Last night I found myself in the midst of a rare crisis. While my husband’s thunderous snores ripped through the quiet night air I lay awake staring that the ceiling, tears streaming down the sides of my cheeks and puddling in my ear drums. I was thinking about my children. That in itself is not the rarity; the nature of my thoughts was.
My thoughts were honed in on my girls. I was desperate to conjure up ways that I could make sure that they had the best life they could possibly have. I thought about my own failures and decisions and where they had landed me where I am today. My heart began to pound furiously within my chest. I didn’t like what I was thinking, but it had to be said.
Dear God, I begged. Please don’t let my girls grow up to me like me.
While all my kids are incredibly perceptive, Nadjah my first born is especially so. It’s not difficult for her to ascertain when something is awry or altered. From a burnt out bulb in the living room to a frown on her mother’s face, she’s usually the first to notice it. And these days, I’ve been frowning quite a bit.
With 4 kids traipsing through my house and constantly tearing up my belongings, it’s hard to keep a grin plastered on my face. If I’m truly honest, I’m not enjoying my life as it is…I’m just coping. I don’t want that for my girls at all. I want them to enjoy life, not merely endure it.
I only realized the long term effects of my demeanor about a week ago when I was changing Liya’s pull up. She was laying on the floor with her legs spread-eagled, eagerly waiting for me to wipe out the thick, pasty brown gunk she’d discharged from her bowels into her pants. There was pile of ripped construction paper near her head where Stone had carelessly discarded them about an hour before. Toys were all over the place and the TV was blaring. It was little wonder therefore that I was scowling. My temples were pounding.
“Yes, Nadjah?” I snapped. She was always asking questions, and while I don’t want to dampen her inquisitive nature, I could’ve done without another barrage of mindless questions.
“You work very hard, don’t you?” she asked gravely.
I pulled Liya’s training pants up and stood her up. She scampered off to get into more mischief.
“Yeah,” I replied. “I guess I do.”
“You don’t seem very happy,” she pressed. “Are you sad that you had so many children?”
The question startled me. Had I given that impression? Did she think that I’d regretted her birth? I ran down a list of things I’d blurted out at my children in my frequent moments of exasperation. Perhaps that day I yelled “you people must want me to die!” had something to do with this new line of questioning. (That’s just a hunch.)
I gave her the obvious answer – the one that was most appropriate in this instance.
“Of course I’m not sad that I had this many kids!” I said a little too adamantly, my voice squeaking. I didn’t want to protest too much. That would belie insincerity and she would be sure to sniff it out.
“I’m only going to have 2 children. Maybe even only one,” she said matter-of-factly. “Four children is too much work.”
“Yes, it is a lot of work,” I agreed absently.
I looked at my daughter really hard for the first time since she had initiated the conversation. Her eyes were downcast, as if in deep thought.
“When I was your age, I wasn’t thinking about how many kids I was going to have,” chuckling quietly and trying to lighten the mood. She’s barely 8 years old!
Well what do you say to that? I had no retort, at least not one that wouldn’t damage her self-esteem. I decided to do the dishes instead.
Look, I know that there are women out there who desperately wish that they could be blessed with as many as I have been, but their wombs will/can not accommodate a baby. They might read this post and consider me an ungrateful cow. I should look at my filthy house and endless piles of laundry with fondness and gratitude. I should think of my daily drudgery as a sacrament, not a sacrifice. Well that’s all well and dandy, but this life definitely isn’t the one I’d choose for my daughters. I want them to smell and look pretty all the time. I want them to eat three square meals a day. I want them to finish drink of water uninterrupted and at their leisure! I want their education to mean something. I don’t want their creativity to suffer because of the traditional obligations of marriage and child-rearing that is the mantle of millions of women around the world; many of whom who never get a chance to reach their full potential.
I don’t want them to be like me.
It’s such a weird and painful dichotomy. I know that without the burden of raising my children I could be so much more; but BECAUSE I have given birth to these quirky, funny, beautiful little individuals I AM so much more than I once was.
I suppose the heart of the matter is that I don’t want my girls to grow up with any regrets about any choice they make in their adult lives…but that’s wishful thinking; foolish almost. But if I had one wish, I’d hope that my girls would scribble down a list of society’s expectations for them on an enormous canvas and immediately take a hot, massive dump on them. I think every woman should be able to live by her own rules, as long as they bring her physical and spiritual health.
I’m really conflicted on how to present motherhood to my girls. I don’t want them to dread the prospect of ever having kids, but I don’t want to sell them a story and deceive them into thinking that it’s something that it’s not. It’s not all glitter and gladness. There are days when I am flat out unhappy.
I had an honest conversation with a friend a few weeks ago, and she asked me if I thought that being married and having kids had ruined my life.
“No,” I said, after giving it some thought. “I wouldn’t say it’s ruined my life. It’s just altered it so that it’s barely recognizable.”
That’s my truth.
Are you raising a daughter? Do you feel like you’re the best example of womanhood to your girl-child? Do you ever feel like your life choices have failed her? What one piece of advice would you give her if you knew it would guarantee her happiness? I’d love to hear.