Getting It Over With?

March 30, 2008 at 3:08 am 10 comments

I hear so many moms use the phrase “getting it over with” to talk about having children close together.

I get it, really I do, on the practical levels. The sleep deprivation and diapers, the lack of “freedom” — you have your kids close together and all that is out of the way in a few short years, rather than dragged out over a decade or so (depending on how many kids and how far apart you’re talking about). I also get the financial piece; the sooner the kids are school-age the easier for parents to work/work more and bring home the proverbial bacon.

And, yet, I still always balk at this statement, because on a deeper level, I’ve learned that I don’t want to make any major choices in my life to “get it over with.” It sets off my inner alarm bells of an attitude that is not living in the present, but living for some “someday” when things will supposedly be easier, better, etc. I’ve learned that “someday” living is a trap, rarely true and at the very least a cheap ticket to a life passed by without really experiencing it.

Now, I am not (not, not, not!!) saying that I think there is any one right age difference between siblings. There is clearly not, and different spans work better for different families for unlimited reasons and circumstances. It’s not the spacing I am questioning, just this particular reasoning.

I know diapers and sleep deprivation aren’t fun, but so much of parenting babies and toddlers is fun. And conscious presence and quality time spent together is a precious lifelong gift, to our kids and to us. Of course I realize the people who say they want to “get it over with” aren’t necessarily saying they aren’t taking the time to enjoy parenting at this stage, or that this is their only reason for their choice, but I also think it is worth stopping and pondering why so many moms are saying it.

I guess I just wonder if the “get it over with” logic is somehow connected to the culture of success, busyness, “never enough”-ness that I launched this blog to dive more deeply into. Is this reasoning about rushing through a stage of life that I hear so many parents of teenagers or adult children wax wistfully about how fast it went and how they wish they’d stopped and enjoyed it more? Is it about lacking an ability to slow down and just “be”? Is it fear of, what, stopping, falling behind, losing out, losing energy?

I’m not sure, but I do know the “get it over with” phrase is so over-used in my mommy circles that there is something to this. And it is usually said with a commiserating grimace, as if we know we are all stretched to our limits and surely want to get these years over with, too. Maybe there are more tangible social issues behind this pervasive logic — such as, lack of support in this culture for mothers/parents in so many forms (from lack of maternity/paternity leave to lack of quality part-time jobs and child care). Of course there are.

When I’m less sleep-deprived, I’m going to think about this more (haha). For now, I’m just putting this thought I’ve had for some time now on paper/screen. (Has anyone else written about this yet?? Hmmmm.)

So, what do you think? Have you heard the phrase used in this context? Have you used it yourself? Do you think there is a connection to our over-drive culture?

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Entry filed under: Parenting.

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10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Melissa  |  March 30, 2008 at 5:06 am

    I’m curious to hear what others have to say about this… I’ve heard the phrase used, but not used it myself. It’s pretty far outside my own reality (says the woman with more than a couple of kids, not especially closely spaced), so I’m not sure I could comment with any authority on where it comes from or what it means. Hmmm.

    Reply
  • 2. jooshynoodle  |  March 30, 2008 at 5:58 am

    I am finally able to enjoy some of life’s freedom’s again- my boobs are mine again, I can let my daughter out of my sight for a few minutes at a time, and I can leave her with a babysitter so I can have a date with my husband. With a newborn and infant, these things aren’t really possible. I wont even mention the sleep thing. So yes, I would like to get it over with so I can continue on with my other aspirations and goals.

    Reply
  • 3. Melissa  |  March 30, 2008 at 6:30 am

    Trying again, because my last comment was clear as mud:

    I wonder what is meant by “it.” What are we trying to get over with, exactly? Is “it” the break or slowdown in our illustrious careers? The tedium of sleepless nights, diapers, feedings? The body drama of pregnancy? The emotional roller coaster that sometimes accompanies reproductive choice-making?

    I think the implications of “getting it over with” vary with what is being valued/devalued in that statement. And I’m not sure precisely what IS being valued, and at the expense of what.

    Reply
  • 4. Vanessa  |  March 30, 2008 at 9:04 am

    I think it depends on who’s saying it. I’ve definitely met women who wanted to compress the baby/toddler stage of motherhood into as few years as possible to avoid taking too much time off work. And I’ve met others who didn’t like the diapers and lack of sleep and wanted to do it all at once, and also some who love older kids but aren’t as fond of small ones, and therefore wanted to hurry through that early stage so they could start interacting with the kids on a different level.

    Then, too, I think there’s a sort of built-in idea of progress in raising children — not necessarily tied to competitiveness or success, but just the natural progress that takes place over time as they learn and grow, and that makes you feel as if life is moving forward and evolving. Every time you have another baby, you’re back at square one, and over the course of a decade, it could start feeling as if you’re stagnating rather than continuing to evolve.

    For example, there was a time, three or four years ago, when I did want to have a second child, and if P had been up to it, I would have. Now that door has closed forever, but even if he were alive and wanted to, I wouldn’t have a baby at this point, when G is such a big kid and on the verge of becoming more independent. I’ve moved on to a new stage of motherhood, and starting over with a newborn would feel like going backward. So while I might say that I wish I had had a second child a long time ago and “gotten it over with,” it wouldn’t be because I wanted to rush through the little-kid stage, but because the time to do it was while I was already in that mode of living, if that makes any sense.

    (My mother obviously didn’t feel that way, though, since my two siblings and I were each born in a different decade, with a total of 19 years between me and my sister! LOL)

    Reply
  • 5. Shawn  |  March 30, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    I only know one woman who’s said it and she’s my cousin; she is due in May with her second child and her first just turned a year in February. She knew she would have them close together because she wanted to resume a normal sleep schedule ASAP.

