Janice: “I haven’t put my kids to bed in five years. At least not during the week, because then their father will take care of them. Three children in music lessons, hockey and a week at a sailing camp every summer, that costs a small fortune. Just like our grooming pony, by the way, a large house, two cars and luxury family vacations, three times a year. So I work sixty hours a week at my accounting firm. I leave when the rest of my family is having breakfast and don’t return until the kids are asleep. Except Igor, nowadays, because he can stay up until I get home, around half past eight. But I don’t have to put that in anymore.
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I am not concerned with the worry. Didn’t play mother and father as a child. I was the only girl in class who didn’t want to be a mother and teacher, didn’t own dolls or barbies, and never baked a cookie in my life. I preferred to read and romp with the boys.
Want to have children
I didn’t want to have children when I got older. My friends moved in together after their studies, some of them already got pregnant. I was horrified at the thought. Kids didn’t like me and I didn’t like them – or so I told myself. I was especially not sure what to do with them.
But then I ran into Alain. He worked in a bar in a small French village, where I was on vacation with friends. I was 28 and single, he was looking for structure in his life – which did not want to go smoothly with a contractor company that did not get off the ground, so he earned extra money in the hospitality industry. He was two years younger than me, but I fell in love instantly. My friends thought I was crazy. Said: “Such a freebooter, that’s not for you, is it?” But from our first kiss I felt: I will never let you go.
We kept in touch and two months after my vacation he visited me in the Netherlands. For example, we commuted up and down between the Dordogne and The Hague for six months, until I turned out to be pregnant – right through the pill. I was in complete shock. A child? I? I never imagined my future like that. A baby, that was something for others. I was building my career. Wanted to become a partner at the accounting firm where I worked. My tiny apartment didn’t even have room for a nursery.
Yet I immediately knew that I wanted to keep the baby. If there was one man I thought it possible with, it was Alain. He, in turn, was almost ecstatic with happiness. “Love cannot be controlled,” he said. And I thought he was right. Step one was that Alain moved in with me. Then we started calculating. I earned good money, but childcare is expensive. Alain did not have a job in the Netherlands. Fortunately, the demand for contractors turned out to be high and he was able to work as a self-employed person. We agreed that I would continue to work full-time and he would only take on projects that could be combined with caring for a baby. For example, at weekends, and preferably not for more than three days a week – the amount of childcare we bought. That would make it easy for us to manage.
Mum likes to work hard: ‘I’m not the type to bake cupcakes with the kids every afternoon’>
Get used to
I had to get used to the fact that I now became a mother. In the beginning of my pregnancy, there was hardly a night when I didn’t wake up in a panic. Good heavens, baby, did I really want this? In any case, I wouldn’t breastfeed; way too much hassle, I thought. It was great, Alain thought, that he could do the night feedings so that I could go to work rested. When, in a distraught mood, I was afraid of never being able to love a baby, he would sooth me and say, “You love me too, don’t you?” Just like when I was afraid that I simply couldn’t be a mother, as I always thought. Then Alain responded dryly: “I’m sure I will, but I also know that I will be a fantastic father, so I’ll take care of it on behalf of both of us.”
Igor was born a week after the due date. It was a hell of a delivery. His shoulder was trapped behind my pubic bone, trapping him in the birth canal. After pushing for an hour and a half, I still had an emergency caesarean section. There, in that operating theater, panic struck. Was my child going to make it? What if the lack of oxygen caused damage? Wasn’t he in pain? From one moment to the next I became a mother; I felt it to the very core of my fibers.
Igor was left with a broken collarbone from childbirth and cried incessantly. My worst fear came true: I had a child and I couldn’t even console it. I decided to breastfeed anyway, the only way to calm him down. After five days in the hospital, we were allowed to go home and the crying stopped. “You see, you are the best mother in the world,” Alain beamed. I finally started to believe it myself.
When Igor was ten weeks old, I went back to work. I had no problem with it for a second. Alain was home that first day, so Igor had the best care he could get. The moment I slumped behind my desk in the office, a cup of coffee in my hand and dead silence around me, I felt like I was taking my first breath after months of suffocation. I was shocked myself: I had not experienced motherhood in this way at all until then. I thought.
The first day of care, later that week, was the same. Alain brought Igor to the office so I could get to the office early, and it wasn’t until I got a call from the teachers – by default on the first day – that I thought of my child, “Oh yes, he’s not with his father, but with strangers. ‘ I was ashamed that I hadn’t been worried for a second, but immediately went back into my work so deeply that I didn’t have time to think about it for too long. When I came home from work, and Igor had a clean bath with Alain on the couch while the lasagna was in the oven, I knew: this is how we are going to do it, our life. I was thrilled to have Igor in my arms again. I hugged him flat, handed him his last bottle, and put him in the crib next to our bed. I was perfectly happy. But had I missed him? No, not a moment.
Division of roles
Alain had a harder time. He thought it was sad, such a small baby in what he thought was a cold shelter. Igor needed his parents, he thought, who gave him undivided attention. Alain reluctantly left for work and called the daycare center ten times a day to ask how Igor was doing – which was always fine. I cramped at the thought of being with my child seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Not that I didn’t love Igor, I’d give my life for him. I just needed the time and space for myself that I found at work.
Fine, Alain thought, he liked nothing more than to worry. The money we saved when he almost stopped working was almost as much as he earned. Six months after Igor’s birth, we decided that Alain would only say yes to really special jobs and that I would continue to work full-time. So all three of us were perfectly happy.
The construction went so well that after a year and a half I even dared to think about a second child. And three years later to a third. I breastfed all the children until my maternity leave and let them sleep in my bed until they were six months old. We did move during my second pregnancy: a two-room apartment is impossible with two children.
The house we bought has a garden and a trampoline and space for the youth that I want to give my children. We know no better than that I bring in the money and Alain takes care of it. That is also the most convenient financially. I don’t have the impression that the children miss me; families in which the father works long working days have also existed for centuries without problems?
Time for the kids
It costs me just one sacrifice to be a good mother next to my busy job: I have almost no social life. When I finally have time for my kids on the weekend, I really want to be there for them. Then we all cuddle in the big bed, spend the rest of the day playing hockey games and the pony, and eat on the couch at a family movie in the evening. We always spend Sundays together. Then I listen to all the stories of the children, play with them, help them with homework and do everything mothers do. That way I can do it again on Monday – and so can she.
I always make time for school talks, doctor’s appointments and other important things for the children. I’ve never missed anything essential. We simply reversed the traditional roles. A father who takes care of the children only at the weekend doesn’t love them less than the mother, doesn’t he? For us this is a logical construction. I’m better at work, Alain prefers to take care of it. We both love our children dearly, and each other. Seems like a win-win situation to me, and it also gives the children a modern outlook on life. ”
This article has previously appeared in Kek Mama.
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