Having children turns your life upside down. Literally. What once was a perfect, neat and tidy life becomes a messy, chaotic and a somewhat sticky one. Things that used to have their place in your home are muddled up with things that shouldn’t have any place at all : things like sticks and rocks and empty sweet wrappers down the side of the couch. (Let’s not forget the snails in the freezer and dying possums in clothing cupboards)
Our neat and easy routines become somewhat frantic as we are forced to account for the little people who have joined our lives since those easier days. I say easier, because they were. Getting ready was easier because we only had to worry about cleaning one face and dressing one body. Our own. We only had one mouth to feed and one set of teeth to brush too.
Leaving the house was easier. We would simply grab our car keys, a tiny handbag filled with lip balm, a wallet and cellphone, and walk out. Leaving the house certainly didn’t entail rounding up a herd of goats, searching frantically for shoes that always seem to disappear right before you need them or shouting death threats before finally slamming the door behind you.
Getting into the car was easier. No carseats, jammed seat belts or tantruming toddlers to negotiate with. No moaning about who sits where or how long the car ride is going to take.
Weekdays were easier with nothing more to plan than who you would meet for lunch between work meetings the next day. Now days, getting through an afternoon or ready for school the next day requires a 40 step execution plan which starts at 6pm the night before. Lunch box : check. Homework: check. Swimming bag: Check. Choir file: Check. Swimming bag: Check. OH no. FFS where are the goggles? Is this towel wet? where is your costume??? Recycling: Check. Sandwich for Yserplaast: Check. Go break: Check. My mind???? CHECK!
Weekends were easier. Usually spent relaxing after a long weeks at work. Weekends were spent going to parties, not picking children up from five, one after the other. With longer, fuller weeks our weekends have only played a game of catch-up and we are left doing all of the things we do during the week, minus the few hours free when they are usually at school. Weekend…. weekends were easier.
Keeping a house clean was easier. Fast-forward to the present day where keeping a house clean for longer than 5 milliseconds with kids is close to impossible and if you want a clean house you just about kill yourself to keep it that way. I think I miss the clean house the most.
Preserving and looking after the things you held dear was easier. No sticky little hands to destroy the expensive things we bought with all our hard earned cash… no dirty little feet to put marks on clean white linen. No silly accidents that see juice spilled over precious books or crazy antics that leave your favourite antique vase shattered into a thousand tiny pieces.
Life was easier before kids. It’s a fact.
But what’s become more evident as the years have gone by is that before my children arrived, my life certainly lacked a deeper sense of meaning. It lacked a certain degree of significance and purpose. My life was easier for sure but it never knew the sheer mass of love my heart was designed to hold. My life before they came along was all about me and I don’t think that we are designed to live life that way. (Even women who have decided not to have children, usually find that deeper sense of meaning or purpose somewhere else) My children have given me purpose, a clearer sense of direction and deeper understanding of sacrificial love and that’s no accident.
While the everyday things can be hard and challenging (and sometimes have me begging for mercy in the midst of the chaos!), I know that there isn’t a single thing that would have me choose my old life over this one. I may feel the weightiness of all the demands of raising young kids or that the sacrifices I’ve made are sometimes met with resentment, but I’m more certain that ever that I was made for the task and that loving them, teaching them and raising them is my greatest and most satisfying achievement yet.
So the next time they spill on the couch or climb onto my bed with grubby feet or forget their lunch box in their school bag or don’t listen when I ask them to tidy their rooms or do their homework, I will take a step back and look at my messy house with toys all over the floor and blankets pulled out my linen cupboard for forts they will build with my lounge chairs, and I will see it for what it really is. A sign of my wealth. A true reflection of the happy children who live here. My upside down, messy, chaotic life that is mine. All mine.