On a rare night out together, my friend of twenty years, a SAHM to four kids under eight, tells me about her afternoon of dealing with her three-year-old’s toileting accident on the kitchen floor; because shit happens (literally).
It’s a story so revolting that it will be repeated at the said kid’s 21st birthday party, but that’s nineteen years away, and right now, my friend is simply exhausted. I can tell she’s feeling it tonight, because I’m so perceptive and intuitive (but mostly because she’s already had three drinks).
As we order a second bottle, she quietly admits that being at home with four kids for most of the day, every week day, is “a lot of work”. Say what now?
Knowing how hard this dedicated and loving mum works to raise her kids and give them the best of herself, and having witnessed the levels of noise, mess, food prep, washing, and now kitchen poo that she’s adeptly been dealing with since the stork delivered baby no 4, “a lot of work” seems a massive understatement of the situation.
So I tell her, “You’re amazing. I don’t know how you do it.” And regret it immediately.
I want to convey support. I want to give her a genuine compliment, because she’s not giving herself enough credit. I want to tell her that she’s far better at handling four kids than I would be, and probably even dealing with motherhood in general. I want to say that her kids are so lucky to have such a loving and dedicated mum, and I’m just so impressed with her.
Instead, I say I don’t know how you do it, because I’m a douchebag who is thinking of herself, rather than what my friend needs to hear. I’ve got one kid who’s ten years old, so I don’t deal with fights and unconscionable amounts of laundry, and the schedules of multiple little people; and I suspect that, unlike my friend, I wouldn’t be great at it.
I mean, I love children, especially when they’re silently watching television in another room, but I don’t think I would do a great job of handling four. I’m 41 years old and I’m woman enough to admit my inability to give myself endlessly (or for more than ten minutes) to other people’s needs (because what about me?), would be a major problem.