    I don’t get it. I just don’t. Then again, I’m not a fertile woman and so planned pregnancies and all that are just beyond my comprehension (and tha’ts a whole ‘nother topic).

    Regardless, there is something to be said about just doing it when it feels right for yourself. Whenever that is. Mine are 2, as you know, and I’m just now starting to think that it might be OK if another came along … if it’s in the cards for me.

    Reply
  • 6. Cate  |  April 5, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Hmm, Shawn said it pretty darn well – I had a tough time getting pregnant too and can’t imagine timing pregnancies – just seems so foreign to me. I also just don’t get that saying. I’ve heard it said before but it makes me bristle and think, “then why bother?”

    That said, I can understand wanting to condense the diapering stages but there are pros and cons to each side – close together or more space between children. To each his/her own – what works for one won’t necessarily work for another… there are so many variables… importance of work, help from family/spouse, etc.

    Reply
  • 7. Heather  |  April 11, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    I have heard it before, and it always did seem a bit odd to me. Then again, I feel like the way people talk about pregnancy and child-rearing in most instances doesn’t make room for the vast differences in priorities, circumstances, and emotions different individuals have. So it’s hard to judge.

    My brother and I were 18 mos. apart, and while my mother said it was handy to move me into a bed and my brother into a crib without a gap, the reason she always gave was that I was so wonderful as an infant I tricked her into having another baby right away. She was sorry once my brother was born with the complete opposite personality and some pretty noisy tendencies ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
  • 8. rowena  |  April 21, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    I am a person who has said that. I don’t think I say it out of a desire to be in some fantastically ambitious career. I teach High School, I wait tables, I write. Being able to go back to work so that my family has enough money to have a home does factor into my decision. Being a person who understands and relates better to older children also factors in. But more important to me are some very personal reasons. Being pregnant and nursing and experiencing the sleep deprivation that is early childhood take away something vital from my self. I am not talking about my boobs or a taut belly or time to get a manicure. I am talking about my ability to think, to create, to feel happy. The time I have to give my children because of this is not very quality at all. Not because I am not working hard to be in the moment, to enjoy the small happinesses or to love my children at this age, (because I am trying very hard,) but because I am just not the best me.

    Should I get into my very personal reasons for having my children 20 months apart every time some one makes a comment about how crazy it was to have them close together? (And I have gotten some very negative comments.) No. I give them a short hand “wanted to get it over with,” and they nod and go on their way.

    I don’t like the way modern parenting has women pitted against other women for their choices. Kids close together, kids far apart. Work out of the home, Stay at home. Organic food or juice for snack. I would never put a woman down because she chose a c-section, even though I gave birth both times naturally without medication. This is not feminism to tell women that they are always wrong in the choices they make. Or even the way they explain their choices.

    I suppose this post and some of the responses made me bristle, too. Just like there is not one way to be a “perfect” mom, there is not one answer for why people space their kids the way they do. If I can’t see at all where a person is coming from, I tend to think I am the one who should be looking closer and trying on some empathy. I mean, really Cate, “then why bother?”

    And I’m sorry if my first comment on your blog is kind of negative. I just felt the need to speak out.

    Reply
  • 9. Megan  |  April 22, 2008 at 1:14 am

    Welcome and thanks for your heartfelt comment, Rowena. I did hesitate on writing this post because I, too, feel that mothering is so “loaded” to write about these days, I often try to avoid it!

    I totally agree with you; I am so disheartened by the competitiveness and defensiveness and judgment around mothering in our generation. It’s awful, so ridiculous. It’s the last thing I meant to do. It’s upsetting to me to think that I came across this way on any level, and I apologize if I did.

    I just re-read the original post, and I think I was as clear as I could be (the “not! not! not!” part) that I really was not (!!) trying to have a discussion about spacing children, or to say there is ANY right answer in the complexities of that issue. I certainly never, EVER said others’ parenting choices were wrong, or that being a feminist means there is one “right” way to mother!! But I can see how this post rubbed you wrong given you’ve dealt with inappropriate comments about your children’s spacing. (My brother and I are 15 months apart, by the way!!)

    I guess inferring that I’m not a feminist because I questioned the way people use “getting it over with” as an explanation feels a little harsh to me. It’s kind of slinging at me in the way you object to, no? (Not a good mother, not a good feminist? Neither seems productive, I’d bet we agree.)

    Really, I was genuinely questioning this phrase I hear so often, trying to figure out where it comes from for the people who say it and how it might connect to other “givens” in our go-go culture. Your post helps me understand it from your perspective. I do understand how hard this stage is, and I didn’t mean to imply that I or anyone sees it as all sunshine and roses. I also didn’t mean any of us (me included, for sure!) can seize every moment, although I will say that I really do try to notice when I’m rushing and slow down. I guess I think often about what if this was my last day, would I wish I’d have tried to be more at peace with it, enjoyed it more? Tomorrow is not a guarantee.

    I think the idea behind the original post could actually apply to anything, not just parenting — just the whole concept of “getting it over with” in our lives. I think the comments do point to it often coming from a space of not thoroughly enjoying where one is, as we’ve all experienced at times. And I still think it was a concept worth exploring, as are a lot of tough questions about our culture and ourselves. But I certainly didn’t mean to offend you. I hope you’ll come back and lend your thoughts again.

    Peace. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
  • 10. rowena  |  April 23, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    Gosh. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sling the “you’re not a feminist” bullhockey. I hate that too. And I would have just shared my point of view in response to your question, but I got a little riled at the comments. I do not usually post negatively, it was just a momentary thing.

    I do agree with your not rushing through things and being in the moment, a very zen concept. And I am working on it. I’m always willing to consider the tough questions though, and am interested in exploring the way society is working. Hopefully we can have more conversations about it. Even a little testiness is not necessarily a bad thing every once in a while. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply

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