

Recently one of my favorite radio talk show hosts mentioned that he always hated the song "My Way" but loved the line, "regrets...I've had a few". I've been thinking a lot about that term, "regret," lately, with regards to having kids, or not having kids, and paths not taken.

I'll admit I had that thought, "I regret having kids," at the worst of the Bobby-beating-up-brother era a couple of weeks ago. I was, and am, very ashamed of that thought (something I swore I'd never think, or feel, much like hitting Bobby out of anger, which has now also happened despite my protestations to the contrary). But it's a real thought and it happened and I believe in honesty above all, so there it is. Do I feel that way now? No. But ask on a bad moment when I'm tired and overwhelmed and sad - sure. In those moments my former life of constant navel-gazing and self indulgence sure does look a lot more enjoyable. I'd have to be crazy to say I'd rather wrestle a kicking, screaming toddler into pajamas than lie in bed drinking tea and watching documentaries. 

I always thought you would either regret having kids or you wouldn't. But I find now that it's a lot more complex than that. Much like you can still love your kids but not always like them, you can love your kids and love being a mother but sometimes wish they would just go away for five minutes. And then come back.

I've been trying to give myself, and my dark thoughts, a break lately. This is hard. I can no longer say this is way easier than I thought. It was, when I had one easy baby. every day is a struggle. It just is. But it would be a struggle if I were younger or married or more prepared or more of a kid person or surrounded by helpful family or anything. Little kids are hard, period.

So often I look back as I'm driving and see the faces of my little boy and my baby. This is our life right now - an almost three-year-old and his various issues, and a nine-month-old and his issues. And Bobby talks now but we're not able to converse, not really, so his inner life is still largely a mystery to me; Theo is a complete mystery as all I know about him is he hates to be put down or left alone. But some day these kids will be real kids - with friends and teachers and coaches and things they like and don't like. Will it be easier then? I no longer fool myself that it will - I just know that it will be different, and there will be a certain satisfaction that we've made it this far. I won't have a baby constantly strapped on my chest making me feel like I'm still nine months pregnant and making it difficult to maneuver; I won't have a toddler who screams and cries unpredictably all day long. Those things I am looking forward to letting go of.

A friend posted an advice column in which a woman asked if she should have a baby on her own and she said she didn't think worrying about regretting not having kids was good enough reason to have one. But the advice columnist disagreed and said knowing you'd regret not doing something is, in fact, a great reason to do it. I try to imagine not having these kids and what I'd be doing now instead but I know this is a moot point because no matter what I would have had a kid by now, somehow, whether by adoption or fostering or being a Big Sister or whatever. The 42 1/2-year-old me with no kids all alone in this house just never would have existed so there's no point in even trying to imagine her. The only difference is I lucked out in getting the idea just early enough that I was able to have two biological children, whereas if I were just getting the idea now the story would be a little different.

And so I power on with my baby in the Ergo and Bobby in the stroller and people look at me and give me a thumbs-up or tell me I have my hands full and I sigh and say yes, it's really hard right now. But life is really hard. And I'm glad they're in it. 


  1. You've hit it exactly. It is fucking hard and a gift all at once, and a million different things over the course of the day. Jennifer Senior writes about women liking motherhood as an identity more than mothering as a verb (I'm paraphrasing) and I think that's exactly right. I love BEING a mom. I love my kids. But the day-in-and-day-out WORK of it is often less than fun.

  2. What a terrific photo - hair!!! I really enjoyed reading All of the Joy None of the Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood damn little fun. So many chances to beat ourselves up. And moments of sublime joy thrown in there. As I've said before, the fact that you are solo parenting **24-7*, with no out-of-the-home work to distract and engage you and give you a break from them, blows my mind. You are doing an amazing job.


  3. I was going to tell you it gets easier because I remember life when Elena was 18 months until after she was 3 & it sucked behaviour-wise...but I think you're right, it's not necessarily better, but just feels easier. That's what gets me through the rough patches, knowing it'll feel easy again at some point.

  4. This American Life listener, eh? Me too! Plus Radiolab & Serial. Can't miss those ones!

    I only have one child and my life, it's fucking hard. Sometimes I long for the freedom I once had before I became a parent. I'm perpetually exhausted. I had no idea parenting a toddler would require me to dig this deep for patience I didn't know I had (and sometimes, frankly, I just DON'T have).

    I feel you, friend. I really do.

  5. I get it. I only have one, but I still get it. At least, I'm pretty sure I do! I agree with Tara - that fact that you do this 24/7 with no break and no help... OMG I totally would be a complete basket case right now! I honestly don't know how you do it, except that you just... DO. But yeah, it's hard. It may not get easier, or maybe it will, but it will at least get different. It'll keep changing, I think, forever, just as it has until now. Hang in there until you get to an easier patch!