As someone who has not taken a vacation in the seven years since my twins were born -- a real one that involves lying in the sand in a bathing suit -- Lauren Sandler's Time magazine cover story about life being better without kids seriously struck a nerve.
My daughters aren't only the best thing I have ever done, they were a hard-won prize that came with one of those harrowing IVF stories we are all accustomed to hearing now. When motherhood didn't come easily to me, I was devastated, depressed, and distraught. The idea that the thing I most desperately wanted in my entire life might never happen was equal to annihilation. Yes, that real and that intense.
I hate being away from my girls. But this summer they have been lucky enough to spend weekdays at day camp in the country with grandparents and a babysitter running the ship while my husband and I work. And I am slightly horrified to admit that for the first time maybe ever, I can see the appeal of the child-free life.
Like all working moms, my day is book-ended between school drop-off and when the babysitter leaves. I am home often. Most nights, I'd say. And it is not a sacrifice. I want to hear about school, spend time with my goofballs, read them Rainbow Magic books before bed. I fall asleep with them more than I'd like to admit. But there you go. I just did. I would go so far as to say there might even be a bit of co-dependence going on between me and my daughters. Hence the vacation problem mentioned above.
When the summer started, I worried that I would miss them so badly and that they would miss me so badly that this experiment would fail miserably. I watched friends send their slightly older kids off to summer camp for seven impossibly long weeks and my heart broke for them. For the record, they have spent every day since trolling their camps' website for photos of their children looking happy that they then email around as evidence that their pain is worth it.
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The first week that my husband and I were in the city, my girls called a lot. One of them would cry in the mornings because I wasn't there. Then, the calls tapered off. And something happened. My husband and I met for drinks at 9:30 p.m. I started staying up late and watching movies or reading. Reading! I met friends for dinner -- is it worth noting that these friends happened to be of the "childless" variety? I worked late -- the way I used to in the old days. It felt right. It felt normal.
I found myself saying goodbye to my munchkins on Sundays and secretly looking forward to the start of the week. Driving away from my girls, I felt downright giddy.
The truth is, my enjoyment of this time is in part because I know it is temporary. I know that in a matter of days, my husband and I will be back to doing the full-time parenting, the drudge work, the refereeing, the cuddling, the playing, and the answering of precocious questions that make me squeeze them so hard I could cry.
If this child-free life were in fact my full-time life, no matter what Lauren Sandler says is a statistical trend, or what the women she interviewed insist they prefer, I would be miserable. I think a lot of moms would agree. For many of us -- if not most -- having children is having it all.
Do you think you would have preferred a life without kids?
Image via Time magazine