“It’s not the sleep deprivation, or the financial strain, or even the seemingly endless chores that cause me to dislike adulthood and parenthood,” I confided to Sam this morning as I pulled together Duncan’s bottles, oatmeal and pears for daycare. “It’s not stepping on Legos or even removing stickers from our sheets, although I could do without the stickers. It’s the paperwork I can’t stand.” I nodded in the direction of the most recent piece of mail that needed attending to – a threat from the library claiming I hadn’t returned a dvd copy of “The Jungle Book” even though, for the record, I know for a FACT I returned it. So completely confident am I, in fact, that I returned this DVD that I actually have plans to argue with the libraryover this when, if the library asked me for the equivalent money as a donation, I would gladly give it.
“I know, I know,” said Sam. “It’s endless and mountainous.”
Since having children, the amount of paperwork in my life has multiplied at least by a thousand, if not a million, percent. Is there such thing as a million percent? Yes, yes there is. A million percent increase in paperwork occurs when you go, over the course of three years, from a household of two to a household of four and two of you are required to show your updated vaccination records every other goddamn day.
Outstanding paperwork I currently have yet to deal with includes, in no particular order: two parking tickets for parking on the wrong side of the street on street cleaning days (to be fair, I maybe drive 2-3 times a week, at most, and never remember to move my car the one time a month street cleaning comes around); the aforementioned and incorrect library delinquency, paperwork related to Duncan’s NICU stay that has yet to be resolved, a slip signing away my permission for Evangeline to have henna tattoos at summer camp (which, yes, OF COURSE, but why can’t I say so verbally?), an updated request for Duncan’s vaccination records, registration forms for swimming and soccer for Evangeline, and all sorts of various and sundry reminders for things like making sure the kids are dressed in yellow and gold to support our baseball team or don’t forget crazy hat day! And let’s not even discuss the art work Evangeline brings home with her. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact her daycare exposes her to art activities on such a regular basis, but by now the kid has a practically Pavlovian response when she sees paint…must put hand in that. And her teachers feel they must send it all home.
I’ve digitized what I can digitize, I’ve automated what I can automate but there is nothing to stop Evangeline’s daycare from sending home scary notes in all capital letters warning that a case hand, foot and mouth disease has been discovered and my signature is required in acknowledgment.
I am trying, when and where I can, to control the chaos that is caused by our little family of four. I recently discovered Rachel Jonat over at The Minimalist Mom and I did something I rarely do – I downloaded her book in order to understand how I could successfully become more minimalist in my mindset and in my life. This is actually another topic for a separate blog post, but I found her book incredibly helpful, and have slowly started incorporating some of her tips and ideas into my daily life.
More often than not, when I shower I am stepping over the detritus from Evangeline’s pirate obsession, pushing her pirate ship off to one side, smiling to myself, knowing Sam did the same thing instead of removing it from the tub. The fierce yet joyful faces of her pirate characters – Jake, Izzy and Cubby – grin at me while I wash my hair, shave my legs. Throughout our second floor, baskets of clean laundry overflow, and at least half the time I am choosing my outfits and my kids’ outfits from the baskets instead of our dressers and closets. With two children in daycare our finances are more constrained than they were previously, and we find ourselves doing what growing families have done since the beginning of time – eating more creatively, eating – gasp – on a budget. This is something Sam and I haven’t done since college – we were both adverse to it after being raised in families where money was always, always tight. Gone now, though, are our days of picking up expensive steaks and pricey bottles of wine – tonight we are making Mexican wraps with baked fries on the side, maybe having a beer.
In my pre-kid days, if you would have told me all of this and also promised it would all be worth it, I wouldn’t have believed you. I hated the moralistic, sometimes snotty tone parents would take with me as they claimed every single dirty diaper they changed taught them how to love more than they ever thought possible. I particularly chafed against this as I went through my scare with infertility and began imagining an alternate future for myself, one without kids.
And sometimes, in fleeting, mere moments, I do wonder if it’s all worth it. I watch our paychecks disappear down the vortex of a mortgage and two daycares and groceries while I help my poop-phobic daughter wipe herself as the baby spits up down my bra while all the while my two sisters-in-law, child free by choice, are meeting up for a week in Amsterdam and in that moment, more than anything else, I want to break down in tears, think of myself as somehow a bad person and wonder what I did in a former life to always, always now smell like sour milk and even, potentially, some days, poop, but then, a different kind of moment occurs, almost always immediately, and Duncan reaches out to touch my face and buzzes his baby lips, and Evangeline draws me in to some moment of fantastic imaginary play, or maybe Sam pours me a perfectly balanced gin and tonic after both kids are in bed and for fifteen minutes we sit together and talk about our days, and I know this: for me, itis worth it. Having children, building a family – there are days where it feels like enormously hard work, but I wouldn’t trade it – not for a European vacation, new designer shoes or even for the chance to shower alone.
The paperwork, however, is for the birds.