I spent the last week in Texas with my best friend, her husband, and her three children. I had no contact with animals aside from stuffies until Saturday night, when California Guy picked me up from the airport and took me back to his house where Surina was waiting for us.
I've lived almost ten years with the most codependent, needy, crazy animals I've ever had the pleasure of being around, and I have to say, even they are easier to take care of than children. Whoever goes around judging stay-at-home moms, saying they sit around on their asses eating bonbons and watching reality TV all day while their children play quietly in their rooms, well, those people have no clue. Being a mom is hard, and those moms who spend all day everyday around their children, I applaud them.
My best friend's children are sweethearts, don't get me wrong. They are three, four, and six, so they are still very young, and all three of them are smarter than I am. They have this in common with my pets. All of my pets except for Willow are too smart for their own good, and my best friend's children have the same problem. The six-year-old reads at a fifth or sixth grade reading level, the four-year-old does math better than I do - he's adding and subtracting and counting on the calculator like he's been doing it since birth - and the three-year-old is already a master manipulator. He also enjoys taking stuff apart and putting them back together (not necessarily accurately, but he tries), and I have a feeling that one will be building rocket engines or something by the time he's twenty-five.
These kids take constant stimulation. The six-year-old and the three-year-old are both introverts so they are pretty good about amusing themselves, but the four-year-old is not only smart, he needs interaction with someone as smart as he is.
This is not me.
Incidentally, this is the same problem I have with Tess. If I leave Tess and the four-year-old alone for too long they will both get into some serious trouble trying to find something to keep their busy minds occupied.
Meanwhile Willow identifies with the three-year-old in being as needy and clingy (he's three after all and going through that stage), and Puckett would be a great pal for the girl, as she just wants something big and fuzzy to snuggle. Percy would get along with all three of them. He was fascinated with another friend's little one-year-old girl when they came over for a visit. The little girl had just learned to crawl up and down steps, and Percy accompanied her on every step, almost like a little black cheerleader. It was really the cutest thing I'd ever seen, and that's just the kind of kitty Percy is. He loves everyone and everything.
We could probably reserve Percy for the one that is about to be born, as my best friend is pregnant with her fourth, another boy. Given the way he behaved with my other friend's baby daughter, Percy would be great for a newborn. If I wasn't already staring at my best friend in awe for dealing with the three she has, I'm definitely bowing at her feet now considering she will have three little boys to run after. The one who probably really deserves the medal is the girl who happens to be the oldest - all those brothers - but she seems to deal with the boys fairly well. My best friend is lucky too to have a very supportive husband who is also a very good daddy.
At the end of my visit, I was exhausted so I can only imagine how my friend feels every day plus being pregnant. I get to be Auntie Anita who shows up for a week, brings presents, watches cartoons with them, and leaves the discipline, diaper changing, and feeding fussiness to their mother. Not only that, she and I shared the same diet as she is on a low carb diet because of her pregnancy, and I'm gluten free. I mention this because our diets don't include real food. I adopted her diet for a week because it was easier just to eat what she eats since she can't have a lot of carbs and I can't have gluten. There was no point bringing gluten free bread into her life just for a week, and I could handle a more restricted diet for a short time. So not only was I exhausted by the end of the week, I was starving. My friend and I both ended up limiting our carbs to the point of limiting our calories. No wonder we spent the majority of my visit watching The Big Bang Theory after the kids were in bed, and being generally irritable. We drooped around like molting chickens, and I believe now that was nothing but hunger. Chasing after three kids when one is thirty-eight years old and never having spent much time around children alone (I worked at an animal shelter, I never babysat) drained all of my energy. Being eight months pregnant, eating nothing but vegetables and meat (and a little pineapple that I brought into our lives), drained my friend of her will to live.
I'm kidding of course. Her children are her will to live, but I have a newfound respect for her. I've always found her amazing and strong, but it takes a special kind of woman to be a stay-at-home mom raising three children, and my four pets don't hold a candle to that kind of nurturing. I complain when I have to clean out litter boxes three times a day. She's doing fifty loads of laundry a day, changing diapers, potty training, and trying to keep her sanity finding kid friendly foods for dinner that all three of her children will eat without too much whining. And I think it's frustrating that Puckett has her nose out of joint being forced to eat the I/D food for her pancreatitis, and that Willow won't even touch I/D and has to eat an entirely different food. It's frustrating enough to feed three cats two different foods. I'm sure it's more frustrating to accommodate three different children, plus a husband, plus a best friend, all with different dietary needs.
What's more I can crate my animals when they annoy me. It's frowned upon to lock children in kennels when they are being obnoxious, though one can send them to their rooms. This usually dissolves into loud wailing as the child lets everyone in a five-mile radius know that the parents have just single-handedly ruined the child's life by making them sit in a room full of toys and children's books for five whole minutes, cruelly shut away from the world.
When I crate my pets (and really, it's just Willow) I usually don't hear a peep out of them. Actually Willow kind of likes her crate. I think she thinks of it as her hidey-hole. My friend's children love to be in their rooms until they have to be. Then the world has wronged them.
I love those kids. They are adorable and sweet and they love to snuggle, just like my pets, but I was happy to get home to my animals who are much less work. Of course as soon as I walked through my front door, I had four litter boxes to clean, and Percy was shouting at me for his food bowl that happened to be sitting on the floor where the Cowboy had left it. Puckett ignored me as per usual, and Willow started her usual clingy, needy dance. It took me three hours to clean my house and sanitize the litter boxes in order to get the stench of cat poop and litter out of the air, and by the time I was done, I was really exhausted. At least by then I'd had real food as I was back to eating my usual pile of gluten free carbs.
And after all that, and having never really thought seriously about being a mother myself, California Guy dropped the bomb of suggesting that maybe we should have a "Gerb" of our own (that's what he calls them, and I'm not completely sure why), because he likes me enough to keep me around and wants to have a family with me.
I could probably handle one. Three? And with my brood? And of course the potential German shepherd puppy I might be on deck for? Not to mention Surina?
I'm beginning to understand why women have children in their twenties, not their late thirties and early forties. Angelina Jolie and her celebrity sisters can brag all they want about working full time and still having children at fortysomething, but they also have the best nannies money can buy, and they can afford the nutritionists and trainers it'll take to get their bodies back to a size two. From what I've witnessed, nobody can do it all. Good moms deserve a medal, or maybe a parade. Raising children is not a pretty business.
Raising cats isn't either, but at least I didn't have to push any of them out through a hole the size of a quarter. This may still happen for me though. I'm not completely over the hill yet, and I'm not quite forty yet. I may have to change this blog to how to raise a healthy, emotionally stable child among codependent fur babies.