I was in the dog run with our puppy, socializing him and getting him his daily dose of exercise. One thing Ceasar Milan said about raising a dog that always resonated with me is “exercise, discipline, then love”. I don’t necessarily follow that order (it usually goes “love, exercise, then discipline if there’s time), but I pretend to try.
I had our youngest in a Baby Bjorn. As I awkwardly crouched to pick up the dog’s doody, someone joked that I had my hands full with an infant and a puppy. I said this was only the half of it – that there are another two kids at home. And I got a look that made me realize something that I had gotten used to: This is friggin’ exhausting.
They say being a parent is a full-time job, but it’s actually more than that. It’s more than drop-offs, pick-ups, dinners, play-dates, baths, tooth-brushing, colds, dirty diapers, and endless noise. It’s a constant emotional and psychological force – not a burden, because you love it. You would never go back to living without it. But it’s always there. The fears. The concerns. The never-ending feeling that you are forgetting someone or something.
Anyone who knows me might be inclined to qualify me as a touch neurotic. I am dreadfully afraid of dying. I don’t like germs. When I see someone sneeze or lick their fingers, I immediately see an aura around them like a black cloud. I loathe forgetting to do something I promised to do, or being late in doing it. Before kids, it used to be that these fears only related to my own being.
Enter kids, and the whole psychology of being changes. I am no longer only fearful of my own well-being, but that of three other humans whose behaviour more closely resembles that of a drunk adult. They are nowhere near being adults who are able to take care of themselves (although I don’t think this feeling will ever go away). At every moment of the day, I have to perform a mental check: Where are they? Are they fed? Are they doing something dangerous? Are they learning the wrong lessons? Did I forget to do something for them?
And it never ends – day and night, awake and asleep. If I hear a bump in the night, I wonder if a kid just fell out of the bed. When I head a door slam, I reflexively wonder if there’s an errant finger in the crack. When something crashes to the ground, I instinctively fear the ensuing wails. When I hear a scream, I immediately assess whether it is a scream of joy or pain. And when there’s the odd silence, I have to immediately determine if the kids are just chilling, or if they have knocked themselves unconscious.
Now this all may just be me and my neuroses. It may be common, or even universal. It may get better, it may never get better, or it may get worse with age. And admittedly, I might make it harder on myself with personal pastimes, multiple hobbies, and compulsive videography (I volunteered to help out with the flood victims on the West Island, and had to document the experience. And on my way to work yesterday, just happened across a daredevil jumping 110 feet from a cherry picker as part of a cancer fundraiser).
All I know is that at this point in my life, I wouldn’t want to live without the burden of being a parent, but it is utterly exhausting.
And on that note, I had better go. There’s a dog doing some suspicious pacing by the front door.