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The push and pull of raising kids!

So, the funny thing about kids is we work so hard to get them and then we work so hard to “get rid of them”. Before you throw rocks at me or judge me, hear me out. 

In the conventional more typical world (although by no means am I saying this is the only way), we need to first find a partner which is an ordeal in itself.  Dating can be great, but also an emotional roller coaster.  Until you find your person!!! Then there may be genetic testing or not but, in most cases, there is some talk about future children with your potential spouse. Then there is the wedding bla bla bla… Mazal Tov.

Then there is usually a step we don’t think about which is all the energy into preventing the kids from coming until the right time.  Whether it’s an IUD or the pill, birth control can be a nightmare. Then you decide it’s time and boom… the hard work begins.  Well actually the conception part can be easy (and pleasurable, I hope) but for many people it’s not.  I’ve heard enough stories from friends of what they have been through just to get pregnant to know it’s not something to be taken for granted.  For some, it’s their full-time job and incredibly time consuming and energy sapping. For those women, the work is extremely taxing emotionally.

Then you’re pregnant (PG quickly) and those 9 months can be (hopefully not) brutal.  Heartburn,  nausea, throwing  up,  morning sickness,  evening sickness,  peeing all the time,  scares and visits to the hospital,  complications (I hope not), blood tests,  sugar tests, ultrasounds,  Dr. appointments, can’t sleep,  can’t bend down,  feet swollen,  sex becomes challenging,  feeling huge,  nothing to wear,  still need to go to work or take care of other kids, laundry is a hard,  dishes are hard, everything is hard,  your hot all the time,  veins popping out…the list could go on and on.  I mean, we women are simply awesome in terms of what we go through to get this baby born.  

Then there is birth! First Braxton hicks, maybe cramps, maybe bleeding, starting labor and then going through contractions while our vaginas expand to 10 cm. Pain,  pushing,  crying, maybe you needed to be induced,  maybe you needed an episiotomy, maybe there were scares along the way,  maybe the baby needed to be vacuumed, maybe you needed a c section … and after all that incredible “suffering”….. Mazal Tov… it’s a …hopefully healthy baby.  

Oh but honey, there is still more to go.  It might hurt to pee, poop, heal, you might have stitches, soreness and that’s just down there.  Then there are the continued contractions when the baby nurses, and the pain of him/her latching on,  sore nipples, fatigue, hormones flying,  and what seems like never ending bleeding. 

Damn girl,  you are amazing.  

We work so freaking hard to get these kids in the world!!!

Then they start to grow up and we forget… we forget how hard it was, how much work it took, how badly we wanted them in this world, how much we worried about their wellbeing. First, we start to look for mitaplot and maons (daycare). Usually it’s not by choice (we work!) but sometimes it is. We search for who can watch my baby and we pay an exorbitant amount when we find someone. Then slowly…we start to drop them off as early as possible (7:30 on the dot!) And pick them up at the last minute possible. We constantly are looking for babysitters (“Please tell me you’re available tonight!”) and try so hard to get away for a night, or two, or three. We get them on the bus early and sign them up for after school programs. We hope the playdate is at someone else’s house or that they’ll stay at the park for hours with their friends (in Israel). We put them in front of screens to keep them out of our faces, send them to sleep away camp for as long as they are allowed to go, and sign them up for as many chugim (extra-curricular programs) as possible. We try to put them to bed early and hope they will sleep late, and we certainly don’t want to see them in the middle of the night. We can’t wait for summer to end, we don’t encourage vacation days from school, and we try to take long naps (read: break from the kids) on holidays. When they are older, we encourage them to be independent and move out and I’m sure there are parents who feel relief when their kids finally leave for the army/college/marriage etc.  

And all these things are fine…and sooo normal… and even good.  But the irony is after working so hard to get them, we work so hard to “get rid of them”, seemingly.

Irony isn’t really the right word though.  Honestly, it’s pretty crooked.  But what is this phenomenon here? Why the switch?  

Is it about always wanting what we don’t have? Like when you’re a kid you want to be grown up and when you’re an adult you want to be a kid? 

I’ve thought about this a lot. I know there are many psychological and spiritual answers out there and feel free to leave a comment below on your thoughts.  But here is my two cents, take it or leave it. 

