The thing about parenting an Only is that when it gets challenging — and it inevitably does — it’s hard to find someone to complain to who won’t dismiss you. One kid, compared to four or three or even two, is cake. One load of laundry. One mouth to feed. One parent-teacher conference to schedule. One annual physical. One summer camp tuition.
I have had dreams where I found out I was pregnant and the most pervasive memory upon awakening was the feeling of the legitimacy I had earned by having more than just one kid.
Over the past three weeks, while my wife has been recovering from two major surgeries in a row, I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water. And I am having a hard time allowing myself to feel that way — going to bed guilty every night that I am not able to handle it all with more grace. I’m behind on the laundry, I can barely wait to get The Who into bed every night just to give my brain a break, and I’m on the verge of tears at least once a day. Imagine, I keep telling myself, if you had more than one kid. What you’re doing, I keep telling myself, is no different than what millions of parents do every day. Single parents, parents of more than one, lots and lots and lots of other parents. This shouldn’t be that hard. And yet it is. The logistics alone — I can’t stop thinking and planning and worrying.
If I had multiple kids, would I be able to juggle it without going out of my mind? Probably. But maybe not. Maybe every day would be like this — wake up, do, think, do, think, do, think, go to bed. The only difference would be that I’d be the beneficiary of empathy instead of a vast sea of patronizing smirks.*
*Ok, I get that this is wholly in my imagination. My friends and family — including my wife — have been massively understanding, helpful, empathetic, and kind. Mostly, it’s just me. Maybe I should just stop smirking at myself.