I think for a family with no help and 4 kids under age 4, we really do go out and maintain a semblance of a social life quite well. In fact at this juncture, I can pretty much bring all four kids out on my own, but only if I really wanted to put myself through the hassle. Obviously I rather not. I would prefer to have my husband by my side and it would really be more enjoyable for everyone if I had help. My husband has around 20 days of work leave and we use them judiciously so when we get invited to events, parties, weddings and so forth, we think about whether its worth it for my husband to take work leave so that the family can go. The other alternative is our friends arrange events and outings around my husband’s off days so it automatically means we are definitely open to attending. I am, of course, grateful for such friends who are willing to arrange events around our strange schedule.
Along the way we had to reject invitations more frequently than we like. And the common questions come up from the invitee: Don’t you have family who can help you? or Can you hire a part-time nanny? I feel kind of miserable when the question pops up because it makes me feel like I’m not trying hard enough to be sociable. It also makes me look terrible because I am forced to go on a extended explanation why these options are not available to us. And I am obviously shy to say that we really don’t have family to help us – my husband’s parents passed away and my parents themselves work 12 hours a day, everyday, to make ends meet. The only time my mother comes over to help us is when both of us are sick and we really needed an extra helping hand, and that was the only valid excuse for her to close her chicken rice stall to come to our aid. I am also uncomfortable to go on a financial litany about how hiring extra help does not fit within our budget. Parents of singletons or mixed ages do not understand that when nannies and babysitters discover that they have to care for triplets they triple or quadruple their asking price. So $15 an hour can easily become $50 an hour for ad-hoc babysitting assignments.
I spent the first 2 years of motherhood being jealous of families who had loads and loads of help. What a privilege to leave your kids in the care of someone you can trust and be able to have a date night, or go overseas to travel, or to just have a quiet afternoon to write a chapter of my dissertation. But I got over my envy when the triplets came along. It was such hard work to care for three children of the same age, and a slightly older toddler that I cannot imagine imposing the same burden on anyone else (all parents of high order multiples will agree with me on this). I also do not go around complaining boo hoo I wish I had more time to myself. We are both so committed to raising our kids ourselves, we spend very little time bemoaning the harsh cards that have been dealt to us.
Instead we look forward. The girls will get bigger, they will be more independent, and in turn it will mean more time to ourselves. For now we appreciate our friends who are willing to work around our schedule and if its important enough, like a close friend’s wedding, we will find a way to make time, by hook or crook.