How to manage time away from the children


I go away for a week on Friday. Without children.

I could feel guilty about this. But I don’t. I could feel apprehensive. But I don’t.

I could worry that the kids will be feral, that their carers will be very tired, that they’ll run out of toilet paper, that the cat will start vomiting again, that the kids will only eat fish fingers, that Lbaby will keep everyone awake at night, that the Abomb will muck up at school, that Sdash won’t eat anything at preschool except oranges, that the shower taps will keep dripping, that the shopping delivery won’t turn up, that all three boys end up sick, that their carers end up sick, that the cleaners won’t get paid, that the car gets another flat tyre.

But I don’t. And I won’t.

Because I deserve this and honestly, my boys deserve it too. They deserve a mother who is given the opportunity to recharge, to reflect and quite honestly, to breathe a little.

A mother who needs a gentle reminder that she is actually part of the living. A reminder that to be alive is to use all your senses at once. A reminder that there is someone in this head that existed before three little boys came into this world.

It seems exaggerated, far fetched that I feel all these things. But right now, that’s exactly how I feel. Because this is what right now looks like for me. I am consumed and subsumed.

So, Tokyo, I can’t wait to meet you. But actually, I’m also looking forward to saying good bye and coming back here a little more me but with a whole lot more of me – just for them.

How I survived a family holiday

my real life sunset

I’m not exactly sure what the term ‘family holiday’ means. Firstly, just placing these words next to each other undoes any true, and positive, meaning of the second.

A family holiday is not, I repeat, not, by any means, a holiday. The only definitions I could find of holiday included words such as ‘festive,’ ‘recreation,’ and ‘leisure.’ In particular, I love this definition: a day (or days) of festivity or recreation when no work is done.

You see, that makes me laugh.

We just returned from a week’s family holiday. It was one of the hardest weeks of my life. By hard I mean, manual labour hard. By hard, I mean stressful, sleep deprived, anger filled. I’m ashamed to say it but it’s true.

C and I worked harder over the last week than we have in a long time. And we had not one but two grandmothers with us who worked just as hard.

Yes, my three boys require four hard-working adults to manage them

But on our fourth day, I was sitting outside our holiday unit (there’s that crazy word again). The three boys had just gone down for their first day sleep of the holiday (which is necessary when you’re waking at 4.30am. And when I say ‘waking’ I mean ready to start the damn day).

I was thinking about how I’d just yelled and then sung 30,000 lullabies and then tiptoed out of their room and downed a glass of water and sat down in one of the sun lounges outside the unit and I thought, the sun is hot and there is a seagull. All by himself. Standing on a jetty which reaches out over a body of water, big and still and framed by a low lying, gentle horizon. And I thought. This is ok. This moment is OK. Many moments have not been ok but this one is. And right now that’s what I have and I will sit with it and hold onto it and sit and hold and sit and hold.

And then I thought of all the other moments of grace that butted up against the hard stuff. I thought of my first sip of coffee, strong and hot so early in the morning. I thought of little boys running away from waves and laughing, the moisterising of my skin after stretches of time in the sun. I thought of hugs from my mother and that second glass of wine each evening easing me out of the day. I thought of the goats cheese C and I enjoyed on our night out and getting to lick everyone’s gelato on our daily trip into town. I thought of my thigh muscles working hard for the first time in a long time and toddlers scooting, entertaining the crowd. I thought of holding my little boy through the waves, his legs wrapped so tight around mine. I thought of the lady who stepped out from her market stall to tell me how beautiful he is. I thought of sunsets, which leave you breathless and sunrises, which remind you that you are part of something much bigger.

I made myself think of all those things as I watched the seagull, standing by himself in the sun by the water which is big and still but urges me to dive in.

How do you survive family holidays? 

A letter from my future self

I wrote this in the wake of my previous post and with the fear that regret is viral, eradicated only by intangible hope.

Dear Francesca

I write this, sitting at my window above the row of gardenias you planted which are now in full bloom. These flowers you have tended, bring me so much joy, thank you.

I am writing to tell you that what you’re doing now, looking at it from afar, is amazing. I know that you often feel beaten. I know that you are tired. I know that you doubt yourself. I know that sometimes you wonder if you should be doing more, giving more.  

