I really do love my kids. I always wanted kids. I got lucky. My husband wanted kids as much as I did and he’s a great dad. I was blessed with three of the most adorable children, and yes, of course I’m biased, but I think they’re cuter and smarter than any kids I’ve ever met.
Janelle was the first one. I never knew I could love someone so much. The minute she came into my arms, that was it for me. Love. Her fingers were so long and thin and graceful, I just knew she would grow up to play the piano. Ken and I sat in the little recovery room admiring her fingers, of all things. She was so beautiful. She had a full head of black hair, and I swear she smiled that first day. We couldn’t stop looking at her. She latched on to the breast almost immediately. Nursing was so natural for us. When I brought her home, she would nurse for hours and I would hold her while I watched my favorite TV shows. She was so curious; I did everything with her as she lay on my body in her papoose. I had no desire to do anything else or go anywhere.
Katie came along when Janelle was three years old. Katie was smaller and cried more, but eventually she was a happy baby. Janelle wasn’t really ready for a baby sister, even though we’d talked about it all the time and she felt my tummy whenever Katie would kick. That’s why Ken and I were surprised when Janelle was jealous of Katie. She would always try to hone in on the meal, attempting to nurse on my other breast, which she couldn’t do, of course, but I’d let her snuggle up with us. It was fun, but tiring. Of course we loved Katie as much as Janelle, but we didn’t have the energy or the time to shower her with as much affection as the first one. Also, they had different sleep patterns, which meant that Ken and I weren’t getting much sleep and that made us cranky.
Ken and I debated whether or not to have a third child. I had already started working part time. Ken was available sometimes to watch the kids, but we didn’t know how we could fit another kid into the schedule. However, we decided to sacrifice on the front end so we could have a bigger family. Luckily, Edward was an easy baby. He was the biggest, with a big round, practically bald head and a face that could have been on the Gerber baby food jars. He slept well, ate well, would go to anyone who held him and was able to amuse himself for hours. Janelle loved him, but now Katie was jealous. Sometimes she would hit him when we weren’t looking, or push him off the bed. I was somewhat petrified that she would really hurt him. And, he wouldn’t nurse. If he lived in a culture that had no bottles, or wet nurses, he would not have thrived. I went to the La Leche league and worked with a lactation specialist, got an electric pump, but after a month of trying, I was convinced that other children survived the bottle, so that was it.
2 Years Later, January 2020 Ken and I worked the numbers to see if it would even pay for me to go back to work at all, between taxes and babysitters. My mom and dad recently retired and agreed to watch the kids one day a week, Ken could watch them another, and I’d only need daycare one day a week, so I decided to jump back into the workforce. We could really use the extra cash with three kids. I have to admit, it was nice to get out of the house and be with adults for awhile. I’m not going to lie, though, I was exhausted, but I powered through.
March 2020: Holy cow! The entire world has shut down. This is very surreal. There’s a virus that has swept the world in a pandemic and is in every country. Everyone is going into quarantine. I would quit my job, but Ken’s work has been cut way back so we actually need my paycheck even more now. Luckily, we can both do most of our work from home. Besides, I wouldn’t want him to go out into the world and expose all of us to the virus.
Late March 2020: Omg! I love my kids. I really do. They’re adorable. I keep telling myself that because lately, I can’t stand them. What kind of mother am I? Who hates their own children? I don’t really hate them, I just want them to go away. Far, far away! I feel like I’m losing my mind. They’re driving me crazy. Ken and I are attempting to work from home now and we are interrupted most of the day. We keep trying to stagger our work schedule, but it’s not always possible. In a normal world, this would never work, but luckily, most of the people I get online with also have someone in the background interrupting them.
One week later: Is anyone feeling this way? Is there anyone out there who can’t stand their own children? Why did I have three? I’m thinking of calling a doctor and getting some of those happy pills. Maybe I’ll be able to pretend that I don’t hear them. Now I know why everyone is drinking during this quarantine. They say that alcohol consumption is up over 55%, or at least the sale of alcohol. No wonder. But I can’t work and drink. Can I? Who would know? I rarely drink, but I might start. Here is an example of my work day with three children in the house.
Me: Okay, Kids. Breakfast time. (I’m in my pajama pants, with a nice shirt on for the benefit of anyone seeing me on video. I’m wearing a bra for the first time in three days. I also put a tad of makeup on because I look like I haven’t slept in a year.)
Ken: Kids, Mommy and Daddy have work to do on the computer today. Remember what we talked about yesterday. You’re going to have to entertain yourselves for a little while. You can’t disturb us when we’re talking to people on the computer. (Ken is also dressed in his pajama pants and a nice tee shirt. He has combed his hair today because he will be on video chats.)
