So, I finally had a chance to test out this theory with my actual family. Like many of you know, I'm currently back in the US visiting family, and staying with my parents. My sister has also moved in for the month with her 4 year old and 6 month old. And we were also taking care of my brother's 2 year old for the days when his wife was at the hospital having the latest addition to this family. So, that made 5 children under 4 and 4 adults. 9 souls in 4 bedrooms. And that's about enough numbers for one paragraph, no?
Coming in to this arrangement I had a lot of ideas about how this whole co-mothering thing would go. There would be a harmonious division of labor. Someone would make sure the children didn't kill each other while swinging bats in the back yard, another would make everyone grilled cheese. Babies would be passed around and easily soothed. Everything would somehow get done, and with a lot less effort than doing it alone. It would be like that scene in Cinderella where the woodland creatures work in joyful and seamless choreography to make her ball gown. That is if the ball gown were raising children. And the technicolor birds were us moms.
Anyway, point is, no one would ever have to scream, "I'm on the phone, nursing your brother and making your peanut butter sandwich with my left foot, so you'll just have apply pressure until I can get there!!" It would all get done but no one would have to do it all. At the end of the day, children neatly tucked in, we'd laugh over wine at the suckers who have to do it alone.
That's what I pictured.
But the reality was a different thing all together.
The reality was chaos.
Instead of a group of co-parenting moms reinforcing each other's discipline strategies and dividing all the work, there was just a lot more noise. A lot of yelling and feet stopping and tantruming. And our children didn't behave much better.
First of all, everything was a lot more ... schleppy, for lack of a better word.
Case in point: We planned one outing and it took us longer to get out the door than we actually spent at our destination. Most of the out-of-the-door-getting was Tetris-ing the 5 car seats into 2 cars. One child ended up in front (which we agreed to pretend was legal in the state of Illinois) and there just may have been an infant in a booster seat. I'm not sure.
Also, all the kids were out of whack - missing their fathers, adjusting to time zones, new beds and the prospect of a new sibling - so bedtime was total chaos with each kid playing us off each other.
One night, while trying to convince the kids to fall asleep in their new beds, Jesse introduced his cousin to the nightmare-inducing prospect that there might be ghosts in the house. The next night Caleb lost his mind insisting his pillow be continually flipped over to the "cold side" and his water was not juicy enough. This fit lasted... THREE hours, during which time I had to nurse his baby brother (no co-mom for that) and figure out how to quiet Caleb so he wouldn't wake the other 8 souls in the 4 bedrooms.
Each night we'd descend to the finally child-free living room around 10 PM, exhausted, craving liquor, chocolate or some other palliative, only to have a stray child wander down asking for something unproduceable like their father or a colder pillow.
It was shit like that a lot. There never seemed to be enough adults to handle the concurrent meltdowns. Of course, there were also adorable moments with giggling kids running around the backyard and babies being babies. But also a lot of yelling and wondering who was was watching Elijah.
I literally had stress hives from the whole thing. I count them in the shower. It's a little game I invented to distract myself from being stressed.
But I'm not totally abandoning my conviction about extended family parenting. And this is why:
It's since gotten a lot better. The early kinks have been worked out. We've fallen into our rhythm, and the children have gotten over their various neuroses and become more used to living with each other.
And now we're approaching the utopia I had originally counted on. There does always seem to be a spare pair of arms to hold the baby or make some breakfast. There's always another person to laugh with about the ridiculously funny stuff your kids say and to relish in the babies "firsts." There's always a shoulder to cry on when your child pushes you to the breaking point.
|After things got better. This scene means another mom got to sleep in. Or I got pancakes made for me.|
It's a win-win-win. For now.
There's probably another post in me about the difficulty of melding different discipline strategies and not silently judging each other's parenting choices. But for now I'm going to focus on enjoying the company, the break from doing it alone and the constant companionship for the kids.
Hanging out with yeahwrite again this week. Just about the most supportive and talented group of bloggers you'll find on the interweb...