I’m telling you – you’re fine. You’re great. You still can’t spell and your fashion sense is dubious, but honestly, I look at you, my 35 year old self, with such grace.

You love those boys with all your heart and they have no reason to doubt it. You manage to find a way, however, strange, to let them know that every day. And that’s no mean feat. Because they are, and have no doubt, hard work.

You manage to look after them in such ways that they want for nothing. Nothing meaningful anyway. Truth is, the hard work you are doing, all the things you value for those boys, are important. Even if it’s just important to you. That matters. You should feel proud for sticking to what you value, for knowing when to compromise, for knowing what is negotiable.

The Abomb has a passion for the written word that only you could have encouraged. You have inspired him and ignited a passion for which he will always be grateful. He loves with fierceness which is both overwhelming and breathtaking and this capacity for love has served him well. All the hard work you are doing has paid off so keep going. Know that you do it with love. Know that you do it with his best interests. I only say, try and encourage a gentleness in your relationship.

Sdash is as quirky as he ever was and your love for him lets him know that he never has to fit any mould, that he can be who he is and know that he will be loved. And he makes people laugh, so hard. Can I say you have C to thank for that? Sdash remains a true card. And he is gentle and soft and cares so much. You encouraged that in him. Well done.

Lbaby is a force to be reckoned with, but you knew this right? There is nothing this boy can’t or won’t achieve. He will never come off second best. But all that work, that very hard work that you did means that he wins with graciousness. He is a great sport. He enjoys the lightness of life. For him there is no darkness. He grew up knowing he was loved unconditionally and that with love he can achieve anything. Go you.

And it’s nice that you and C are finally able to enjoy some time together. The years you are putting in now are hard and I can see that it’s a challenge sometimes to remember that you’re on the same team. But you are. And actually, you play pretty well together all things considered – and by all things I mean, the sleep deprivation, the constant cleaning, food preparation, bottom wiping, nappy changing, the ever-careful adjudication, the tidying, driving, sandpit playing, the buckling of seat belts and wiping of noses. All these things take their toll but your patience, however hard you work at it, has paid off and you both now enjoy the people you fell in love with.

Your family is well nourished in all ways. They are loved. They are held. By you.

Trust me, you are amazing despite the inclination you feel towards guilt and inadequacy and occasionally, shame.

I look at you, proud. I look at you with love.

You are so much. More than I can ever say.

With affection



If I could turn back time

I would:

  • have kids when I’m older
  • travel more, and hit Asia with a vengeance
  • be more flexible about babies’ sleep schedules
  • focus more on exactly I wanted in my career
  • publish
  • buy a set of fitted cloth nappies at the start
  • never separate kid’s and adult’s meals
  • enjoy more drug experimentation
  • not have 3 kids
  • hang out with my father more
  • do a 10 day silent meditation retreat
  • spend more time with myself
  • talk to more parents
  • build up a sleep bank
  • begin pelvic floor exercises from puberty
  • sleep around
  • drink less cheap wine
  • never smoke a cigarette
  • admire my body daily
  • spend less than $150 on a pram
  • buy shares in Huggies
  • celebrate the ordinary
  • speak up when I knew something wrong was happening
  • make more friends
  • see more live music
  • be gentle with myself
  • accept compliments
  • learn about gender selection
  • care less about what gender I’m having
  • keep a list of every book I’ve read
  • listen to more jazz
  • eat more
  • be kinder
  • keep a journal
  • go to the dentist
  • spend more time with the people I love
  • be more in the moment

“Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
~ Lao Tzu*

What about you? What would you do if you could turn back time?

photo scource: samplediz

Two hard: the struggle with the toddler

don’t trust him people

It would be fair to say that my unconscious has been working overtime in the last 3 years to surpress any memory I have of toddlerdom.

Put it this way, if you could bottle the energy of a two year old little boy, it would make an awfully powerful contraceptive. Think about having another baby, open the bottle, take a whiff and any inkling of desire would be automatically snuffed out.

Lbaby has been a very easy going baby all things considered. I guess we have always compared him to Sdash who was, in gentle words, a complete nightmare until about 3 and a half.

But things have changed.

I am tired.

Like, bone tired.


I read recently that toddler boys and teenage girls bring parents the most grief and angst and, surprise, surprise, exhaustion.

Lbaby as become what we refer to as old-fashioned, hard work.

