Lately I've been devouring all available information on families with enough immediate members to fill a football-team roster, like the Gosselin brood, the clan from "Nine By Design," the wonder that is "19 Kids and Counting," Octomom and her litter of 14, and the cast of "Eight is Enough." Given that I'm struggling a bit to find balance with my own plus one, my uterus and I tip our hats to those able to stage the finale of "Hair" solely with the people seated at their breakfast table.
I completely realize the sensation of gushing, oozing, unconditional, uncontrollable, irreplaceable and irresistible love when my daughter snores softly as the full weight of her is cuddled up tightly in my arms. Or when she plants a sweet, unsolicited kiss on my lips, complete with the "Mmmwah" sound effect. Or when she reaches up to hold my hand as we walk down the street, marching just a little more sprightly as soon as our fingers are clasped. It's at those moments that I want more (hugs and babies).
In general, my daughter acts like a healthy 21-month-old girl -- she sings, stacks blocks, shoves lint from the crevice of the couch into her ears and throws Eyjafjallajökull-like tantrums at astonishingly inappropriate times in very public places. I work from home, although if she gets her way, the only work I actually get done these days is showing her the 2,490 pictures of herself that are stored on my computer. Over. And. Over.
There's the basic kind of Mom-busy that accompanies earning a paycheck, running errands, shopping for, preparing and eating meals, taking showers and giving baths, and paying bills. And then there's the extraordinary kind of Mom-busy that accompanies tending to a toddler who jumped out of her crib due to the hysteria brought on by the pain of a sore throat and double ear infection, which trumps all of the aforementioned busy. Although it doesn't mean that any of that aforementioned busy is dismissed. Which is why I wonder sometimes how anyone ever decides they have time to raise another (second, third, fourth, fifth or 20th) child.
Since my little girl was born nearly two years ago I have ached for a night alone. Not because I don't love her more than my own limbs, but because it wouldn't kill me to not be on call every night like an ER doctor at a hospital with a staff of two.
Earlier this month my husband and I finally made a break for it and went to a hotel 10 miles from home, leaving our daughter in the gentle care of my mother-in-law. I can count on less than two hands how many nights she hasn't slept 10-12 straight hours. Unfortunately our night away was one of them. We came back the next morning to a frazzled grandma and a child going on her 26th hour without sleep. Was it at that point that we were supposed to decide whether to expand our family?
While we now have a bed for her, in the next four weeks we'll be traveling twice, and since I don't want to get her used to the bed only to move her back to a crib in a hotel, we're holding off on making the transition until we're home for the duration. Which means even when she's asleep now, I'm busy with worry about whether she's going to jump crib again. It's surprising how much time and effort that kind of busy requires.
So that I can focus more on work, my husband and I hired a nanny. She doesn't start until the end of the month, but I've already taken an encyclopedia's worth of mental notes about the things she should know about my kid, and my kid is an easy one (seriously). I can't imagine how much more work it would be to leave multiple kids, or a not easy one, in someone else's care.
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be one of those chill moms, like the one I had dinner with the other night. While we were in a restaurant, she had her mom putting her four kids to bed and then once they were asleep, the grandma planned to go back to the hotel where she was staying, because really, why can't the kids be left alone for a few hours when they're asleep. It's moms like those, the kind who shrug off H1N1 and vaccines, and count broken arms and stitches like others count sheep and cards, who seem to have an easier time than me grasping the idea of bunk beds and third-generation hand-me-downs. They also get that many more kisses.
When my daughter was a few months old I remember telling an acquaintance about how fortunate I felt for having such an easy baby.
The woman looked at me and said with a saccharine smile, "It's not luck. God only gives us what we can handle."
Which is what leads me to wonder how and when I'll know I've reached capacity.