Janelle: The video chats, Daddy?
Ken: Yes, Honey. The video chats.
Me, still calm and sweet: Sometimes, we’re on the phone instead of the computer. We’re working when we’re doing that too. It might not look like it, but we are.
Katie: Mommy, Mommy! Edward pooped his pants.
Me: In the middle of breakfast? Okay. Come on, I’ll change you.
Katie: Can I watch Blues Clues?
Ken: Sure. That’s a good idea. Watch some TV while we work.
Janelle: As the big sister, I’ll be in charge. You guys don’t have to worry about the baby and me and Katie. We’ll be good. We won’t bother you.
Ken: Okay. It’s a deal. You’re in charge.
Me, from the living room at the diaper table: I heard that. I don’t think we can put Janelle in charge. She’s six.
Janelle: Mom, please, I’m very grown-up.
Ken: Yeah, it’ll be fine, Hon.
Me: Whatever. OK. Edward. Into the playpen for a while.
Ken: Isn’t he too old for the playpen?
Me: Well, last week he wandered off and we couldn’t find him for a half hour and I thought I would have a heart attack, and he ended up falling asleep behind our bed. And the day after that, he went outside into the back yard, and we couldn’t find him, so where would you like me to put him while we work? If you can call it that?
Ken: Okay. Point taken. How long will he stay there these days?
Me: Well, as long as I make him, or I could always tie him up.
Ken: Very funny.
Me: I’m not kidding. (He can see that I’m already at the end of my rope, and the day has barely begun. Also, I’m ready to strangle him – I mean strangle Ken.)
Ken: Okay, Kids. Your mom is about to boil over and it’s only 9 a.m. so put your dishes in the sink and go upstairs to play. (Katie has to stand on her stool so she can reach the sink.)
Me: Okay, Edward. In you go. I hope there’s enough toys in your playpen.
(Ken comes over to give me a peck on the lips.)
Ken: Off to work. See you soon, Dear.
Ken goes to the office to get on video chats. I do the same but I’m working from the kitchen. I’m running the meeting today. I only have to wait ten minutes for everyone to get online. I make a flippant comment, attempting to be funny, but letting them know that I mean business, about everyone showing up on time.
Me: Hi everyone. I’m going to mute y’all so we’re not all talking at once. Remember last week’s meeting? And all the chaos? Hey, but this is a process. It’s new for everyone. If you want to talk, just unmute yourself. Thanks. Let’s get going.
(Things go pretty well for about five or ten minutes. Then…)
Katie: Mommy, can I get a snack?
Me: Katie, what are you doing down here? You’re supposed to be upstairs. Remember how I’m working and you’re not supposed to interrupt me? (I forget that everyone can see and hear me. I turn to the screen) Oh, hey, can Claire take over as presenter for a few minutes?
Me: Katie, you just had breakfast. Take these snacks for you and Janelle. Don’t come back until I tell you that it’s okay. (I turn back to my meeting.)
(Five minutes later. Edward starts crying. He used to play for hours in the playpen, but now it’s too confining. Someone unmutes and tells me that they can hear a baby crying.)
Me: Sorry. I’ll be right back. Claire, would you…
Edward: Mama. Baba. Mama. Baba.
Me: Okay. Let me get your bottle. I’m not going to take you out because you’ll want to stay out. I’ll be right back.(I go for a bottle. Edward cries even louder when I leave. Also, I apparently forgot to mute my audio.)
Me: Here you go, Bud. Do you need another nap? Too soon?
(When I return to the computer, someone informs me that they could hear the screaming the whole time I was gone.)
And so it goes for the rest of my meeting. And the rest of my morning. Until I stood in the middle of my kitchen, tugged on the hairs of my head, and literally just screamed. Not words. Just … aaaaarrrrgggghhhh!!!!! Tears fell from my eyes. My kids and my husband came into the room and just watched me.
Me: I can’t do this! I just can’t do this!
They all surrounded me and gave me a big hug. I cried more. I hugged them all, except Edward, who had finally fallen asleep in the playpen. I don’t know if I’m going to make it, but I have to stay strong.
8:38 p.m. The kids are asleep. I break out the chardonnay. I offer a glass to Ken. We collapse on the couch.
Me: Here’s to fighting another day.
Ken: Think we’ll make it?
Me: Do we have a choice? Why did we have kids again?
Ken: You wanted them.
Me: I thought it was you?
We sipped our wine and laughed until we cried. I love my kids. I really, really do.