At this point in time, going shopping with three boys is easier than with just Lbaby. On his own, it takes me almost 2 hours to do the grocery shopping because most of my time is spent running the aisles of Woolworths and deflecting dirty looks from fellow shoppers. Yes, I allow him to work his way through a packet of Hundreds and Thousands in the hope that it will keep in the trolley. Yes, I shove back multiple open packets of various foods he has discovered and attempted to pilfer. Yes, I have let him watch Play School on my iPhone just to keep him quiet. Yes, I have let him watch pretty much anything on my iPhone (he loves Ricky Gervais stand up routines, expletives and all) just to keep him quiet

Except it doesn’t.


And he runs. Everywhere. He never walks. He never holds my hand. He hasn’t sat in his pram for about 5 months. His favoured mode of transport is his scooter and for this he thinks the aisles of Woolworths are perfect.

And, yes, I have let my two year old ride his scooter in Woolworths.

Have I said I’m exhausted?

He has no decision making capabilities and yet he insists on making his own decisions. Which always take forever and which generally end badly because we never agree on whatever he decides.

He is verbal (like, constantly, think diarrhea) but completely impossible to understand. To say we have a general communication breakdown is an understatement. He spends most of his time screaming at me because I don’t understand him and don’t give him what he wants. And I spend the rest of the time screaming at him because I don’t understand him and anyway, I won’t give him what he wants.

This isn’t going to be one of those posts where I end with a but. You know those ones, where I end up waxing lyrical about how even though it’s tough, the good outweighs the bad or that I’m actually grateful for what I’ve got, or that I know with a little grace, I could manage everything a bit better.

No. Way.

Right now it’s damn tough. I have no break. C is away a lot. I am tired. Daylight saving needs to come yesterday. This toddler likes to start our day at 5am.

On that note, it is 7.41pm and yes, I am making my way to bed.

And no, I won’t open Lbaby’s door, look at him in his cot and think how beautiful he looks when he’s asleep.

Because right now he’s screaming the house down that he wants to drive a fire truck.

At least, I think that’s what he’s saying.

Of which we rarely speak

I am cold and my legs look really hairy without my glasses. I have no contact lenses in either as you’re not allowed under a general anaesthetic. I’m trying to read about Shane Warne’s text messaging but it’s hard when you can’t see the words very well and you’re trying not to cry. I have a strange little cap on my head. I only know it’s strange because I look at the other women sitting around me with the same cap on their heads and they all look strange. We have little gowns on with open backs and knickers we forgot to think about when we got dressed this morning. Some of the women wear socks. I didn’t know you were allowed. I would have asked to wear socks. Then maybe I wouldn’t be so cold.

Me and these other women, we don’t look at each other.

I flick many magazine pages and learn many inane details about many inane lives.

And finally my name is called and a fat guy with kind eyes walks me to a group of beds and gestures to one of them. I hop up and lie down. And I’m lying down for quite a while, long enough to wonder whether someone will remember I’m here. There is a woman lying next to me in a bed holding her boyfriend’s hand. I assume he is her boyfriend. There are no wedding rings. They are just talking about normal things but every so often, he squeezes her hand and she gives him a small smile. It’s only now that I begin to cry. Really cry. Why isn’t my boyfriend holding my hand?

Because he’s actually my husband and right now he’s landing in Tokyo completely unaware that I’m lying here wishing he were holding my hand.

Then a young woman in pink scrubs is standing by my bed because I can only imagine people have noticed that I’m crying, hard. She tells me to sit up and then asks me the long list of questions I’ve been asked twice already since I arrived this morning. She asks if I’m OK and I just smile, kind of tightly. She doesn’t squeeze my hand. She just asks an orderly to start preparing my bed. Then I’m lying down again because the nurse in pink has said I can and the bed is moving but I can’t see much without my glasses and it occurs to me that what I’m going through is actually a pretty big thing and that it’s OK I’m really sad. I’m allowed to be sad even though my little boy is happily doing Playschool puzzles at daycare.

As I’m being wheeled into the surgery room everything feels like it’s in slow motion and there is a wet patch by the side of my face.

I am terribly alone.

In surgery, everyone is very nice to me. The nurse in pink even rubs my arm occasionally. No one says much.

And when it’s finally in, the canula in my hand hurts a lot. It’s a deep ache. Really, really deep.

