Every year my husband I spend a "couple's weekend" with some of our oldest friends. The eight of us ran in the same circles in college, we're all in Asian/Caucasian marriages, we know each other very well, and we committed to spending one weekend a year sharing about life, marriage, hopes, dreams, all that mushy stuff. And we started doing this six years ago, before any of us had kids.
Now? We have nine children between us. Nine and a half if you count our soon-to-be Third Baby. And when you're planning an intensive, talky "retreat" of a weekend, nine children are a lot to manage. And by "manage" I mean "find childcare for".
The last two years or so I've been advocating a different approach to our weekend. What if we all rented a house together in the summer? We DO like each other enough to spend three or four days in the same house, our kids all running around and having a blast together. One of the couples lives out of state and it'd be especially awesome to spend that time with them and get to know their kids (and have our kids get to know their kids) better. I think this sounds grand. I think it sounds super fun. Tiring, a lot of work, exhausting - yes. But totally worth it.
When I suggest it to the others I get half-grins that don't quite reach the eyeballs, a slow nod, and a very polite changing of the subject. Finally one of my friends said to me, "Well, what if we TRY it, but not try to do anything ELSE. Like just go for fun some other time, maybe just one night or two." And I think I finally understood what the whole lack of enthusiasm was about: EVERYONE THINKS I'M CRAZY.
I happen to be a "more kids the merrier!" type of person. I expect mess and noise and rowdiness. Most of the time I like it. I think it's fun. This may or may not have anything to do with growing up in a large family with a large extended family and having to cram nine thousand people into a normal-sized living room on Christmas Eve. It's just what you DO. And it's FUN.
But I live amongst people who had two kids and declared themselves done. I'm married to a guy to whom I can't even JOKE about the possiblity of a fourth child. Several of my friends' husbands didn't really get into the kid thing until they were walking and talking and became interactive people. And when we get together for birthday parties or even just dinner together, the weariness is all over their faces. It's too messy, too noisy, too rowdy. It's okay for an hour or so, but no wonder their eyes started to glaze over when I suggested three or four straight days. ESPECIALLY when I said, "I think it will be EASIER!"
So hear me out: even if another mom friend and I are outnumbered - her three kids and my two kids - somehow parenting is easier when you're in a group. The kids have friends to play with, the moms have someone to talk to. One mom gets lunch ready while the other wrangles the kids to the table. One mom cleans up spilled milk while the other mops faces. Whenever friends talk about getting together in the mornings, my favorite thing to do is just have them over to my house or drive to theirs. We've got tons of toys and a backyard and I LOVE sitting down with a mom friend and a cup of coffee while our kids are off destroying the playroom. And when you need to feed them or clean them or separate them - any kind of parenting chore is less of a chore when you're working with someone else.
Or is this just me?
At the VERY least, if the kids are being awful, your misery has company.
Anyway, I'm beginning to understand that perhaps I just have a rosier (or naive?) outlook. I think I get just as worn out as everyone else, but I am annoyingly and determinedly optimistic and tend to take a long view of having kids rather than the short sleep-deprived view. I will shlep my kids off to my parents like I do every couple's weekend and try to keep my mouth shut about Let's All Rent A Big House! Maybe one day, when the kids can at least pour their own bowl of cereal. There's hope for us yet!