We are in a stage of life where we feel that we are simply ticking boxes. Lunchboxes? Check. Faces washed? Check. Beds made? Check. Dinner on? Check. Pick kids up from school? Check.
You get the idea.
Having a 7 and 9 year gap between babies certainly has its benefits, but the thing I have found the most challenging is going from having a straightforward life with two boys who were able to get their brekkie, do their own seat belt up, stay up late if we wanted to go out with friends, use their words to tell us if they are upset… these things were the things that made life pretty cruisey with two lads. Now we are caught between two worlds, and the littlest lads needs often supersede those of the big lads. Enter Mother-Guilt.
The fact is, they older lads know what they are missing. They had years of life as the four of us. They had years of attentive, creative and downright awesome parenting. Then BAM, it all changed. One example I can offer is that I express for 1-2 hours a day to keep my supply up for Toby, and this is one of the biggest challenges we are faced with. Isaac verbalized what we have all been thinking yesterday when he said to me as I was doing the morning pumping session, “Mum, life would be so much better if you didn’t have to express.” Ouch. The tension between wanting to continue breastfeeding Toby and wanting to be more available to Isaac and Asher is agonising. I recall when Asher was 7 months old, I made the decision to stop breastfeeding for the same reasons. Milk has never flowed freely from these breasts, and I have had to work so hard to feed all of my babies. This tension is something I will live with for now, because I do not feel ready to end this journey with Toby.
I could not count the number of people who have warned me of the impact of a third child over the years, prophesying that if you are going to have three children, you may as well have seven because the third seems to tip the scales exponentially. I used to scoff at those people; as if! Now I get it. I really do. How a third tiny person can throw the balance with such force is one of life’s great mysteries. Yet this is our new normal. The new normal is taking some time to get used to, but ticking boxes seems to be our forte right now, so we aim to tick those boxes with as much grace and patience as we can muster (on most days), with a silly song and a chapter of Harry Potter or Charlotte’s Web thrown in on the days when boxes are ticked and time is spared. We make choices that create more boxes, such as healthy eating and me going back to work for 13 hours a week, but we believe these boxes are important for the bigger picture.
I do not want to despise the everyday acts of family life, so I must remind myself that these are the days I will one day look back on with longing. My own mother reflects on the hardest days of her life as a single parent with three children with such affection that it astounds me. The hardships and the drudgery have not shaped her recollections, rather the joy of raising tiny humans. There is a wide-eyed wonder to be experienced when we see the world through the eyes of a child, and this is the very thing parents the world over long for, when it is gone. One day, when these lads see through the eyes of an adult, and no longer crawl into our laps or beg for another chapter, when they take themselves to bed rather than waiting for prayers and made up stories, these are the boxes that I will one day wish I was still ticking.
So we shall tick, tick, tick the monotonous boxes, but we shall use a sparkling gold glitter pen to tick them, because these small acts are the essence of family and what I always longed for when we wondered if the miracle of children would ever be ours.