Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Each Number of Kids Is A Lot of Work

The last few days have been incredibly busy because I was frantically working away at a big presentation for work (now done) and somehow despite (or perhaps indeed because of) the fact that he doesn't do anything other than eat, sleep and fill diapers, the newest Darwin seems to make it very hard to get anything done.

However, there was a point during Sunday afternoon when, suddenly, everything became quiet. The oldest four kids had all gone off to play with various friends around the street. I was making dinner. MrsDarwin was writing. Miss Three-year-old was by turns dancing and coloring in a coloring book from Christmas. Young William was snoozing quietly in his swing.

It was all so quiet. We could talk. MrsDarwin could write without anyone wanting to get on PBS KIds or put music on iTunes. I could cook without people demanding to know when dinner would be and what it would be and whether they could have an apple so they didn't die of hunger in the next fifteen minutes (and can we make popcorn sometime? Dad, we never get to make popcorn! Pleeeeeeeeease?)

"You know," I said to MrsDarwin, this is normal for most people. "Two kids. No wonder everyone thinks we're crazy."

It was awfully nice for a brief while. Still, thinking about it, that's in great part because we live a five kid life, yet were temporarily down to two. People who lead one kid or two kid lives are themselves pretty busy, I would imagine. Oh, sure, the sheer amount of noise and mess that six kids can generate in a short period of time is unmatched by smaller numbers. But arguably most of why things seemed so quiet is because we currently have organized ourselves into a five kid life -- and we're currently going through the difficult process of adjusting that to a six kid life.

You decide what activities to get involved in, what things to own, what rules to set, what routines to follow based on the number of kids that you have. You may not do this consciously, but eventually, things fall into place. You organize around what you deal with, and you tend to organize to capacity: some precarious balance between the demands upon you and the things you need and want to get done.

Add another kid, especially the particular demands of a new baby who needs to be held and fed and gazed at tenderly much of the time, and for a while everything falls apart. Then you reach a new normal which is adapted to the demands of having the number of kids you have. From what those who have started down the other side, with the number of kids falling as older ones move out, have told me, it sounds like adaptation works in the other direction too. As you have fewer kids, you gradually adjust your life so that on most days it still seems like it's a lot of kids even though you now have fewer.

Sure, looking back, when we only had one or two kids there were things we could have done differently that would have given us a lot more time. But that's a six kid parent talking.

The good news is that it's not nearly as impossible as people think to adjust to having more children -- so long as you're not utterly rigid in your ideas of how things will run in your house. We always seem to come to a new normal which (though it's not easy) doesn't actually seem harder than before. The bad news is: there really is just never time.


Jenny said...

"The bad news is: there really is just never time."

I absolutely fill up the time I have doing whatever it is I have to do, no matter how much or how little. Most of the time it isn't a conscious change in productivity, but it does happen. The old saying that if you want something done, ask a busy person is true after all. Except me. Don't ask me. I am busy, but it won't get done. :)

One thing that is interesting to observe with having several children is how the group dynamics change depending on who is around. Sending just one kid off somehow disproportionately dials the noise down.

Julia said...

This is very true. I frequently point out to people who say they could never manage 5 kids that it's not as if they all arrive at once. One does build up stamina. (Though I'm afraid quintuplets truly would do me in.)

Some day they'll all be able to read, too, and that's a different kind of quiet.

Enjoy your moments of peace.

Amber said...

So true! I went out and did six errands with just our six week old last Friday, and it felt like a vacation. No one talked to me in the car, I got to listen to what I wanted to listen to, no one had to be told (over and over) not to touch anything, etc. etc. etc.

If I had tried to go out and do errands like that twelve years ago when my first was that old, I am pretty sure I would have died.

I'm glad you are getting at least occasional bits of peace and quiet around the house!

Anonymous said...

I remember when I had one kid and an older woman asked how I was coping and I told her life was really busy. She relied that her mother has eight kids and would say: "my first child took up ALL my time, the others have not taken up any more time."