On our school trip today we decided to go to a small little park out of the way. Iakabos says he likes the quieter parks, and while we were there I met a gentleman who was there for exactly the same reason. He came with some food and sat down two tables away from us.
I asked if he was on lunch break and he said yes, and that he liked to come here sometimes to get away from people and enjoy the peace and quiet. I agreed, and then we kept to ourselves for the most of the time.
After a long while he complimented me on how I was handling Hope and Jacob (not that I had really done much!) and then said he had a teenage son with autism. We talked a little more.
Later Iakabos came back from the river with our other four children, at which point he said with wide, unbelieving eyes "Obviously, those aren't all yours." I smiled and said "Yup, they're all ours." To which he replied "I don't envy you." Now, I wasn't planning on sharing this conversation, because it sounds rude on the surface. And I can't explain it, but after talking with him for that brief time I knew he was not being malicious in any way. I would even describe his comments as kind, so I don't want others to think badly.
Kindness aside I, of course, did not agree. I brushed it off and did not think much about it. With six now, it isn't the first comment we have received, and it just isn't a big deal. But as I watched our children playing in the last moments before we left I wondered to myself if there was truth in his words. Is my life really that undesirable?
There are a lot of moms of large families who defend the emotional nature of having many children. Things like, how do you divide your love among all your children, are answered by saying "The love doesn't divide, it multiplies." And before I was in this position myself, I would take that as absolute truth. I couldn't wait for that multiplying feeling! The more love the better right?
There are adoptive moms who say that adopting a child with special needs just enriches their biological children's lives. That their ability to be empathetic and compassionate increased dramatically when they had such a sibling to love on and care for.
I am glad for them, but that's not what happened for me. Having many children hasn't made my life, or our family, more full of love. If anything there have been many times where I feel the opposite, that the love and time and patience is being divided. I look with fondness on the days where I only had Evangelia to care for, and think that it was the only time where I was truly a "good" mom.
Ever since Stephen was born, and every time since then, whenever children are added to our home I feel that everyone else is getting less from me. I'm not sure where the love multiplying factor comes from, but I wish I felt it. The truth is, every time a couple gives me a reason for why they aren't having children at all (or yet) or why they won't have more - I can resonate with what they say.
Adopting our kiddos caused a lot of behavioral and emotional upheaval, and although I'd like to think we have all recovered from the trauma and their personalities are just as sweet and innocent as they used to be... I know it's not true. No one has been the same since.
I totally get where people are coming from when they want to wait ten years before having children so they can travel, or have plenty of time alone with their husband, or get financially stable, or have their "own" life first. I remember feeling overwhelmed the first time I got pregnant and understanding why abortion would seem preferable to those who didn't have a good support system or weren't in a good place.
I don't roll my eyes at parents who want to "space" their kids to make sure they get plenty of one on one time with each one. I ache for one on one time with my children, and it's so hard to make it happen. I don't deny that my children won't get the best of all the arts and extracurriculars because our time and our budget are limited and I have to split that between all of them.
I internally nod my head when people tell me that they had two or three all close together and stopped so they could get that baby-toddler season over with and move on. Babies and toddlers are great, but there's not much else you can do with your life when you're busy chasing around tiny ones.
I could go on, but the point is, that sometimes I agree with that nice man in the park who doesn't envy me. I wanted to defend my life choices; I want to believe that our life is awesome because we have so many children. I want to believe that each child is better off for every new one we welcome in. I want to justify what we are doing here.
But the reality is, I don't know if that's true or not. And really, it doesn't even matter. I don't have to be happier for being a mom of lots of littles. Life doesn't have to be easier because my kids have playmates, or less expensive because of purchasing power and hand-me-downs. Those things can be totally untrue, and I still wouldn't take any of them back.
As I watched my children, preparing to internally defend their existence against a world (and sometimes myself) that doesn't understand - I just looked at them playing together and said "But they're people."
I can't take any of them back, and I'd never want to. Not because they fulfill me or because they make my life easier or more meaningful or because they're cute or fun. All of that can be true or none of it can be true, and it doesn't matter one bit. They are people. Their existence can't be boiled down to my convenience or comfort level or their sibling's access to the best classical education or more rested parents.
Each child is a person. If I had listened to conventional wisdom, none of them would be here. Four would not exist and the other two would likely be dead. Whether my life is desirable or not has nothing to do with it. They deserve to exist, to be alive, because they are humans made in the image of God.
I can't deny them life simply because it makes me feel better or allows me to do more for other children emotionally or educationally.
There is nothing wrong with pursuing happiness or success, until it starts infringing on the lives of others. These six people that I am raising are all absolutely worthy of life. They are all made in the image of God, and they deserve to live. Period. How I feel, what I want, has nothing to do with it.
I don't think this means we should all be having as many children as possible, but I do think it means that my reasons for denying a person life are not good enough reasons to do so. I wouldn't want to deny anyone existence or life because I was being afraid or self-seeking.
Is my life less desirable? At this point in time I honestly don't know, and you know what?
It doesn't really matter.