The other day, someone told me that obviously, I will need to send Shira to daycare once the new little one is born, because it's "impossible" to have two littles at home full-time (what should one do with twins or triplets, I wonder?). Imagine that! Instead of raising my children side by side, and taking advantage of them both being home so they can truly become the closest and dearest friends, I'm supposed to send one of them away for most of the day.
I didn't feel it was fitting to argue at the moment. I simply said that financially, it doesn't make any sense to shell out money for daycare when I'm staying home with the new baby anyway. It was only then that I got an understanding nod and a resigned sigh: "yes, yes, of course you have no money to spare. But it will be so, so hard on you!"
And just so you understand, the person who voiced such an opinion was an experienced mother of five. After fifteen years of parenting, she believes that being home with one's children is a struggle, and that being home with two of your children is impossible.
Holding such a view is not uncommon. Around here, mothers go out to work when their babies are very young, any misconduct or misbehavior in children later on is explained away by "oh, that's today's youth, there is nothing you can do" (simply spending more time with the children doesn't occur to anyone), and during vacations and holidays, when all the children are home together, havoc reigns and mothers all over the country sigh and say they wish summer was over. This is true even for many religious Jewish families, which is especially sad. No wonder families are becoming detached. Just a generation ago, it was common for a child to be home until they were three years old. Now, most babies are away from home when they are just three months old.
People may have five, six or more children, and never know the joy and comfort of a habit of spending entire days together as a family. Not long ago, someone I know quit her job to raise her one-year-old boy. She confessed to me that she discovered she essentially had no idea what to do with a curious, active baby at home all day long. She was challenged, and surprised – and she is enjoying the experience.
I assume that in every more or less normal family, children are loved. But do we enjoy spending time around our children? Or do we view them as a particularly time-consuming and tedious household chore? I do not want to sound self-righteous. I'm a new mother, learning along the way. I am, as much as anyone else and perhaps more, guilty of impatience, of moments when anything and everything seems more important than a baby who is seeking attention. Of moments when I feel I simply must run off and tend to the laundry, cooking, ironing, or whatever. Of driving myself crazy by thinking about how efficient I could have been, of counting hours that are slipping away and imagining everything I could have accomplished.
But thinking in terms of efficiency and cost and effect is pointless and frustrating when you have children. I have come to realize that being home with my children will never work out if we don't enjoy spending time together, if I don't learn to abundantly pour out time and love into them. Or at least, it will never be joyful. All my life, I have been working with timetables and check lists and goals. Now, it's a special challenge to learn to slow down, sit on the grass with my one-year-old, and count the butterflies. Life has a slower pace, and a sweeter one.
It feels as though from a journey by speed train, I unexpectedly had to switch to a trundle in an old-fashioned horse-and-carriage. It feels unusually slow, and there are bumps along the road – but I can also notice the flowers growing by the road side, smell the grass, hear the birds chirping. It might not be a very efficient way to travel, but I know I will reach my destination anyway. So I can sit back and enjoy the journey. And I love it. Oh yes, I do.