Sunday, April 19, 2009

In Defense of Motherhood

I've been reading a lot lately about the pros and cons of parenthood, on other people's blogs and in various articles online and in print. Please note this is not at all an attempt to change anyone's personal feelings about becoming a parent. I sincerely feel that if a person or couple does not want children, they should not have them, should not feel bad about not having them, and should not be made to feel bad about their decision by other 'well-meaning' busybodies. However... after reading an article on the subject in the Sunday paper today.... I just cannot resist the urge to present my side.

Motherhood is not the same for everyone. Yes, it's giving up certain aspects of your previous childless life and yes it's sleepless nights and diapers and sticky kid fingers. But it's also a new purpose to your life and a new confidence and a new kind of fun. It is a trade-off. Yes, I miss being able to just pick up and go wherever, whenever.... but I honestly don't miss going out every weekend and spending a crazy amount of money on dinner and then drinks at a really loud, smoky club or bar after. Yes, I miss being able to have a second job that pays so I could make extra money... instead of now, having two full-time jobs where only one brings in a paycheck. Yes, I miss eating an entire meal uninterrupted, but I don't miss the nights where we ate in front of the TV instead of at the dinner table. Yes, I REALLY (really, really, really) miss sleeping in, but I don't miss having no meaningful reason to get up on the weekends.

Neither life is bad. It is not bad to have nothing to tie you down, to eat nachos for dinner in front of the TV, to spend any extra money you have on going out, to sleep until noon on the weekends, and then spend 5 hours catching up on your tivo when you finally roll out of bed (not that this is the life of all childless people... lots of them are very disciplined and organized and do all kinds of inspiring things with their free time. I'm only using the previous examples because that was my life before kids). But it is also not bad to stay in on a Saturday night to play with your kids, to have your dinner get cold because your 2-year-old is finally getting the idea of using the restroom, to not have extra time or money for going out because you have new responsibilities, or to have to get up early on Saturday because you need to feed your kids breakfast and play with them.

As a parent, you have so many choices to make and you constantly second-guess yourself on almost all of them. You do find yourself doing or saying things you never thought you would do or say. Yesterday I caught a snake in a butterfly net because the boys really wanted to see it. I have cleaned up all sorts of disgustingness without getting sick because I was the only one here to do it. I have held down a 40-hour-a-week job on less than 4 hours of sleep a night for weeks on end. I try very hard to keep my parenting stories under wraps when I am in the company of non-parents unless they ask or I have a particularly hilarious anecdote. But regardless of how much or little I talk about my kids, they are almost constantly on my mind and I am almost constantly loving them/thinking about them/laughing about them/missing them/praying for them/worrying about them/feeling overwhelmed by them.... depending on the situation.

So, yes. Becoming a parent certainly changes you and your life. But you have to figure out how to make it all work for you. I work full time. I make time at least twice a month to go out with friends without my kids. I have (recently acquired) tattoos. I have many friends whose beliefs do not match up with ours. Because my husband and I work opposite schedules, our 'date night' often consists of grilling out and having a bottle of wine with dinner (yes, drinking wine in front of our kids). All these things could probably easily get me thrown out of any reputable Mommy Group, but it's what works for me. It's how I stay me while still trying to be the best mom I can to my kids. It's how my husband and I stay sane. And my kids seem mostly well-adjusted despite all this and the fact that they have a somewhat odd person as their mom (I realize my own assessment of my children really means nothing, but other people have mentioned to me that they seem fine so I'm taking their word for it. ).

I guess the point of all this is that becoming a parent doesn't automatically take away everything that makes you the person you are. If you are deliberate about it, it just brings out another side of you that was previously dormant. Yes, there will be times you'll want to cry and wonder how you will manage. And yes, there will be times you will have no idea what made you think you could handle the responsibility. But there will also be times when you are so insanely happy and really feel like you're 'getting it' and you will wonder why in the world you ever hesitated about taking the leap to begin with. I won't lie and say it's easy to not lose yourself in the role, but I do know it is possible to find a way to make it work if you are determined. The good far outweighs the bad.

Again, I hold to my previous statement that no one should have kids just because of social pressure. People aren't lesser people if they choose to not procreate. If they like kids, they can be amazing aunts/uncles/mentors/friends to the kids of people they know. If they don't like kids, they can do all sorts of amazing other things that don't involve children. But those of us who choose to become parents.... we aren't all unhappy people who have lost themselves in their kids, resentful of our happy-go-lucky childless friends (as the article I read in the paper today suggested). Although... one thing is true. Our lives will never, ever be the same as before. And I really am okay with that.

(And I hope this rambling makes sense to the (maybe) one of you who continued reading to the end.)

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