I have reached the ultimate milestone in stay-at-home parenting, the day that all of us stay-at-home moms dream of, or dread, or a little of both: sending my youngest child (or children, in my case) off to full-day kindergarten. We did it! No more diapers. No more baby gates. Only the rare middle-of-the-night wakeup. For 7.5 glorious hours every weekday, there is no more whining or fighting or begging for snacks. We have managed one newborn, then two newborns and a toddler, then two toddlers and a preschooler, all the way to three elementary schoolers. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it, in my opinion. So, now it is time to rest! For a few months, and then start all over again.
I mean, that’s not what I told people who asked, “What are you going to do with all your free time?” I told them I’d nap a lot, which is true. But I failed to mention that it was because I’m pregnant and perpetually tired. I wanted to give everyone some time to think of me as a normal, reasonable person who will enjoy her hard-earned newfound freedom, as any sane mother would. We didn’t tell anyone about my pregnancy for nearly four months, just one of many things that’s different this time around. I’m not much of an announcement person, so it was natural for me to let it quietly, casually come out. But it also seems fitting for a fourth child who will be nearly six years younger than the next youngest.
The thing is, nobody is particularly excited for you in this situation. Maybe a few people, but overwhelmingly, the reaction is “wow,” and an unsaid “Yikes!” And I get it. Having a big family or starting over once your other kids are older is not for everyone. I keep recalling a conversation with a friend, who years ago told me that she knew a woman who was pregnant again at age 40 with school-aged children. “Can you even IMAGINE starting over again!?” she had asked. With infant twins at the time, no, I could not. But with a sad nostalgia for my kids growing up, and at 35, officially entering “advanced maternal age,” I can and I think I’m ready for it.
Of course I’m not oblivious to the downsides of adding another kid. First of all, Caillou is bound to be discovered again. That Disney vacation probably isn’t happening anytime soon. Our little house will feel a bit (a lot?) more cramped. The upgrade to a dual-income household and subsequent move to a larger house will have to be pushed back. And those family photo books, which have yet to acknowledge our last two children, will remain backlogged.
There was definitely a time when I couldn’t imagine missing the newborn phase, with all of its sleepless nights, treatment guesswork, and fear-Googling. Not while I was still in the thick of it, at least. But now? I’m kind of looking forward to it, and all of the other tough phases of childhood. Now that this is actually, for sure, definitely my last child, my last brush with Caillou, I may actually appreciate these phases— knowing well how fleeting the tired, frustrating, but sweet moments are, and how quickly time passes. Feel free to remind me of this in a few months.