Earlier tonight I read a fantastic op-ed piece by a woman named Simcha Fisher from the National Catholic Register online (I must admit, not a regular stop for me). The piece was called “To the Mother with Only One Child”. Now, to my cynical mind that is used to reading snarky bloggers make back-handed remarks to women who don’t think like them, I immediately assumed this woman would do the same. I assumed she would tell these “mothers with only one child” that their plight was not on par with the woman who has more. After reading Ms. Fisher’s eloquent and honest letter, I felt sad that I has pre-judged her and found myself wishing more moms would be so generous with their words.
I was a mother with only one child for 3 years. The first 2 years I was a mother with one child who taught 3 days a week as a graduate instructor while working on a dissertation an hour away from where I lived, whose husband worked 60 hours a week an hour in the opposite direction, and who knew from the start that I was not cut out to be a stay-at-home mom.
I look back now (as I lay next to my squirming 4-year-old while she fights going to sleep) and I think “what was I so afraid of?” I rarely let her cry (and I’m still paying for that one) because I figured “I’m here…why shouldn’t I pick her up?” She was almost constantly stimulated because I was so bored. I did just as the author said she did: Made excuses to run errands and took the long way home. Luckily baby did great going out and about.
I was guiltily ecstatic when she started daycare 3 days a week at 3 months and every day at one year. I cried the first day, but I honestly enjoyed my freedom and time with other adults. And I was so happy to go pick her up at the end of the day! I took the break to work and to do some self-improvement where I lost 50 pounds and ran almost every day before I picked her up.
Now that I have 2 kids there are some things that are easier and some that are more difficult. It is easier to stay home with them (especially since the little one is getting older). They can entertain each other, so I don’t feel so chained to either one of them and can accomplish things without feeling guilty that I am depriving them of my constant, unwavering attention. I have definitely learned the value of letting a kid explore and cry a little without interference. (The baby is so much tougher the big sister.) It is harder to do the self-improvement stuff now. Of course, that is probably as much a symptom of having a full-time job and other obligations as it is having a second child.
Overall, this article made me reevaluate my memories of being a mother of one. It was one of the hardest but most rewarding times of my life. It was emotional, humbling, and exhilarating all at the same time. It’s something that I wouldn’t trade but also wouldn’t relive (except maybe a few moments). Motherhood is amazing but exhausting, and we need more positive but realistic portrayals to counteract the more negative ones that are all too common.
It’s not easy…even if you only have one.