When I found out I was pregnant with my fourth child, I cried. In fact, I cried for a couple weeks — when I wasn’t vomiting, that is. I had a 10-month-old at the time, and I was still getting used to dealing with three kids. How I could possibly manage four?
I wasn’t one of those carefree, laidback moms who dealt with things calmly and happily. I like order, clean rooms, being on time, being in control.
And as desperate as I was to have my first three kids, I’d literally never considered having four. Be careful what you wish for: The fertility gods to whom I’d prayed overdelivered. I was going to have to deal with the blessing I’d been given.
Now, almost four years later, I’m still standing. Well, sitting. Actually, I’m slumped over a table at a bookstore cafe with my third cup of coffee and it isn’t even 9:00 am. But my gorgeous, sweet, hilarious son is the light of my life. He’s so popular that I spend half my time juggling his social schedule: multiple parties on the weekends, seemingly constant playdates with both girls and boys. Some days he’s the one who keeps me going when I want to return the other three. (Haha, just kidding. I would never write that.)
I knew that, in having a big family, I’d have to give up certain things (like sleep). But here are a few of the bigger surprises:
1. Walking. These days, I run everywhere. My physical therapist is literally on vacation in Morocco — that’s thanks to all the sessions I paid for after a winter spent sprinting up and down Park Avenue in wedge boots. But no matter how much time I budget to get somewhere, something unexpected always happens, and I have to race to pick up or drop off the kids. Like this morning — I was ready (on time!!) to drop off the big kids at school. I was about to join them on the elevator when I heard my little guy start wailing, “oww-eee!” Turns out he dropped Caps For Sale on his foot while hanging out on the pantry floor. Typical.
2. The blow-dryer. I started drying my hair in the 1980s with my mother’s megaphone-size diffuser attached to a salon-size blow-dryer. I dried my hair every single day, sometimes twice a day. But now that I have absolutely no time to do this — I barely have any time to shower — I’ve realized that all that drying has been a complete waste of time. I can barely tell the difference! Yes, my hair is a little wavier. Yes, icicles form on the ends of my hair as I drop the kids off in the frigid mornings. But hey, no biggie!
3. The first hour of every party. You know those invitations that say “7 p.m. cocktails; 8 p.m. dinner?” I’m not getting there for cocktails. If I get there at all. These days, I barely get to attend parties that don’t use Octonauts paper plates — but if I do go to an adults-only affair, I’m late. Take last weekend, when the school benefit I was supposed to be attending was starting — I was still collecting goodie bags at a birthday party with three of my kids, who were running loose in a gym, high on cake.
4. Reading newspapers the day they arrive. Call me a Luddite, but I refuse to give up my newspaper habit. There’s something about print that I just can’t relinquish. It’s efficient, too: I can skim three newspapers in about 20 minutes and get enough of the cultural zeitgeist to keep up. The problem? I don’t usually have 20 minutes. So I pile the unread papers on the kitchen counter thinking I’ll get to them the next day. Or the next. Or the next…
5. Any self-care that occurs outside the house. Eyebrow shaping? Pedicures? Not going to happen. I can’t do anything that requires an appointment. (Except for highlights to hide the gray hairs. That’s non-negotiable.) Everything else I’ve figured out how to do myself. I feel like Frenchy with her pink-dyed hair from Grease in the “Beauty School Drop-Out” scene. I’m like a self-taught, pathetic excuse of an aesthetician — but, hey, it works. Mostly.
6. Sending thoughtful baby gifts. You know how I used to send those personalized trains and step stools, monogrammed bibs and diaper bags? Now I can’t remember how many kids you have, even though we’re close friends. To be honest, I can’t even remember my own kids’ names half the time! Actually, I think I might have sent you a baby gift, but I can’t really ask you to confirm that. But I promise to try again with your next kid.
7. Handwritten thank you notes. I was brought up to use my best, personalized stationary to write neat, thoughtful letters to anyone who gave me anything. I did this for years, and kept it up until I got to the third kid. By the time my fourth kid arrived, I was lucky to even email a note. (I feel terrible about this.)
8. Committees. Board meetings? Yes. Brainstorming and fundraising and hosting events? Yes. But any organization that requires my participation on a committee is out of luck — I’m not leaving the kids for any breakout sessions. This is all I got. If something is going to add more emails to my life, I say no.
Yes, it’s true: I’m a sleep-deprived, running-frantic-down-the-street mom with wet hair in winter who hasn’t seen the inside of a workout studio in a couple years, but as they say in The Greatest Showman, “I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I’m meant to be, this is me.”