MY KID’S BIRTHDAY.
Recently we had a chance to discuss and compare our various experiences regarding our kids with a friend. We both have three children, with a difference. She gave birth to triplets at a young age; I had three children with a few years in between each one. Nobody plans for the number of kids at single birth of course. The triplets came not only as a huge surprise; it was the greatest challenge the young couple had to face. Physically, emotionally, financially, logistically it was draining and naturally it seemed impossible at times. Yet they managed and emerged with flying colors. True, there is a vast difference between men and women in all matters pertaining to kids. The most obvious one is, women carry the ever-growing bulge 24/7 for nine months, then give birth. Women are the ones who nurse, who stay home for at least some time, who cook and do shopping and take children to school and attend various meetings and functions et cetera et cetera. When my friend had triplets, she was more or less given to understand at work that for now it was the end of her career. That’s where the most important consideration comes to the fore. Once we have a family we all need to choose. Abandon babies to nannies and caregivers and pursue a career at all costs? Why have children then? A baby is not only a lot of expenses; they are also a great responsibility. We want our children to grow up and have a good life; we are the ones who need to work at it. Nobody can be a substitute for parents.
Yes, we agreed with my friend that family comes first for us. Yes, we had to work out certain compromises. We coincided in the perception that any child is a huge stimulus, a driving force for responsible parents. Three kids are three powerful stimuli for career advancement too, though not for both parents simultaneously. In a good marriage it is possible to discuss strategies and work out solutions, to make decisions and stick to them. My friend’s husband moved quickly along the career ladder while she cared for the kids. Listening to her, I compared my own experience. All the cares and worries, all the expenses and time, multiplied by three, sure, that sounded familiar. Their kids finished school by the time the parents were forty. The mother had plenty of time to devote to her work now. Her progress was slower than it might have been when she was younger, but she now had more work experience, more general knowledge of life and her profession. Some things like using a lot of technology and speaking a foreign language at conferences and events were harder to master now that she was not very young. On the other hand, with her husband occupying one of the top positions in their field, some things were easier to arrange. And there has always been not only a huge support from their children but also the gratifying sense of achievement.
I thought to myself, it was hard for her, but I could see one advantage: three kids at school at once, just one big chunk of time, one set of things to be done. I endured twenty years of school, the crazy schedules, the good and bad teachers, the friendships and breakups, the cliques and downgrading, the love and envy, and all those endless PTA meetings. Well, your child’s school years just need to be endured. I used to check my face in the mirror at times to see if I was still me. By the time my youngest kid finished school I was a few years away from retirement age. As I now assure any young or prospective parent if they ask how to cope, “You will be fine, you’ll survive! Look at me, I went through that same process three times and I’m still alive”. I also still look almost human.
We celebrate birthdays and anniversaries in my family, it’s a tradition handed down from my grandparents via my parents to us. So here is another advantage: I wake up several times a year, remember what date it is, and get a very warm feeling inside. It is my kid’s birthday! My mind effortlessly goes back a number of years, I can feel the same emotions (without the attending pain), the same incredible joy when she was born at midnight and we looked at each other for the first time. It was never an easy going but we managed it. “I remember this photo!” my kids exclaim when I show them a picture of themselves as babies and me as a young mother. “I remember you at that time!” I invariably reply. The world is a better, a more beautiful place because it has our children living in it. No matter where they are they are always here with me. Our life has a purpose to it. We know this huge Love and carry it around permanently.