Recently my husband and I actually stayed up to watch a movie. It was a rare occasion. We have three kids and — miracle of miracles — they all went to bed and were all asleep at the same time. No one was crying. No was pleading to stay awake. And no one was claiming that they needed more water or had to pee.
As we savoured our parenting victory, my husband yawned and said, “My feet are so sore.” In that moment, it occurred to me that we waited too long to have kids. From the day that our eldest child will enter high school roughly eight years from now, we will have at least one kid in high school for 12 years.
Think about that for a second. Twelve. Years. Of. High. School. I swear, 27 hairs on the top of my head just spontaneously turned white at the thought of this truth.
When our last child graduates from high school and is ready to go off to college, our eldest child will have been out of university for eight years. He will have already started a family or a career as a professional stuntman for Kung Fu movies (if his wish right now comes true). My husband will be five years away from retirement and I will be seriously wondering if we will actually get to experience the blissful empty nest syndrome our friends talk on and on about.
I told myself for the longest time that I was glad that I waited to have kids because it meant that I claimed my youth as mine. I took full advantage of my younger years, for sure: I travelled around the world. I earned a master’s degree. I bought a house. I did all the things that I thought a full life should include. Now I’m steeping in the hottest depth of parenthood with my patient and loving husband, and I seriously wonder if I foolishly waited too long.
My mum friends who are a decade younger than me and with kids the same age as mine are all so fresh-faced and energetic, despite the exhaustion that comes with raising kids. They have all the energy for things like power cleaning their houses on the same day that they host a playdate, or dragging a bunch of kids to sports practice.
I envy them.
I am not old, but I feel old. My skin is changing. My hair is changing. My sex drive, ability to digest cheese, and sleep patterns are all changing to match that of a mum who is no longer a spring chicken.
Parenting three kids, with four years between them, is great in so many ways. They are not close enough in age to compete but they are close enough to play and appreciate each other while also having their own lives. My eldest child has his school friends. My middle one has his library playgroup friends. And the baby, well, she is basically a barnacle attached to me at all times. My husband and I thought we were being smart by spacing our kids out like this, but the truth is that their young years are moving glacially slow. It is hard to not look at them and think that by the time they are all grown and flown I will be too old to be able to enjoy my husband and an empty house.
My kids are not a burden, not in the least. They bring a universe of joy to my life that is bigger and richer than any trip around the world. They do, however, demand an enormous amount of energy that I simply don’t have the way I did 10 years ago. I regret waiting to have them. If there were such as thing as a do-over, I would have had all three of my kids when I was in my early twenties and feeling the intoxicating effects of vim and vigour.