Thursday, October 14, 2004

It Could Always Be Worse (Or Why Mothers Compete)

In Five Year Increments: My Life Is Worse Than Yours

When I was fourteen, getting up and arriving at school on time--with obedient hair and fashionable clothing--consumed my energy. My parents were divorced. My hair was frizzy. I had no social life, but I was a Babysitter Extraordinaire. I had to ride my bicycle to school in the drizzly rain that characterizes the Puget Sound.

When I was nineteen, pining over college boys and studying hermeneutics kept me awake at night. What would I be when I grew up? Would anyone truly love me? Why did he talk to me, but not want to date me anymore?

When I was twenty-four, my customer service job at Blue Cross filled my days. My baby sister's hijinks involving methamphetamines and my dad's death broke my heart. A decision to conceive a child with my husband of two years proved to be the Impossible Dream, leading to severe heart bruising, and not that kind that heals with rest.

When I was twenty-nine, our adopted one year old twin boys wore me out. I no longer had time to read or exercise or write. Our family life revolved around these children, the very center of our universe. I orbited around them, anxious, attentive, devoted. We had no money. We had noise. And diapers. And chaos.

When I was thirty-four, God was still laughing at His surprise. I had another year old baby--a "free" baby I grew myself--and suddenly I wondered how it had seemed stressful to take care of twins. We left our home of four years and moved across the country with three children stuffed into the backseat of our car. Now, we were a family of five. I was tired.

Now, I'm thirty-nine. I have another child, another shocking miracle. She's two now. I used to think I was busy. Even back when I was fourteen! And yet, every step along the way had added more, more, more. More laundry, more decisions, more expense, more children.

Last night, upon hearing that I'd agreed to take a transcription job for my occasional-boss, the private investigator, my husband said, "Did you not have enough to do? Shall I pick up an application from 7-11 so you can work the night shift?"

I have a 2 year old.
I have a 6 year old.
I have 11 year old twins. I am schooling them at home.
I babysit another 2 year old, nine hours a day.
Today, I watched a third 2 year old for two hours.
I typed tonight.

And today someone dared tell me that a 2 year old is easier--way easier, much easier, so easy, compared to having a teenager.

That is not what I need to hear two short years before I have two teenagers.

It reminded me of this lady I met at a writing class way back when I was a young woman, on a waiting list to adopt a baby. She heard about my situation and told me in a girlish voice, "I have nine adopted children. Worst mistake I ever made. I had no idea what I was doing. I totally regret it."

Well. Um. Thanks for the encouragement.

Is it just human nature that we play this weird competitive game? "My Life is So Much Harder." Or "I Know Someone Who Has It Worse?" Or "You Will Hate That. Don't Try!"

I used to feel burdened by the pressures of junior high. And the rigors of college life nearly broke me. And the early days of marriage when my dad died and my responsibilities increased and my reproductive system wouldn't work knocked me down like a runaway boulder.

And then motherhood. Oh, motherhood! These children obviously hadn't read "Martha Stewart Living" or her companion magazine about children. For one, they hate wearing sweaters. And then, they hate art projects. They wouldn't pee in the potty until they were three and a half.

Life was difficult. And then I had another child. And another. And more kid-debris and more bills and this part-time gig babysitting.

But I would never tell a new mom, "Oh just wait. It gets worse. Much, much worse. You might want to rethink that second kid. Stop while you're ahead."

I live by two slogans: This too shall pass and things could always be worse.

And please, I'm begging you, just tell me I'm right. Things are going to get better, easier, or at least that my boys will stop spitting popcorn kernels at each other.


Blogger WordsRock said...

Life with a two-year old is challenging.
Life with a teenager is equally as challenging.
But in completely different ways.

Things will get easier.
Not sure if things will get better.
But they will get easier.

I would never lie to a pastor's wife.
No way, no how.

Easier is in your future. Just a decade or so down the road. And then you'll wonder how it all got away so quickly. :)

5:34 AM  
Blogger Judy said...

I once wrote a letter to my husband, which I SAVED (and even know where it is!) about the details of a day in my life which included having a 3 year old, a 1 year old, and being 8 months pregnant - AND having a house full of mice (later that month we had a possum in the house...but i digress).

