Hello, my name is Kate; and I am a baby hoarder.
I have four kids. Invariably when I am asked how many children I have it leads to a question of whether I am Catholic or a Mormon. I am neither, Ma’am, but thank you for asking an incredibly personal question when we’ve known each other approximately 30 seconds. Perhaps we should also discuss the age I lost my virginity, how I feel about the current president, or my retirement portfolio? Sometimes I am tempted to just answer that I am over-sexed. (A suggestion, by the way of a nice elderly woman who stood behind me last month at the check out line at the grocery store.)
If you want to get technical about things, I am an Episcopalian baby hoarder. While other people accumulate things, I accrue infants.
“Are you guys finished?” is typically the follow up question when I note my number of offspring. “I don’t know,” I normally answer. “It depends on the strength of my uterine lining. I’d like to think my lady pipes could still generate a mature egg to release from my ovary, push down my fallopian tubes, and be available for fertilization. It’s really a duck shoot at this point.” Then they tilt their head in confusion and change the subject. (Okay fine, so I’ve never actually said any of that; but I sure have wanted to.)
It’s pretty simple: I love babies. I love having a large family, and yes, I even like noise in my house. My husband would tell you I probably suffer from some undiagnosed psychological disorder where instead of getting high off of drugs I get high off of the smell of newborns.
I am overjoyed by the idea of my kids having three other people to complain to about how annoying their parents are. In fact I am hoping that if they write a tell-all book on me one day, they’ll collaborate on chapters. Chapter 5: Two of Us Had Joint Birthday Parties. Chapter 15: We Listened To Howard Stern In the Car Instead of Children’s Music. Chapter 23: We Didn’t Have Play Dates Because She Said We Have Each Other.
I fully respect anyone’s choice to give sole responsibility of his or her elder care to one child, but in my case I prefer to spread the wealth. I plan on living a long time, so they should factor that in when they consider buying vacation homes and putting a deposit on my senior citizen housing. I understand your friend is an only child who gets to spend spring break in Paris, but you and your siblings will be spending the week at the YMCA, swimming laps and then coming home to clean the gutters.
Yes, having a lot of children — especially all under age six — is chaotic. I don’t get much sleep, my face has rapidly aged, and I don’t have much of a social life, but I can give you a dissertation on the cretaceous period. I may drive the updated version of the National Lampoon’s Griswold family truckster, but I always have someone available to help me move around furniture. I can’t tell you the last movie I went to, but I can tell you the soundtrack from Frozen haunts my dreams. I don’t recall the last time I took a long shower, but I can tell you how to get peanut butter out of hair and tape residue off hard wood floors. I no longer buy myself fancy bags, but I do consider myself a VIP at Target.
See; there’s always an upside.
Here’s what I am thinking, though: My desire to keep procreating is helping them learn some vital life lessons in the process, so they should probably thank me. For example, I have no doubt they will understand the art of compromise, self-reliance, making friends, accepting responsibility, and having empathy for others. They will probably live in hand-me-down clothes and we will probably never take a vacation that requires hopping on a long airplane ride, but they will be nice people who can fall asleep in loud and confined spaces.
Eventually I will have a long Thanksgiving table filled with smiling faces, even if I have to get the meal catered because I am too exhausted to make it myself. I keep that in mind every time I sit down to watch a movie and hear someone call my name from one of the bunk beds on the second floor.
“Mom, I called you five times …”
“Oh, really? I didn’t hear you because I was hiding in the closet underneath the staircase.”
I may be drowning in laundry and homework most days, and sometimes forget all of their names, but I have a little tribe who fills my home with laughter and joy. And when they grow up and start their own families, I hope they will see how having each other taught them to encourage and be encouraged, to support and be supported, and to love and be loved.
That would be my dream.