-- (Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Babble.com. It has been reprinted here with permission. Disney is the parent company of both ABC News and Babble.)
After having baby number four exactly two months ago (sob for babies growing up so fast and double sob because I still can’t fit into my pants), my husband and I have visited the debate almost daily of whether our family is now complete.
I know that many of you would probably take pause here and think something along the lines of, what on earth is there to think about? Isn’t four kids enough? But for the purposes of this story I will ask that we put our proper family size opinions aside.
The point is — every parent and every family unit is different, and in our case, I struggle with the notion that we could be “done” having children. After all, having young children, in a way, has become my identity — something that I know is true for a lot of other mothers. It’s what has become my “job” over the past six years, it’s what my personal and work life, as a writer, revolves around. I’m that woman who’s always pregnant or nursing or has a pack of young kiddos surrounding her at all times.
So to think that we could be “done” with that stage of our lives is — understandably so — a bit hard for me. It’s almost as if, with the extreme focus of modern parenting and all the good-natured parenting-is-so-hard-but-it’s-the-most-important-thing-you’ll-ever-do stories, I have somehow absorbed the notion that if I’m not parenting babies and toddlers and laughing with my fellow exhausted peers about potty training and breastfeeding, that I will cease to exist. I mean, look at social media and celebrity news these days — parenting the young crowd is in.
And I happen to like this stage in my life, for all its chaos and commotion. I simply can’t imagine that I will never breathe in the scent of another newborn baby or watch those first few smiles light up my world or clap as steps are mastered across our living room floor. Those are the moments that have made life, for me, worth living.
Needless to say, I am reluctant to close the door on our baby-making days forever and in our discussions, I’ve shared my feelings with my husband. In short, I love babies, I feel family is the most important thing, and how could we put an end to that?
But the other day, it dawned on me that maybe — just maybe — I was being just a tad selfish in my baby-centric thinking.
As we talked about our hopes for the future, my husband started talking, almost tentatively, as if he was whispering a dream he dare not speak too loudly for fear it wouldn’t come true: how much he was looking forward to more time to pursue some career aspirations as a woodworker.
He outlined business plans, project ideas, a website design, growing more and more excited as he spoke. His dreams came to life before me, as if his visions danced on the shag rug between us as I watched a spark ignite inside of him that I hadn’t seen in a very, very long time.
And then it hit me: parenting isn’t all about the mother.
This whole time, I’ve been extremely focused on combining work and motherhood for myself, on being determined to chase my dreams as a writer all while staying home with my kids, and fancying myself maybe a bit more as the important player in the team, as the one who grew the babies, gave birth to the babies, and breastfeeds the babies. After all, there’s a whole lot of focus on moms attempting to “having it all” because dads already have it all, right?
I’ve been so focused on my sacrifices as a working mom, whether that was in the sacrifice of pregnancy or the sacrifice of breastfeeding, and how all of that meant working extra hard to ensure my own career aspirations, that I had never stopped to consider how much my husband has had to sacrifice along the way, too.
I’m ashamed to admit this, and I’m sure I will be judged harshly for it, but it took my husband simply sharing a dream of his own for me to realize that dads have to balance parenting and work, too. He may be a man with the “luxury” of having a stay-at-home wife, but that doesn’t mean that having a family hasn’t impacted his career or his dreams, too.
Marriage, like parenting, is on-the-job training and it would appear that I still have a lot to learn about the true meaning of teamwork. In realizing that creating a life together means sacrifice and compromise for each other, in figuring out, somehow, a path that doesn’t work just best for me or for him, but for us.
And because I’m curious, perhaps you could share — how did you and your spouse make a decision on how many children (if any) to have?
More on Babble:
Being a Stay-at-Home Parent Is a Luxury … for Your Spouse
7 Things I Never Thought I’d Do Before I Was Married
It’s Normal to Hate Your Husband After You Have a Baby, Right?
New Study Proves It! Happy Wife = Happy Life