This Wasn’t The Life I Asked For, But It’s Mine.
I was a super busy mum of four children and then I wasn’t, it was that fast.
These days I am raising an only child in 2-bedroom apartment 2500+ kilometres North from a place I used to call home. A place I will likely never call home again.
Oh, how I miss the noise and the chaos.
I used to be curious of friends who had less children than me, not that I would wish for a life any different, but I used to wonder how easy life must be to have just one or two children.
For the record, that theory is absolute rubbish. Raising an only child is singlehandedly the most challenging role of my life.
That’s quite a bold statement considering I once was a single mother to three children under three at the age of twenty-five.
As I sit here and silently tap away at my keyboard I can see Maggie my three-year-old drawing on her etch-a-sketch board out of the corner of my eye.
‘Let’s do our work together, Mummy’, she chimes in.
And there you have it, this is my day from 6am to 6pm, six days a week.
That is until her father walks through the front door at dinner time. Then in an instant I am forgotten, the past 12 hours of constant care and supervision have disappeared along with the red dust on his work boots.
I breathe a massive sigh of relief, my shoulders slump and I get a little giddy with excitement at the thought of thirty minutes to myself whilst he takes her to the park next door or for a swim downstairs in the apartment pool.
A relief he doesn’t quite understand.
My day starts at 6am with her small chubby hands pulling at mine, ‘ Mummy, it’s time to wake up. I want my breakfast now, please‘. Breakfast lasts for an hour or so, I sip my coffee willing myself to wake up whilst she sits and waits for her cereal to get soggy before she eats it.
We both take a shower and of course one cannot do this alone or heaven forbid go to the toilet solo. We get dressed and then it’s, ‘ What are we going to do today, Mummy?’.
It’s only 7.30am.
I think of the years I spent studying full time at University to earn my Bachelor of Science and a few years later I worked and studied full time for my Postgraduate Diploma in Midwifery. I often wonder if all that hard work, blood, sweat and tears was worth it? Because now those qualifications are useless as I cannot work shift work around my husband’s work hours.
Those qualifications were only made possible by putting my three gorgeous little ones into full time daycare. Just more regrets to add to my neverending bank of motherguilt.
That’s one bank account that never earns a cent of interest.
Maggie and I go through our options for the morning, most are immediately pronounced ‘but that’s boring’ and finally we settle on an activity to do together. Our days are filled with walks, park outings, cafe trips, play-doh creations, Barbie dress ups, duplo masterpieces, drawings, stickers, painting, gluing, baking and after all that sometimes a little screen time is a huge relief.
TV time never seems to last longer than thirty minutes and then she’s back to requiring my undivided attention. When she wants to play, I’m it.
Our days spent together are like a rollercoaster ride, the ups bring us up to the top with fun and joy but then there are the down days. Thankfully they are far and few in between.
It is on the quiet days that time seems to stand still no matter how many tasks we try and do.
And we both become very aware that there is still quite a few hours to go before we hear that magical sound of a key turning in the front door.
I am no longer spread thin and my attention is solely focused on raising her.
I should revel in this new found parental freedom?
Well meaning people have told met to do just that.
From my experience over the past 18 months, raising an only child is so much harder than raising multiple children.
Please do not misinterpret my words.
I am ever so grateful that I am the mother to this intelligent, confident, inquisitive, gorgeous and darling little girl – she is a gift and is so loved.
Without her, I would be lost.
I adore her bright beautiful soul more than words can say.
But there are no other siblings for her to play with or fight with either. For the most part, I am it. Yes, we go on play dates, library story time, play group and she goes to daycare one day a week for social purposes, sometimes two days. And we always play and chat with random kids wherever we go.
Yet, it is not the same as having a brother or sister at home. Or is it?
Some have suggested, ‘Have another baby!’.
Having another child and restarting the clock at the ripe old age of almost 38 is not something I wish to consider. To put it simply, we are done and that door is closed.
My own sibling experience was not a great one. My sister and I fought constantly and to this day we are not close.
And yet I still feel guilty that Maggie will grow up as an only child.
For now, she is my only focus – I know I hover, I worry too much, I overcompensate and for the most part I never let her out of my sight.
And now we’re a family of three. Just the three of us.
Meanwhile, I’ve been making withdrawals from that motherguilt bank account of mine. Life is meant to be lived, we only get one chance at it and it’s time to step out of the shadows.
The way I see it – Maggie may well end up being raised permanently as an only child, but you know what?
Either way, she will be just fine.