The End of the Line

My baby girl turns two today.

And what a bundle of bliss she is.

These last two years with her have been two of the most enjoyable of my life.

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While this is the case, it is also the case that I have reached the end of the line as far as extending my family is concerned. The baby phase for me is officially over. I finally know that I am past that stage of my life it now. I always used to wonder how people just ‘knew’ that they were done having children. For me, it was never so simple. I never felt like my family was complete.

Until now.

I often wonder why it took me so long to reach this point, as opposed to others who simply cannot fathom going through it all again. My immediate family and inner circle of friends all absolutely ADORE their children. Yet the most common response I hear upon questioning them as to whether they will extend the family further than two children is, ‘Oh God no, I’m so done’.

That’s it, end of story, shop shut.

The response more often than not involves no hesitation, but just rolls off the tongue with complete conviction, and I finally think I understand why. Even though I am forty, I know it isn’t just an age thing. Childrearing is far more involved and complex than it ever used to be. The expectations are higher, the lifestyle more hectic, the commitment longer.

In short, the job requirements have changed. ‘Higher duties’ are found at every turn, not just in the early years.

Like most parents, I am tired. Finally I am starting to look forward to that stage of life where I don’t have to spend every waking minute looking after everyone else. Dare I say it, but parenthood these days is beginning to resemble an ever growing McDonalds Meal Deal, where we are constantly ‘upsizing’ the experience of childhood for our kids. Holidays are no longer day trips to the coast or a visit to family, but overseas trips and expensive experiences. Birthday parties are elaborate affairs, not to mention the demand for pricey electronic gifts adding new levels of pressure to parents who are desperate for their kids to ‘keep up’.

Sporting and cultural activities cost more, are most intensive and involve travelling further from home. School life is more involved, as the need to achieve higher results to secure tertiary or workplace pathways in a more competitive market means more demanding curriculum for our youth. This adds more stress for students, but even more so for parents. Financial stress, emotional stress, physical stress – is it any wonder that families are becoming smaller and parents are not signing on for more?

So for parents who are planners, and who like to have all their ducks in a row before making these kind of long term life-changing decisions, I can see why any more than one or two children must seem like a one way ticket to financial and emotional devastation.

Quite frankly there are days where I question my own sanity in having such a large family. But I guess I subscribe to more of the ‘She’ll be right’ mentality; close cousin to the ‘We’ll just cross that bridge when we come to it’ and ‘All will work out for the best’ views on life.

But finally, even with this more liberal approach to life as a parent, I have reached my limit.

So as I welcome my final foray into Toddler Town and bid my last baby phase farewell, I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic at the end of such a monumental, intensely chaotic but blissful period of my life.

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