Impressions from All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior Read More
I have one child and he is incredibly challenging to parent. He has ADD symptoms, anger management issues, displays Oppositional Defiance and occasional Conduct Disorder behaviours. He is loud, has a bad temper and is immature like most 10 year old boys are. He can also be the sweetest and most loving child; funny, insightful and compassionate. Being his mother is the most difficult, demanding and challenging job I will ever have in my life. I don't like paying for hockey, resent having to volunteer for field trips and don't particularly like kids after they grow out of their cuteness but haven't yet reached an age where they can carry an interesting conversation, typically between the ages of 7 and 17. Chatting with friends and acquaintances, I'm only half-joking when I tell them they shouldn't have kids. To those who don't think they could give up a childless life but feel pressure from society, friends or family, I tell them to ignore everyone else's expectations and do what feels right for them. Parenting is not for everyone.
With that being said, I don't for a second regret becoming a parent, nor do I regret being his mother. He is mine, warts and all and the love I have for him is the single most profound thing I have ever felt. Being a parent is (at any given time) frustrating, exhausting and thankless but it's reward is the deepest sense of contentment that's hard to explain, until you have your own child, then you get it. When all the studies point to one's quality of life being directly attributed to one's quality of relationships, a parent's connection with a child trumps any other connection one could ever have. Romances, lovers, spouses and friends come and go, but your children are forever.
Do I feel sorry for childless people? Hell no, I envy their sleep schedules, vacations and burden free relationships with their partners. I envy the time they have to pursue opportunities having children doesn't allow and the freedom to choose their purpose in life. When you have a child, by default, your purpose becomes raising them to become happy, healthy and contributing members of society. Parents or not, one is not better than the other, just different. Both can be equally as engaging, purposeful and rewarding. It sounds corny, but your life will be what you make of it, with or without children.
I can agree with Anonymous above. I can relate to both child-free and with child since I put off having a child until I was 38 - four months shy of my 39th birthday. In either life - and they are vastly different for sure - you should enjoy it, which I do and I have. Being married with no children allowed us to lounge in our free time and spend money casually. I worked as many additional hours as I wanted. For me the downside was I had a lot of free time and would end up shopping aimlessly, a little bored frankly. Then we had a child - a beautiful baby boy. I feel the fullness in my heart just thinking of him, his beautiful face, his soft little hands, his hold around my neck. I'm very busy now. It takes me well over an hour to finish a cup of coffee! Housework is fit between play and feedings and naps. I'm so much less concerned by how I look when leaving the house. I'm exhausted every night. Yet I still can't wait to see his face in the morning and kiss his chubby little cheeks. I love it yet I know I only want my one child. I do enjoy when he goes to bed at 7 p.m. and I can relax and catch up with my husband. I work less, but can still enjoy working part time. I enjoy a bit of the best of both worlds still, so have chosen to not add any more children. Enjoy your life no matter - small apartment/large house, frugal car/expensive car, with or without children - that is the key!
Thank you! I so much agree that the main point is to embrace and enjoy the life you're chosen for yourself, or even the one that's been given to you. I hate to hear parents complain about their children being a burden. It makes me feel very sad. Thanks to both of you for being amazing and committed mothers!
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Ellen Walker, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and the author of Complete Without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living By Choice Or By Chance.
When and how should we open up to loved ones?