I wake up with blood dripping out of me and a maternity pad in my pants that wasn’t there before. I feel like throwing up because that’s how I always feel after anaesthesia. It takes a long time for them to move me because I feel so sick and I can’t wake up and they seem a bit cross like they need the bed or something. But I look around and it’s only me and an old man coughing really hard.

And then I’m up and dressed – I don’t know how – and sitting in those huge plastic chairs that have a footrest you raise by a lever in the side. I’m given a milky cup of tea in polystyrene and two Milk Arrowroots. I ask for two more, and then another two because I’m starving.

They ask me if someone is waiting for me in reception and I say no. They ask me whether I have someone to call and I ask them what time it is and it’s only 2.30pm so I say no, I have no one to pick me up until 3.30. They tell me I can’t sit in the huge plastic chairs with footrests for the next hour. Apparently they can’t discharge me if I’m alone either. I look at them without pretending to look helpless because that’s totally how I feel. I just let them talk it out and tell me what I need to do.

They walk away and time passes and then it’s 3.30 and I ring my sister from a cordless phone they let you borrow. I tell her I’m ready. She asks if I’m OK. I say I don’t know.

And then we pick up the Abomb and I know I am OK but I also know that losing babies hurts deep, deep inside even if you have one.

My miscarriages concertina my births. It goes birth, miscarriage, birth, miscarriage, birth. I can’t remember whether this story is my first or my second. Both times C was in a plane.

I think about these babies from time to time. I wonder if they were girls that I wasn’t meant to have.

This is a story I don’t really tell, even to myself.

And that, my friends, is crazy because miscarriage is common. One-in-four common.  Being common doesn’t mean that they don’t pack a punch of pain. It just happens to be a pain we don’t talk about much.

I don’t suffer from infertility and I know my story would be different if I did. Those are the stories of unceasing and abiding pain.

But grief comes in different boxes and springs on us at strange yet relentless times.

photo credit: woopidoo2

A lesson learnt

I was flying solo as a parent last week. We’ve all done it and for the most part we survive even if we have to REALLY struggle our way through.

I knew going into the week it was going to be full on. I knew it was going to be hard and I knew it was going to require me to be fully present. You see I have some things bubbling along in the background. Things I may want to do with this blog, maybe outside it. But, while they’re exciting things to think about and to prepare for, they are also all-consuming – to the point where they’re popping up in my nightmares dreams. Literally.

I knew for this week on my own I was going to have to put all of that aside in order to make it through. I have a big problem: multi-tasking. I call it a problem because I do it all the time and it’s only just dawned on me, at the ripe old age of 35, that I’m not particularly good at it. I don’t manage it very well. I try and do too much and end up spreading myself too thin.

I knew that for this week on my own, the kids needed every part of me, not the multi-tasking me. For there to be no earthquakes, no World War Threes, no kitchen fires, and no lost boys, I knew I had to give and be my all.

And you know what, (secret) it really wasn’t too bad. Really. In a way I never expected. Things ran pretty smoothly. No one expired (although gastro did make a brief profound visit). No one stormed out. No one lost an eye. No one drank an entire bottle of gin (maybe a third, but that’s OK in the circumstances right?).

And I know why. It wasn’t that my children decided to be particularly well behaved and helpful for their mum in a difficult situation. Sorry, I can’t see that idea EVER crossing certain minds.

No, it was because they had ALL of me ALL of the time. And I realise, they rarely do.

This lesson to be fully present when you’re doing one thing has been profound for me. While it means I potentially have to find hours in the day that don’t necessarily exist right now, it does mean that my life is a lot easier. And if it’s easier for me, it’s definitely easier for the people I live with.

I didn’t do anything else all week but look after my children and watch entire seasons of Sister Wives when they were in bed. It was incredibly exhausting but it would have been far worse if I was trying to get done all the other stuff I need (and want) to do.

This lesson doesn’t just apply to parenting, although for me, it’s made parenting much, much easier.

Rather, it’s a lesson I can take into the other areas of my life: my relationship (note: avoid Facebook while my husband is trying to have a conversation), my work (note: avoid obsessive iPhone research on picky eaters while trying to write), and my pleasures (note: don’t flick between iBook and said research on picky eaters and Facebook, or leave phone on during my much-loved wine appreciation class).