What we work so hard for is not (forgive me) the child, it’s the concept of the child and what it will give us.  When we have children,  our naked ego feels so good.  Someone is relying on me. I’m now a mom! Status.  Fitting in.  Cultural or religious norms. I’m amazing.  I did this! The baby gives me so much happiness.  The baby makes me feel so good about myself.  It’s dependent on me. It doesn’t talk back to me.  This baby gives me so much…

Then the baby starts to grow up,  and it’s not that we stop loving them,  but we realize this baby is its own person and he/ she did not come into this world to serve me or make me happy.  This child is not mine in the sense I own it or control it.  As the kid grows,  it develops its own personality,  moods, behavior modalities, skill sets, listening/ talking habits and becomes someone that is outside of myself.  When that starts to happen,  we begin to realize our vision of what we thought this kid would be for me and my ego, isn’t a reality.  We begin to see that this baby I worked so hard to bring into this world is not an extension of me and he/ she is its own being with its own will and cognitive makeup. Couple that with a kid not behaving well (even when it’s age appropriate)… and we start to feel taxed and tested in ways we don’t know how to cope with.  Suddenly this kid is temper tantruming, not toilet training, throwing food, climbing out of his crib, speaking rudely, not showing respect,  not brushing her teeth, stretching boundaries,  not listening to what I say when I say it,  sneaking screens,  and not acting according to the script I wrote for this relationship.  Our expectations,  and our limited strength and patience, combined with our disappointments of what we thought this baby would grow up to be (out of innocence) throws us into a gaping black hole and we are left thinking: I didn’t sign up for this.  

That’s when we start to push away.  That constant feeling of needing a break,  “just go to bed!”,  “get out of my face!”, excuses/ reasons not to be home,  sending the kids away, being a workaholic and the general feeling of the less time (or quality time) I have with my kids the better… it’s all stemming from a shock to the system. A shock that makes you yell: I didn’t see this coming…!

Now, let’s be kind to ourselves and talk about the exceptions.  First, there are exceptional people who don’t know what I’m talking about.  If you are one of those moms,  that is just awesome and I’m blown away by you…but I also don’t ever want to go out for coffee with you…sorry.  But you are amazing and perhaps an anomaly. 

Then there are those that are going to preach, “Sarah, you’re so negative! What about all the beauty and wonderful moments that come from raising kids?! How could you say these things?! Aren’t you ashamed?”. The answer is,  I’m not really talking to you either (although we can go for coffee). Because of course I love my kids and of course I have wonderful moments where I’m so proud of them and proud to be their mother and I’m not always trying to get rid of them.  We read bedtime books (all three of them). We play board games.  We have fun.  We have sweet, wonderful moments at the Shabbat table, and I adore my kids.  

I’m talking to the mom who is reading this and going “Yeeeeessss!”. Because I know you’re out there. You get what I am saying.  It’s not about being an abusive, neglectful, bad mother who is actively looking to sell her kids on ebay. It’s about the feelings behind the non stop actions of laundry,  dishes and making dinner.  It’s the fatigue and the feeling of why is this so damn hard? That’s who I am talking to.  

Solutions? Listen,  I am no guru or expert but here are a few  things that have worked for me.  

  1. Spend quality,  mutually enjoyable,  limited time with your kids 1:1. It goes a long way.  
  2. Get those breaks/naps/ vacations and look at it as filling up the gas tank for the next “drive” …but pay attention when you are almost empty and go refill with self care. 
  3. Keep a gratitude list of the things you love about your kids,  beautiful or funny things they did/ said and their good points. Keep a notebook.  
  4. It’s ok to tell your children you need space… if they are their own person,  then so are you.  Having clear boundaries about where/ when they can’t step into your space of serenity is imperative. 
  5. Pray to your Higher Power of choice for help to cherish moments, and for the tools to handle the challenges.  

At the end of the day,   I am aware that everyone’s experience is different but raising children is really difficult,  with or without help or a partner.  And every once in a while, stop and look at the mirror and tell yourself how amazing you are.  And believe it.  

Then go change your clothes because you have spit up and ketchup all over your shirt…

(You got this!)

About the Author
Sarah Bechor is a freelance writer in addition to her full-time job at United Hatzalah. She made Aliyah in 2007 and now lives with her husband and children in Gush Etzion.
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