The Tally Of My Life
By: Kathy Buckworth
As a mother of four, I often like to peruse the birth announcements in the newspaper, mostly to convince myself that having more than the requisite 1.5 children is in fact a smart and trendy thing to do. It's either that, or the "misery loves company" theory I'm employing.
While it's too easy to poke fun at the precious announcements regarding "our latest team player", or the "newest merger and acquisition" that many overzealous new parents riotously dictate, my attention was drawn to one particular notice that I couldn't ignore. Not a silly name, or blessings to the maternity nurses you'll never lay eyes on again, but this – "Mom was in labour for 17 hours." Succinctly stated in the midst of an otherwise normal birth announcement.
I wondered about the thinking behind this message. Was this to indicate a long labour? A short one? Had someone won a bet? In my experience, this was a screamingly average labour time not really worth mentioning in passing conversation, let alone placing in an ad which was costing pennies per word. Upon reflection, however, I acknowledged that this must have had some significance to the parents in terms of an achievement in their short tenure as new first time parents. In deference to that, I have prepared the following announcement as a follow up to my own four children, since that blissful labour period.
Since the birth of her first child in 1991, Mom has endured the following: Twenty seven hours of explaining to assorted toddlers why electric sockets are not fork holding receptacles, thirteen hours of scrubbing poo out of the back of various baby's necks, 2.2 seconds thinking about what to do with my spare time, sixteen and half hours searching for lost soccer uniforms, lunch forms for school, favourite blankets and a pastry brush, four hundred and six hours driving children to soccer games, hockey practices, birthday parties, movies, dentist appointments, orthodontist appointments, emergency rooms, dance lessons, gymnastics clinics, and one ill advised fencing session. Not to forget twenty seven hours of children's school concerts, tap dance recitals, gymnastics displays, hockey playoff games, and graduation ceremonies for grades in which everyone graduates. Thirty two hours of worrying about late arrivals home, that rash which won't go away, itches in unmentionable spots, sending a 5 year old to school in diapers, and the length of a 12 year old's skirt. Fifteen hours of scrubbing potties, barf crusted rugs, snot covered faces, spit upon shoulders, coloured on walls, and lice laden heads. Twenty three hours of scissor utilization on fingernails, toenails, gum from hair, shirt tags that annoy, loose threads, too long straws, construction paper animals, snowflakes and assorted letters and numbers. Sixteen disgusting hours of probing through soggy, cheesy knapsacks and lunchbags for essential notes, plastic containers and pizza order forms. Four straight hours of "Because I'm your mother that's why", immediately followed up by rationalization of why I am not my own mother. One hundred and two hours of fight refereeing, ‘who started it' contests, mending bruised feelings, battered egos, broken friendships and broken plastic cars. Three hours of apologizing to other parents, children, teachers, grandparents, coaches, and other adults in some way traumatized or abused by terrorizer toddlers. One hour of explaining why Mommy may use certain words and children may not. Two minutes defending the vasectomy position. Fifty seven hours of Mary Kate & Ashley's Greatest Hits. Five seconds each contemplating who is the cutest of a) The Wiggles, b) the Zabomafoo Boys, c) Steve or Joe on Blue's Clue, or d) the Dad's who inhabit indoor playgrounds. Two thousand plus hours of diaper changes, snapping up sleepers, pulling on pants, arranging the socks in just the right way, t-shirt pullings on, overall clipping, buttoning up, and zippers which won't cooperate the first time. Not enough time drinking wine, laughing with my husband and enjoying the company of adults.
Most of us couldn't afford this ad, and it would be at this point that you could expect the traditional "and the hours spent loving and enjoying my children…priceless." Fingers poised down throats ladies. I'll let you do the math. The tallying up of our lives as parents starts with something which is called labour, ironically, as it indicates exactly what you're in for, for at least the next twenty years. Birth announcements cover the start, and death announcements the finish – we need a forum to cover the ‘real life' which happens in between. Listen up adventurous newspaper editors.
In the meantime, new parents should consider the childbirth labour a comparatively easy part of the process - at a minimum you're lying down and there are usually drugs to be had.
Kathy Buckworth, author of The Secret Life of SuperMom (published Spring, 2005) is actively counting hours spent hiding exorbitant amounts of recyclable empty wine bottles from her neighbours.