Playing Red Light Green Light
Wed 07 December 2016
Lady, ever heard of birth control? As it happens, I have. And I have taken steps. My doctor and I closed shop on my single remaining fallopian tube and ovary six years ago during the birth of my surprise 4th child. But the children kept coming, and while I love them all, having six children brings with it certain realities. The clear financial impact; ever tried paying for childcare for 6 kids? Finding a way to work, even from home has been challenging to be sure. And the sense of frustration is in no small part connected to my blood pressure numbers. I have been trying to return to work out of necessity since the triplets were three years old. Every time I formed a plan, or got close to seeing daylight, another child arrived. 6 kids are a full-time job and I have woken up many a morning feeling like I’m already in the hole. And frustrated that I’m not accomplishing more.
But here’s the thing, That’s not what people see when they look at me in the check out line at the local grocery store. You wouldn’t ever naturally assume that my family had been created the way it has. You look at me and you ask the birth control question in your head, because this is not Utah, or even the mid-west. It is Southern California and I look like I’ve lost my mind to most passers by. When you are surrounded by a bustling crowd of needy children everywhere you go you can just abandon stealth as an option.
Additionally, I come from a history of large Mormon families, so having large families tends to look less unusual to me than to other people. Often times I hold onto my cousins and their families as talismans, hoping to feel a sense of connection through the social isolation that can be part of having a big family. But it plays against me at times as well, when I find myself thinking, well they’re doing it so I have no business complaining.
And at times when I am struggling with my feelings about all this I feel the lash of guilt when I think of how many women struggle with infertility, as I did for a decade, knowing they would give anything to have my good fortune in children. And yet I still can’t get hold of the stress, the sense of claustrophobia, the idea that I will start out my day choosing what I will fail at for that day so that other things can get done. I have no business complaining about being given these people to share my life with. And yet…
At 44 I remain in the deep trenches of parenting at a time in my life that I thought would be very different. The way in which my family came about has often left me feeling a kind of one step forward two steps back in my own life. Six kids has me so maxed out that I don’t even know what I believe in any more. Some days I don’t know if I believe in anything except the next task, sippy cup or diaper change. I can’t string together a complete though on most days and for someone who requires as much time in their own head as I do, it can be maddening at times.
I feel guilty for not making money to help support my family, which we need. And even though I have wanted my whole life to have a family and stay home with them, which seemed manageable at 4, now seems impossible with 6. I’d love the luxury of still feeling like staying at home and just being a mom was reasonable. But you see, the pay is awful. And in truth, part of me doesn’t want to field little children anymore. I was very ready for the next part of my life to start. The part where your family begins to operate a little more independently with kids who are older and more mobile in the world.
Instead, I often feel like I’m forcing a stage of my life to remain open long past it’s natural closure point. It’s stressful and it’s given me real sympathy for the number of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. I read that there are approximately 300,000 in California who are undertaking this role. (by the way, how it has not proportionally increased the homicide rate is beyond me.)
The point of this post? I’m still shooting myself in the foot with my resistance and longing for the life I lost. It’s been a tough week all around and the Golf Pro and I are giving each other breaks as best as we can, but not having lots of extended family around is making me wish I could go home. I guess I just needed to vent. I want to go home. I want to complete a thought. I want more energy. I want to feel less guilt. I want to write and learn to photograph the world. I want to submit more gracefully to making a thousand peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and wiping crayon off the walls still. I want to be mentally accessed less by little people with no ability to regulate themselves. I want to be better at all this. But somehow, the show must go on…