I’m staying with my sister and her family on the east coast, immersed for just a few days in family action starting at 7:15 this morning (yes, that is 4:15am San Francisco time)–my standing early morning wake-up call/snuggle time with my nieces. My sister and her husband have two girls: one is 3.5yo, the other is 6 months. They’re mesmerizingly cute, and I say that as their aunt but they really are objectively adorable (trust me!). They’re obviously at very different stages of development but both exhibit mega-smarts, crazy sweetness, and lighthearted spirits. They are my first and only nieces and amazing little humans whom I adore.
Given that I’m in the process of trying to get pregnant, I’m watching the household play-by-play with intensity. It’s impossible to know what it’s like to be a parent until you’re a parent, and this type of visit is about as close as I can get. My mom often introduces herself to our friends as, “The Mom” and I often wonder how vastly different it will feel to be “The Mom” vs. the babysitter, nanny, “auntie,” or actual aunt.
My sister and bro-in-law do an amazing job and make it look easy, but MAN it’s a lot of work.
I basically played all day with the girls but not without two additional adults doing constant laundry, changing diapers, cooking, running errands, and straightening up. I was also reminded, in my delirium of jet-lag, that playtime requires concentration and skill, whereas I kept wanting to put my head down. It also requires, ideally, your full attention–multi-tasking is generally impossible. I mostly observed but helped where I could figure out what needed to be done, shuttling everybody along from one meal, activity, nap to the next. Both girls are sick, and we were sneezed and coughed on throughout the day. Messy and neverending work and daunting to contemplate as a single mom.
At the same time, I was beside myself with the joy of cuddling with a book, getting the baby to smile, listening to imaginary stories with a ridiculous amount of creative detail, singing songs, watching these girls figure stuff out. Also, watching them interact with each other—the 3.5yo hugs and kisses her sister looking like she wants to eat her up and the baby lights up and starts screaming with delight every time her big sister engages her.
Today, my sister showed me an article in Parenting Magazine on single moms by choice, featuring (among others) a speech pathologist in San Francisco who had triplets solo. Yep, triplets. Solo. In the picture, the mom is smiling. She said she took things “one minute at a time,” and that every morning, she and her three toddlers name every one of their family and friends to remember how much they love them. An attitude of gratitude! If she can do it, I can do it (and, again, let’s not invoke the triplets). My eventual family household may not run like clockwork, but there will be lots of love, and joy.