Sure, it’s been a while coming and things might have been easier some time ago if I’d cottoned on earlier.

But, the fact is, I’m so chilled I didn’t flick between ANY tabs as I wrote this post. Not a one. And, truly, that’s something people.

PS. My hat’s way, way off to all those single parents out there. You are so damn AMAZING.

To three or not to three, that is the question.


The repeated question I have faced in the playground since I was pregnant with Lbaby is about my decision to have 3 kids. Mothers ask me, mostly conspiratorially, what it’s like with 3 and how we came to the decision. Probing on my part usually exposes their own preoccupations with whether to have the third and last child and their fear of leaving this decision too late, for themselves, their fertility and their kids.

Ours was a strange decision, or at least the process was. We discussed it at length for quite a while, decided no, and then fell pregnant. There were mixed emotions. But we embraced it. We knew, when it was confirmed, that life would change immeasurably in a different way to the arrival of the second. And we discussed the fact that with a family of five, one adult pretty much needed to dedicate most of their time looking after the family and house, at least for the first 5 years and even after than, managing a family and home is hard work if both parents work demanding, underpaid jobs. (It is interesting to note that this discussion we had was promptly forgotten when I was offered work at the beginning of the year, to our complete folly).

But since the arrival of our third, I have found myself repeatedly bemoaning our decision to have three. I would never, ever trade the pocket-rocket we have for a third. I never wish he wasn’t here. I never regret, but I do bemoan – they’re two different things.

Because, in my experience, the sum of 1+1+1 is MUCH greater than 3, in a way that 1+1 pretty much equals 2, mainly, I guess, because at least, in most circumstances, you have one adult for each child. When that equation changes, so does the whole gamut of this family thing.

Now I have close friends considering having 3, attempting to conceive or are pregnant with their third. And awkwardly, I find myself offering pity before congratulations (even if it’s in my head). I’ve become very self-conscious about it because I can tell the effect my words have. People become defensive. And I completely appreciate why.

I’m still coming to terms with having three children. It was never in my future and I had no desire for a big family. The biggest things I grapple with are the significant loss of personal identity, time, physical, and emotional space (just to name a few!). That internal dialogue is ongoing, it has not resolved itself yet. But until it does, I have no right to project these preoccupations onto the people I care about who are making such a momentous decision.

I’m learning to step back, to be more helpful than contrary, to not be disingenuous in description of life with 3 but not raining on any parades either.

Yes, having 3 has been a really challenge for me. But the last part of that sentence is the most important, for me. I raise a glass to every family who decides to expand. Kids, all kids are damn cute and damn hard work.

For now, I say go for it. And I’ll be there with a bottle of wine whenever you need, if you need.

Date-Night Derby, or how to keep the spark alight

I don’t often write about C on here. We’ve haven’t mentioned it much but I know he’d prefer to be more out, or on the edges, of the picture, than in. It’s just the kind of guy he is.*

While this has the makings of an entirely different blog post, suffice to say I’ve thought often over the last 6 months how any marriage that survives the raising of multiple small children is incredibly special. When all you’ve got in common is hard, and mostly thankless, work, it’s hard to find that spark you lit together those years ago.

I’m a big believer in establishing and celebrating traditions, so when Christmas and C’s birthday come round, I’m very keen to step out and beyond, to try and give him something which brings him enough joy to momentarily forget that life is so damn crazy hard. It feels like I have these moments to tell him how grateful I am for him and for us and for the diamond-like laughs we manage to find in all this rough.

But, he’s a guy that wants for nothing and wants nothing. His pleasures are simple and are pretty much covered by a Sunday afternoon on the couch with the Western Bulldogs.

Last Christmas I was really struggling and all I could think was that I would much rather give him little things throughout the year rather than try and think of something big, something meaningful, something frankly pretty random at that moment.

And so came to life, the 2012 Date-Night Derby, the gift that keeps on giving.

I thought of 12 different things we could do as a date night. I tried to mix it up a bit, those things we always loved doing and did by default whenever we find time alone together, and other things completely outside the square. Then, depending on the event and the weather it required and whether I needed to book anything or I knew we had other things on, I assigned each event to a different month. I then printed each on a separate piece of paper and put it in its own envelope and then put all twelve in a gift bag.

Our deal is that C can only open the date-night envelope when the month has actually started. It’s fun that way and it truly feels like I’m giving a gift every time he opens an envelope.