But here is the HOPE I have to offer... Today, 20 years later, I'm sitting on the coach in my den, watching the History Channel. My very old dog sits faithful next to me. My cat is also trying to be my laptop. My husband now works 8:30 - 5:30 M-F instead of the 'never knew from week to week' of the first 20 some years of our marriage. Two of my children are married. My 20 year old is the only one still here, occassionally. My Bible Study that was going to meet here today was cancelled, so my house is even relatively clean! I'll have to work this afternoon, and practice the keyboard for Sunday's service...but, for now, I'll just sit here and offer you some hope! IT GETS BETTER! I LOVED my kids teenage years, although they were challenging - at least with teenagers you can sometimes sneak out of the house without having to pay for a babysitter. My favorite part of their growing up was not having to DRIVE them everywhere. I think I still need some therapy to recover from that. Now I drive my parents to doctor's appointments, but they say 'thank you' and mean it!

I require massive amounts of 'alone' time, to think and process things. I get that now. It's not at all dull around here, but I get that quiet time that I craved so desparately, but never got. I remember taking baths, just so I could put my head underwater and not hear a thing but my own thoughts.

6:05 AM  
Blogger Tina said...

Well, I'll say that *most* things get better...
And I must add that I hate the "weird competitive game."

7:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't count how many times I've heard "just wait until the baby gets here." So encouraging! I know it will be hard, but we'll adjust and I'll do the best I can. I don't expect it to be easy, but I don't expect it to be horrible either. I'll just keep thinking "this too shall pass." ~Mary

7:33 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Don't lose heart, Mel, things will get better! My motto is also "this too shall pass" and think of all the things that have passed. And while the boys may be spitting popcorn kernals at one another now, just imagine in a few years they will be driving themselves away from the house to school or a part time job and there will not be time for spitting popcorn kernals! and by then you will have taught them how to do their own laundry and that load will lighten and then you can run out and pick up that app to 7-11 your hubby was talking about. i do not know any of this from expereince, but my hope and what I hang on to is that, yes, this too shall pass and one day, I'll be able to go to the bathroom ALONE!

9:52 AM  
Blogger Brandie said...

Oh Melodee ... I have to tell you ... I tell a lot of people "this too shall pass" I picked it up from you on the mb. I also tell myself that during my hard times ... so I will be the first to tell you "this too shall pass."
And in regards to others telling you it will get harder ... that is for htem and their kids and their situation. What is hard for them may be easy for you and the reverse is quite true I'm sure as well ;-)

7:35 PM  
Blogger G~ said...

Oh, Melodee...I said "You are so unlike me" until you got to the two slogans part.

I hate that competative stuff INTENSELY!!!!

When I was pregnant w/my first at the tender age of 21...and having had diabetes for a mere 13 yrs at the time...I had to see the OB AT LEAST every other week...and EVERY TIME I had to go to the lab to "get stuck" and I'd hear these women whining about having to go for the FIRST time for lab work at six months.

That just irked me. But I said nothing unless they whined directly to me. Then I'd inform them about REAL life.

Anyhow, I also witnessed the whole "This is my umpteenth's HORRIBLE! Just wait til they make the cut, wait til you rip, then wait til they get colic, and cut teeth and get constipated.."

URGH!! It just ticked the heck outta me.

You could TELL they were doing that "my life is so much worse than yours" thing.

I too live by those slogans. I could tell you tons of stories about medical nightmares I've lived...but I know, I KNOW it could ALWAYS be worse, so I count my blessings and go on. I share my stories only to glorify the Lord since He's the one who has brought me through them all.

It may not necessarily get better, I guess that all depends on when you ask *heh* and it depends on your point of view...but things change, seasons come and go...try to enjoy them as best you can and press forward.

~hugs to you~

1:54 PM  
Blogger Chelsea said...

My first time on your blog. I have no kids so I can't tell you what it's going to be like, but I enjoyed reading this anyway.

I know what it's like though to be working in "This too shall pass" and you know what, it always has.
So I guess spitting popcorn kernals will pass too.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Chelsea said...

I just read "A Terse Note... I loved it. I was on a church staff for about four and a half years and very surprised at what people would complain about.

The worst part is I'm wondering if before I was on staff if I didn't often feel the same anger and hurts. The difference was, I didn't complain about them.

I've never been a pastor's wife and I applaud you for your sense of humor about what goes on. Especially the stuff that's "confidential" Oh how I hated that word.

Thanks for this entry.

3:43 PM  
Blogger wifemotherme said...

::Sign:: The day will come soon enough that the boys do quit spitting popcorn at each other. In the place of a playful preteen you will see grown men and long for the days where you had them near enough to know they were spitting popcorn at each other.

8:52 AM  

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