That was the line I wrote in my journal today as I thought through my life. How can life be so hard with one kid?!
For many months, we had a demanding, colicky baby. It felt like survival–though not unmanageable–for the first 12-13 months, but since then, we’ve found our groove. He has grown into a normal, happy–even easy!–toddler (as easy as toddlers can be if you ignore his constant night-wakings). We can manage grocery-store trips without nursing or potty breaks, and he can play by himself for short stretches of time. And language-skills make life so much easier!
What’s hard is figuring out why I can’t do more and feeling like I should do more. What’s hard is the feeling that I’m doing something wrong if it takes this much of my time and energy to have just one child.
Don’t misunderstand me. Our days go relatively smoothly. This week I implemented Morning Writing Time for fifteen minutes and twenty minutes of yoga in the afternoon (the latter of which has involved teaching my son that I’m not a jungle gym during Down Dog or a tower he can knock over during Warrior Pose). I cook dinner most nights and keep the house in a general state of cleanliness. I don’t feel totally overwhelmed or even exhausted as long as I nap.
But many mothers can pull off a job and full-time mothering. A great many are expecting–or even have–a second child by the time the first is nineteen months old. I’m outside of survival mode but still close–feeling as though one little thing will push me into it. And I hate survival mode.
But maybe I need to test the limits more. I had a professor who said that you don’t know how far you can go until you go too far, and I see the truth in that. I keep thinking I should be more involved at church or do in-home childcare, or at the very least, not feel overwhelmed at the prospect of taking a meal to new parents.
Life with just one child seemed like it would be smooth and simple with plenty of time to finish decorating the house and painting the baseboards, leading a small group or doing Bible studies at church. At the minimum, I pictured time to write my heart out. But fifteen minutes at a time is a luxury.
I don’t want to live in the land of never enough. I don’t want to live in the land of comparison. But I also don’t want to live in the land of laziness and selfishness or “can’t-get-it-togetherness.”
I have several friends who nanny full-time, all college graduates. They love it and seem to excel. Everyone considers this a legitimate choice for a post-college job (and I do, too). They even get nights and weekends to themselves, and from what I can tell, they don’t feel guilty if they watch Netflix while the baby sleeps while I feel that every second needs to be productive. So I don’t know why I’m so hard on myself.
I know I have a privileged place though. I don’t have to work right now, and though we aren’t free from difficulty entirely (who is?) we are comfortable enough. And I want to be generous with my time and energy. Is taking care of this one sacred little soul enough? And am I enough for him right now?
I feel guilt when I’m not stressed, and this is one of the first times in recent years that I’m not. Being around those who are stressed and exhausted amplifies this. Is it okay to not push myself to the brink, or am I just taking the easy way out? I don’t want to be totally wiped out all the time–I hate the critical, victimized person that comes out of me, but I also don’t want to be overly cautious.
I don’t want to be trying to maintain selfish standards as though the house has to be perfect before I can entertain guests or that I have to successfully implement a certain routine before I can take on more responsibility. Maybe the desire to complete my own tasks–this blog, family memory-keeping, writing–is fruitless. I fear I could fritter my life away. And maybe the sleep deprivation still affects me more than I let on. Life doesn’t feel mundane; keeping ahead of a toddler, teaching him, and watching him grow fascinate me endlessly. I do want to be available for family and friends, making life better for my husband and growing our marriage. But shouldn’t I stretch myself more?
And maybe the question I’m really asking is not “Shouldn’t it be easier?” but “I just have one child; shouldn’t I make life harder?”