My family spent Mother’s Day weekend in the Methow Valley, a four-hour drive northeast from Seattle. We rented a cabin with another family of small children with the idea that the three-year old boys could romp and wrestle (which they did) and the babies could oggle each other (also happened). It was as good as a weekend with small children can be, which is to say, lots of interrupted conversations, short hikes that took forever, and crappy sleep.
As far as our life goes right now, that’s about as much fun as we get. We could all remember the time not so long ago when a weekend in the mountains meant long hikes to gorgeous peaks followed by leisurely dinners and a restful night’s sleep. The morning we left to come home, the other mother and I were packing while the dads had the kids outside for one more trip to the creek to throw rocks and pine cones in the water. We talked about how much our lives have changed since we had kids and how we really didn’t know it would be like this.
I came to motherhood from the perspective that I always knew I wanted to have children. In my early to mid-30’s I started to hear the biological drumbeat, “I want a baby. I want a baby.” So we had one. For my friend, it was more considered. She also knew she wanted kids, but she and her husband put it off for a bit to enjoy the quiet life just a little longer. Still, neither of us were fully prepared for the immense toll having kids has taken. As another friend put it in a previous conversation, “Basically, your life is ruined.”
And it’s true. Life as we knew it, with careers, exercise and yoga classes, dinners with friends that start at 8pm and go on until the wine runs out, Sunday papers that get read over coffee, phone calls that last as long as we want, all of this, is over. And truthfully, it isn’t easy to give it up.
Later that day when we arrived home I was given a Mother’s Day respite to actually sit down and read the Sunday paper. I came across this article in the Washington Post about a new trend in fertility treatments in which young women freeze their eggs so they can delay pregnancy. Although I honestly think it’s great that this could potentially offer people more opportunities and choices in becoming parents, I couldn’t help but think about the conversation I had earlier that day with my friend. How much more difficult would it all be if I had waited ten more years to have my kids? How much more tired would I be at the end of the day? How much more sad would I be to give up my way of life?
After dinner and bedtime routines, I remembered the Mother’s Day gift my son had made for me in school that he brought home on Friday. When I unwrapped the tissue paper, there was a small yellow pillow filled with lavender. On the edges in black thread I could see that my son had sewn the seam. The stitches were uneven and imperfect. I imagined him sitting in a small chair, his face deep in concentration, his fingers holding tight to the needle. Such hard work. A labor of love, it all is. And I knew in that moment that I would choose it all over again.