September 21, 2015 § Leave a comment
My eldest child is sixteen.
He drives now. He travels all over our city armed with his transport card and a mobile phone. Right now he is living with my mother because she lives closer to his work experience location, and he has arranged his lunches and everything he needs himself. I have been called upon for one thing only: money.
It doesn’t really matter which child is missing, but one less child means things feel quite a bit more relaxed at home. I use these times to catch up on things, and lately my time is also being spent pondering the larger picture of life. Now that my teenager seems ready to step out in the world alone, I can reflect on the journey of parenthood from the very beginning to this point now – where I feel my son will be fully independent in no time at all.
When I left high school and was pondering career choices, I shied away from many things I was interested in – paramedic, morgue worker (yes, they were what I thought I wanted to do despite having no talent for science and top marks for essay writing and history!). I could not imagine myself doing anything entailing massive responsibility, and I remember that feeling as a conscious thought.
I drifted along in my arts degree, and met my husband literally the week after I finished, providing an escape from having to think about a career. We took off travelling. Then I studied kinesiology – again I shied away from becoming professional. I didn’t want the responsibility of expectation that I could help people.
Ironically, I have embraced the greatest responsibility of all: childrearing. With five children, I have accepted into my life a massive load. When my children were babies and toddlers, it was hard to imagine the worry about teenagers that now keeps me awake into the night. And this is only the first child – there are four more to go!
My son wants a cat. And this extra responsibility, I already know, is too much for me. We always had cats and dogs when I was growing up. It was normal for me. I remember when I was a teenager, left at home for a week whilst my mother went to a spiritual retreat. I came home one night with my older sister to find my beloved ginger cat sitting in the hallway with a puffy, injured eye. That sight was a shock to me, but what was worse is that I was responsible for the cat, and I had no money to take him to the vet. My sister stepped in to save the day but that experience has stayed with me, and not in a good way.
Now we have guinea pigs and our children love them, and they seem just the right amount of work for us to manage. But a cat as well….I would almost rather have another baby than get a cat! The responsibility involved overwhelms me. I wonder about this theme in my life – maybe responsibility is one my major life lessons to come to terms with.
Last night, I held one of our guinea pigs in my arms as he passed away. I sobbed and sobbed over this little animal.
Later, in bed, I asked the angels to help me be strong enough for the responsibilities in my life. I have a deep determination to always be there for my children, but some days things can feel very overwhelming.
May 20, 2015 § Leave a comment
The days are running by too fast at the moment. We are preparing to move house – something I have done many times in the past fifteen years. However this time feels like an epic move, it being five years since the last one. Who knew that just one more child could mean so much more stuff?!
I have three jobs at the moment: pack the house ready to move, make endless phone calls and visits to open homes in the search for the perfect home for our family, and to keep the household and family running smoothly throughout all this time.
In between this busyness however, I have experienced two weekends of sweet moments with my family. Mother’s Day came and went rather fast, as I was studying that day and did not see my husband at all! But he sent a box of chocolates with the children to pass on to me when I picked them up from Nana’s (which they did not), as well as a lovely hand drawn card that Samuel made for me.
The girls made their own special cards and gifts for me at school. I am so thankful for teachers that think to do this with the children in their care – as Sol is still learning that these occasions and gifts are one of my ‘love languages’, and as I am still learning that they are not for him – well, sometimes these days get fraught with tension. This year it was liberating, and all the more meaningful for me, that everything except the chocolates came from the children themselves. The girls showered me with hand drawn cards and felt necklaces and bulb babies wrapped in felted autumn leaves. So beautiful.
And best of all was the spontaneous “happy Mother’s Day mum” I received from my teenager when I picked him up from the station. No one to prompt him, or remind him – made those few words enough.
The following weekend my teenager and I indulged in our shared affinity for Asian cinema with the movie Helios. Movies are my go-to activity when I need a break from children clambouring all over me, from childrens’ noise and mess and demands. To sit in a movie theatre in the dark for two hours and be transported into another reality is bliss for me.
That was Saturday night. And now, back to packing….
February 16, 2015 § Leave a comment
Despite my most fervent intentions to blog here with much higher frequency this year, the beginning of the new school year has found me focused on family and not on writing.
Oh, how I was enjoying January. I always feel as though I only just manage to limp over the finish line of school and other commitments every December, only to turn around and be staring down the barrel of Christmas and all that is entailed there. Christmas Day 2014 found me deeply exhausted and just wishing for it all to be over, which of course it was rather quickly.