It’s ensured regular date nights (and we’re much more organised at arranging babysitting) and we do things that we would not think of on the spur of the moment when a grandmother, or aunty pop round at late notice and push us out the door.

This has been fun peoples, I totally recommend it as a gift. In fact, I think it’s so great that secretly, I’m hoping Santa has the same idea for me this year.

*He works in a high profile industry but you’d never even know.

Have you got any great present ideas for your partner? Or, even better, any great date-night ideas?







What does it mean to be a working mother?

I’ve been writing this post in my head for a long time. It’s a challenge to write, to put the words down, to know how my heart truly feels.

For most of this year I have been a working mother. A mother who leaves home every morning, kisses each boy in turn, checks every backpack, pulls jumpers and hats from racks, quickly changes a nappy, and, on some days, clutches a boy, holds him a little too tight because the thought of leaving him for the day feels too much.

And then I am a mother who returns 8 or 9 hours later to unpack backpacks, quickly change a nappy, kiss each boy in turn, cook dinner, sign excursion notes, play Go Fish, give raspberries on a particularly plump belly, run the bath, put on a load of washing, extract slightly dirty pyjamas from a load forgotten, prepare lunches and maybe even bake a snack slightly healthier than the lollies favoured by the ever-loving nanny.

None of this felt enough. In these moments with my children I never felt enough. I was either thinking about work or pushing petrified thoughts from my mind that perhaps I was not doing the best by my children.

This year as a full time working mother was one of the hardest roads I have travelled. And it is a road faced by all mothers at some stage. By those leaving the home to work or by those daydreaming of doing the same.

Anne Marie Slaughter recently wrote an extremely powerful and eloquent essay about this very issue. Her words, her ideas and her feelings do this topic a much greater justice than mine. Please read it.

But something I want to add, something I haven’t yet read or heard in the voluminous commentary on Slaughter’s article, is this: I don’t feel that women should have it all. In fact, I think that phrase, that notion, is indulgent and anti-feminist. It seems to assume that while women still don’t have it all, somehow they are entitled to.* And just because our brains might be big, I don’t think that evolution is moving towards us “having it all”.

I can’t help but feel that a far more complex and challenging idea is our inability to be it all. When I use the word ‘our’ here, I’m not sure whether I’m referring to mothers or women, and I think this matters. I’m going to follow the argument of mothers but I can’t help but feel that the word ‘women’ might easily replace that.

What I did feel as working mother was that I wasn’t able to be the person I wanted to be in any facet of my life. I wasn’t the employee, or the teacher I wanted to be, or that I felt was inside me. And nor, by any means, was I the mother I thought I could be. The mother I felt my boys needed.

So, while different aspects of my self were engaged, while I appreciated using my brain and talking about literature and ideas, while I was thankful to not be wiping bottoms, while I loved reading my iPad on the train, ordering my coffee and sipping it slowly on. my. own, while I relished laughing with adults, sharing books and music and dirty jokes, while I got a kick walking through crowds pretending to myself I wasn’t a mother - never did I feel that I was fully present in any role I found myself. I felt acutely that I was never being what I felt I could be. 

And this felt ill-fitting.

I have no answers in this post. Instead, there are just questions going round my head about what this whole motherhood thing requires of us. I can’t help but think of the many sacrifices we are all making all the time, whether we are out working or at home all day with children. And I worry what toll these sacrifices may have. I guess I am unsettled by the complexity of this issue by how amorphous it feels, by how many factors we are required to juggle – financial, emotional, psychological,and physical to name just a few.

For the most part now, as a full time stay at home mother, I do feel, moment-to-moment that I am being all that I can be. And for that, in this quiet breath right now, I’m very, very grateful.

But I know, before long, that little whisper will start. You know, the one that says, ‘isn’t there more than this? aren’t you more than this? don’t you have anything else to offer?’ And then, I fear, that self, the one who feels pretty great right now, will start to feel not-so-great and wonder if she can be more, be bigger, be better.

Some days, just some, these crazy things play around in my head.


*(I know that subsequent to the article’s publication, Slaughter has acknowledged the ambivalence of this phrase).

** (and, during this time, nearly all stay-at-home mothers I knew expressed envy at the opportunity I had to be someone other than the mother of my children)