God, that sounds terribly arrogant, but I’m not quite sure how else to put it.
The fact is, I was raised as the product of a double-income, single-child household in solid middle class USA. My mother not only had a degree, but was a highschool teacher, and thus the utmost emphasis was placed on education. My father was classic blue collar and proud of it, but expected the world of me – and likely for good reason. I had potential. I was streamed into honors programs and classes through most of my pre-university years, and aside from the hell of middle school, I achieved high grades. With very little exception, when my grades slumped it was due to lack of effort rather than lack of understanding or ability. By and large I relished the positon that put me in. I was comfortably near the top without sticking out like a tall poppy. I was solidly good without the pressure of being exceptional.
It was always expected that I would proceed straight from highschool to college, get a four year degree and possibly more, then settle down into a solid, respectable career. Somewhere in the path I would likely find a life partner, although honestly there wasn’t much emphasis on that. And it was assumed I’d probably want kids – 2, most likely, because one is dumb (said as an only child) and more than two is silly on so many levels. Plus I’d probably be nearing the end of my childbearing years by then, so mightn’t have huge amounts of choice in the matter.
So clearly I got off track fairly early on in the piece, by getting married straight out of highschool and moving all the way to New Zealand, leaving worrying about the degree til later. I managed to snag a reasonable entry-level office admin assistant type job, held it until I got permanent residency and only then started my tertiary education. I burned myself solidly out of that by the third year, took a break by getting another series of jobs then got pregnant. All things considered, we thought that was probably a good thing – mum’s health was starting to fail, she might want grandkids. I was already burnt out of University, this would give me a different focus.
I went back to work – for a week. They loved me – but I had just gotten a positive pregnancy test. Knowing how much pregnancy takes out of me, I made the call that it wouldn’t be fair to them to only give half of myself, and resigned.
For sheer practical reasons, I finished up my last year of University (with significant child-care help from my husband) and got the BA I’d started – mainly so the money already invested wouldn’t be lost under changing requirements for the degree. But then I had 3 more kids, including a stillbirth. I tried going back to work after #4, as I was desperately missing adult connection. Another menial entry-level job – 30 hours a week give or take – and I LOVED it. But had to resign that one after 6 weeks as we were rapidly losing money during the process, to the tune of about $200 in the hole after childcare.
So, now I’m “just” a mom. Can’t afford to be anything else.
Which would be fine, if I was any good at it.
I have four children, and I’m not sure I can manage any of them. As it is, the three ‘big’ kids (ranging from 6.5 to 2.5) are in school or care 30+ hours a week. And I STILL can’t cope with them in the 2 – 3 hours per day in between school / kindy finishing and the husband getting home.
I’m not managing to get dinners cooked.
Washing is done but almost never folded, just picking through baskets of clean clothing to find the required item.
I long since gave up cleaning the house – instead the husband does a hurried “everything off the floor” blitz tidy Wednesday morning and pay a cleaner to do everything else, despite the fact we can’t really afford it.
You’d think by the fourth (living) baby I’d know what I was doing – but this time around, I don’t seem to. Breastfeeding at least has been pretty trouble free, but this baby’s had reflux issues, which is totally new to me. Most of these have been solved by going dairy free, which – although I MISS cheese and other dairy – has certainly been easier / preferrable to having an unhappy, unsettled baby due to pain.
But, he’s still not a fan of sleep. And less of a fan of sleeping without the breast in his mouth. Which would be fine, if a) I could sleep while breastfeeding. But I can never get anything past a light doze. We ‘can’ co-sleep, but by that I mean the baby on one side of the Queen size bed in his little pocket, and me far on the other edge. And still I don’t sleep as well. Ideally he’d be in the hammock in the same room, as I sleep best when room-sharing. Close enough I can still easily hear the baby without anxiety over monitors, but far enough away I’m not subconsciously trying to prevent accidental smothering. Baby has other plans though, and only sleeps in it now and then without significant complaining.
Baby does not travel well in the car – he does sometimes sleep in his seat, but if he’s not sleeping, he’s usually screaming. And he overstimulates and overtires super easy, making it a mission to get out of the house.
I’m hardly managing to get myself fed and watered these days. Showers are only happening maybe twice a week, when I need to go out, plus about one bath a week shared with the baby.
Meanwhile my five year old has had a birthday and had no party for it. And while I know not every birthday needs a party – 5 is pretty special here. And she’s only had one proper party before, as every year something’s come up and it’s been cancelled. Compared to the eldest, who had a party every year but this past year. Compared to virtually all her friends, who had stunning magical parties, which I couldn’t even manage to take her to, but had to rely on DH to do that.
The five year old started school in the middle of last week and I havent’ managed to do one night’s worth of reading with her yet – three days into school and she’s yet to have done her homework properly.
The six year old meanwhile started the school year nearly a full term ago, and most days doesn’t even remember her book bag, and certainly isn’t doing her school reading most nights either. Granted, she’s a great reader… but we’re failing her there.
There is no one-on-one time with my children, other than the baby.
I’ve had to leave the baby to scream in his hammock (gee, wonder why he hates it) on multiple occasions because I’m worried I may lose it if I don’t. All the while wanting to stab myself listening to him screaming and going over the multitude of ways it’s damaging to them and hurting him. I have only one child with me for most of the time DH is at work, and I still can’t manage that.
My eldest two spend virtually all their waking hours in front of the computer – gee, wonder where they learned that? But it’s hardly anything to be proud of. I have no patience with them. At the moment the only way I benefit any of the three girls is simply by being a taxi driver, and a (fairly incompetent) babysitter until DH is home.
I’m 30 years old and have amounted to nothing so far.
I have a degree that’s next to useless.
I don’t have a career or an industry to go back to.
I’m unemployable due to 7 years out of the workforce and two blips of a job both quit due to not managing to have children and work.
I can’t keep my baby happy.
I’m not their for my older children other than in case of emergency.
My house and health have gone to hell, my relationship is heading there fast.
I’m 30 years old and I’m a failure.
The only use I am is as a boob to the baby. Which is nice, I guess, especially with the dairy complications. But really I’m no more use than as a family cow.
This is not the life I was raised for. This is not the life I was meant to have.