After all the busy-ness of present buying and wrapping and trifle making and two full days of celebrations, suddenly there were no more commitments or things to do. New Years’ Eve passed rather quietly in our house, and I wrote about the deep sense of unease I was feeling with no defined purpose or to-do list here.
To break out the funk both Sol and I were feeling, we organised a very last minute holiday to the south coast of NSW. It was full of uncomfortable feelings and some family tensions, but also of some awesome fun in the surf, some gorgeous nature scenes, kangaroos by the side of the road and a fantastic outdoor bath. All in all, a pretty normal holiday I think.
It did the trick….we returned revitalised and I easily slipped into a lovely summer holiday vibe….spending lots of time swimming with the children in various locations, but also getting some decluttering done at home. All of a sudden I didn’t want it to end….the soccer competition we all enjoyed watching on TV, not worrying about bedtimes so much, and that lovely feeling of harmony in the family when the pressure is off.
But time continued its inevitable march and a new school year arrived. Zara began fulltime school and now there are four lunchboxes to fill each morning, four bodies to nudge into bed as early as practical, and lots of sports bags to pack and slippers and pencils to buy.
I must admit, as much as I sighed with relief on the first day to have a few hours at home (almost) alone, that this year the return to routine has been hard. As our boys grow older it feels more and more important to support their after school activity choices, as they slowly discover their interests and passions. But of course this makes life busy after school as well as before.
In my usual style, I have charged full steam ahead with my own plans, running three weekly craft groups (pics to come soon!), and one playgroup day. It doesn’t sound like much but once preparation time is added, on top of the usual household things, it makes for a busy life. I like busy, I thrive on busy, but there can be a fine line between healthy busy an overwhelming. And as always. I am treading that fine line, sometimes crossing over into the overwhelm, sometimes managing everything like a champ and feeling on top of the world.
So as I ease into the school term, I learn to manage it better each week. My focus now is on my eldest two boys cooking one meal a week, and packing their own bags and lunches. Small things, yes, but just one more step towards independence for them, and a bit less for me to be responsible for. And now….some pics from our whirlwind summer holidays.
September 30, 2014 § Leave a comment
Last week I read this piece on the conflict between wanting more children but feeling the time has passed. The sentiments have remained on my mind since then, and I feel compelled to write my own version, specific to my own set of circumstances.
I remember myself as a child, fantasizing that instead of just one brother and sister, I had three of each! I loved the hustle and bustle and the sense of camaraderie I observed in larger families in my community. I remember one particular family we were close to, with six children. We used to go on regular holidays with this family: days of canoeing down the Kangaroo River, lots of bushwalking in the Blue Mountains, and a trip to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef that I was invited to along with one of their sons. I revered the can-do attitude of the parents, and the tight knit unit of their family.
I have always been a little bit all-or-nothing. I wanted no children, or lots! As a young woman, it was no children. Then I met my husband and rather quickly we were pregnant, and a whole new future opened up for me – a future that involved lots of children, a bustling house and that adventurous spirit I fell in love with as a child.
I love being pregnant. I love giving birth. I love nurturing babies and young children. Beneath the worry, I love the unchartered territories my eldest is dragging us into as he strides through his teenage years. And I do now have a large family, with five wonderful, individual children. We have had lots of adventures, though as number four and five have come along those adventures have changed, have become less carefree.
I know in my head that five is enough. Our house is full, our hands are full, our days are full. Meeting everyone’s needs in the family often feels impossible, despite the numerous gifts and positives that many siblings bring. We chose an independent school for these special souls, and that often pushes us to our limits financially. We began our family before we had established careers, and both Sol and I would like to catch up in this area, and even to get ahead. It is insanely hard trying to transition careers with so many dependents, and so many time demands. And then there is the whole population debate – I sense it is becoming less and less socially acceptable or responsible to create large families, in a world that many see as already over-populated.
Now our youngest is two, and we are moving out of the ‘baby stages’. Life has begun to get a little easier for us all. I tell myself that after fifteen years of pregnancies and births and breastfeeding and babies, that it is OK to move on to the next stage of life. Now my personal goals can enter the frame. This is both thrilling and terrifying. I have never had a career. My goals center around a business based on myself and my creative skills, and I am out of my depth even thinking about the possibilities of these goals becoming realities. Motherhood and more babies have now become the safe choice: choosing to leave those days behind and push myself into new areas is the adventure.
My midwife used to tell me that in her experience, a woman ‘just knows’ when she is done. I’ve yet to have that knowing. As I finish breastfeeding my youngest child, a void opens up in my body. There is space there, in my heart and in my womb, for one more. It is not rational, or sensible, or logical.
But it is insistent, like the constant beating of my heart. It is there.