When I was pregnant with Sam, watching the calendar days fly toward his due date, I felt like I was fast approaching a wall. This is the part where my life ends, I thought occasionally. Not that I was really that morbid about it; I was excited about having a child, hopeful for an interesting life beyond his birth, and grateful to be pregnant. But I also had this tiny feeling of impending doom: my life was about to change…or, at least, that’s what everyone kept telling me, with knowing and vaguely foreboding tones. That’s when The Curiosity Project was born, although I didn’t put it into such concrete terms at the time. I just knew that I had a vision for what life with a tiny kid could be, and I had a feeling that it didn’t have to be boring or exclusive of nearly all non-kid-related pursuits. But the vision didn’t stretch out indefinitely. It only reached as far as the first kid. Beyond that, it became just a thread of an idea, because that was as far as I could envision.
And then, a couple of months ago, I got pregnant with our second kid. It was something we had been hoping for, but a few days after we got the news, I had a terribly dark moment. I wanted to be carefree with joy, but I wasn’t: I was mad, and scared. I realized that my vision only reached to a point, and I was standing smack in the middle of it. Everything from then on would be totally undefined, and I had no idea how I’d maintain the things I love with two tiny kids instead of one. And I thought, Yes, now THIS will be the part where my life ends.
There’s so little encouragement out there. Without realizing it, people can be real downers. They congratulate you on your news and then, later, say things like, “It’s so much harder,” and “Getting out is really difficult with two,” and “Enjoy your sleep while you can get it.” Of course, there are also plenty of “encouraging” articles out there about the self-sacrificing joys of having several tiny kids, and how it makes you into a better person, and how it’s so hard and you’ll never shower again but the big picture makes it worth every miserable day. Now, this might sound crude or un-motherly to you, but those warm and fuzzy sentiments have never fully resonated with me. Certainly, I agree that they make up an important piece of the puzzle–I signed up to receive that sanctification process, to wade through plenty of grubby yet rewarding days, and to get those great baby snuggles–but isn’t there anything more for the full-time mom?
Then, a few weeks after I took the test, when I was still rebelling against the idea of being pregnant again, I watched a film by Josh Garrels, a singer-songwriter who makes great art. There’s this scene where Josh is in his car, with his two kids under 4 in the backseat, and he’s drinking coffee while driving around the city, listening to the current mixes of the album he’s working on and editing them in his head. And he’s planning this crazy trip to Canada to make a record, and he tells the camera how it’s not true that once you have kids, you can’t do the stuff you did before you had kids. You can, he says. It’s just a lot more work. And they go off to Canada and make this brilliant piece of art, with lots of diaper changes along the way.
Okay, I think to myself. I never wanted someone to tell me it would be easy to do cool stuff with two kids. I just wanted to hear that it was possible.
Then I think about my friend, also a musician, who did a cross-country tour for a whole summer with his wife and two tiny kids and their gear expertly packed into in a minivan. Or the mom I knew who would show up at my house for violin lessons with five young kids and a stack of books and Starbucks in hand, and her kids would read, read, read for 90 minutes and then didn’t want to leave at the end because they couldn’t be torn away from their books. Or my other friend who raised her toddler on a tour bus.
To be honest, I’m still working on my attitude about adapting my life to having two kids; it’s something I want in the long term and struggle to want in the short term. But day by day I’m formulating a firm hope that The Curiosity Project, which is great with one kid, will be amazing with two. That we will still find adventure everywhere, in our own backyard and beyond. That we will venture out, even sometimes when I don’t feel like it. That we will stay rooted in community and maintain an outward focus. That I will keep thinking about and working on big ideas and projects outside my home, regardless of whether I’m paid to do so. That I don’t have to be a “baby person” (I’m not) to genuinely like my kids, enjoy their company, and consider them incredible human beings. That there might not be a model for what I want to do as a full-time mom, and I’ll have to use a lot of trial and error, and I’ll most likely end up with a car that’s covered in baby milk and smells like a California-sized diaper, but, by golly, we’re going to do interesting stuff, even when my husband isn’t off of work. Some days, it might mean taking huge adventures via books on our comfortable couch. Other days, it might mean exploring our city with a monstrous double stroller, fueled by curiosity and whatever drops of my coffee I manage not to spill. On special days, I hope it will mean mustering up a good deal of energy, clearing the schedule, and jumping on an airplane or driving to a national park or making a record in Canada.
Can I guarantee that I’ll be able to pull this off, or that it will look the way I hope it will? No way. Do I realize that I’ll probably spend a couple of months, starting in March, camped out on my own couch? Yes, with coffee in hand (come visit and bring me news of the outside world!). But I don’t think that I have to accept one of the two viewpoints that current mom culture seems to be offering me: that having multiple kids is a gauntlet to dread, or that it’s something to be embraced at the exclusion of nearly everything else. There must be a third option, because I don’t think this has to be the part where life as I know it ends. And I’d like to take that as a challenge.
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