On Fridays, a babysitter comes at noon. She hangs out with the kids for about an hour and a half and then she takes them to their father. The idea was that I’d spend this time working. And then when I quickly realized that it wouldn’t be possible for me to continue working, the idea was that I’d spend this time being me, maintaining some kind of outside interest so I didn’t wither into a shell of a human being.
What I actually do is I head to the library, and I sit surrounded by books and lists, and I plan our next week of homeschooling. When I’m done with that, I check the internet for craft projects that relate to our current unit. When I’m done with that, I plan out our meals for the week. When I’m done with that, I head to the grocery store, buy the things we need and head home to cook. While I cook, I research various learning disabilities. I make appointments. I read research on education and parenting.
When I was a kid, all I wanted was to become a professional. I wanted to be a doctor. For a brief second, I wanted to be a lawyer. I wanted to write. I wanted to heal. I wanted to travel and learn and grow wild and free in my downtime while becoming increasingly more educated and disciplined in my work. I never planned for a husband. I never considered children too seriously.
My husband first told me he loved me when I was seventeen. That night is burned into my memory, because I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t expect it. If we’re being honest, I didn’t even want it. He was supposed to be a fun project. Never was he meant to be an eternity. But once it was there, well, there it was. Once it was said, it was real, and I’ve spent the last eighteen years protecting it and cultivating it.
I thought good families were a luck thing. I thought you either got one or you didn’t. You either wound up in one or not. It’s true as a child. You get what you get, and you don’t get to choose. You cannot, despite all of your efforts, control the direction your family flies. You’re at their mercy. I guess I thought that was true of an adult family, too.
I didn’t dream about this husband until I got him. I didn’t think I’d give up everything to raise good children, but here I am. I came into it haltingly, questioning, even resentful. I’m only recently relaxing into it, paying it its dues.
I used to equate being a good mom with being a shell of a human being.
My kids are good people. They’re really, really good people. They hold hands, they share secrets, they have long conversations using big words to describe the love they have for the world around them. My kids are not always wholesome and sweet, but I get a lot of compliments on them. I used to think it was an accident that I got those good kids. I get now that it’s true I’m lucky to have them, but I also traded in just about everything else to make them.
When my son was 2 and my daughter was 1, I started filling out applications for post-graduate study that one would day, I’d hoped, light the path towards me becoming a nurse practitioner. I thought I could have it all. I thought I could keep up with the cloth diapering and the organic pureed baby foods in my down time. I thought I’d done the baby thing, now I could do the professional thing.
And then I read something that opened my eyes and hit me hard. It was that quote about how you can have anything you want, so long as you’re prepared to sacrifice everything you have. And I knew then that, even before I’d ever read that quote, I’d already made my choice. I absolutely could have gone to school to become that one-step-from-a-doctor that I wanted so desperately to be. But I couldn’t have done it and raised my kids the way I wanted to.
And I wanted to raise my kids more.
I had some Dr. Phil show on in the background today as I was fixing dinner, and I heard him say something about how everyone has kids for different reasons. Some have them to tick the box. Some have them to fill a need. Some have them because they want to change the world.
I don’t know why I had kids. I think I had them because of hormones, if I’m honest. My ovaries screamed at me each month until I finally gave my uterus what it wanted. That’s the nitty gritty. But if I can go back now and retroactively give myself another reason for having kids, I suppose I’ll take the ‘change the world’ reason.
There’s no right or wrong, and I don’t mean to make it sound black and white. I don’t mean this to be a “I have good kids because I don’t work.” I don’t think that’s true. I’m just saying that a few years back, I realized I was at a fork in the road. I knew I wanted two really, really big things, and I got the sense that it wouldn’t be possible for me to do both of them as big as I wanted to. So I chose. And I invested. And it’s starting to feel like the right choice.
On Fridays, I spend my free time planning for the week I have ahead. And I do it because, for the most part, it brings me joy to teach my kids. It might not always work out, but for now, I do believe that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.
I don’t know where I got the idea that women who give all of themselves to their children are doing it wrong. I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to celebrate that this might actually be the thing that I’m good at.