I won’t lie: I often miss those days like mad — especially when I am awakened for the fourth time by the ravenous little bundle of drooling human that has taken residence in my bed and is only truly contented in my half-asleep grasp. I could look on the bright side, noting that some piece of me is actually getting some sleep, but I’m too tired for such positivity.
Conversely, since I follow every parent blog from here to deep space, I continually see the mantra expressed by love-sick mommies that all the regurgitated milk, nose-picking, late-night teething wails, and poop (so much poop) are completely worth it when the little boogers smile at you. And you can forget it when the day finally comes that they throw their grubby little arms around you and shout, “I love you, Mommy!”
By then, you’re good and finished.
And certainly it is true that it is worth every moment of lost sleep and the thousands of diaper changes when these demanding little creatures start to express their unbridled love — and even when they don’t, because let’s face it: biology is a powerful beast, enabling parents to love their progeny with a frightening ferocity.
So I get it: The battle lines are distinctly drawn.
To my friends who have chosen not to have kids and insist that their minds aren’t going to be changed short of immaculate conception: Relax. Parents don’t need daily reminders that their kids are messy and expensive and wreak havoc on bodies and lives. I see the evidence of these things updating by the minute as I look down at the brown smudge on my pants that can only be one of two things and is going to require the dangerously close smell test. (Score — chocolate!) So suffice it to say, it’s completely understandable why one would choose to keep their lives child-free despite the widespread insistence that there is a level of joy only a parent can experience.
What I am unable to grasp is the incessant need in both camps to shout about and seek constant validation for their choices. Can we agree that not everyone should have children, and can we also agree that the world needs children to help us get out of this horrible mess we’re in? Since when is either of these decisions in need of such rampant public defense, having become just one more thing to add to the list of things that so deeply divide us?
If you don’t have or want kids, bravo! Somewhere amidst all the extra time and money you’re so keen to remind me you have, I hope you make the time to do some volunteer work, or pick up gardening or the mandolin in between binge-watching GOT and attending murder mystery dinner parties. And for those of us who have taken the parenting plunge from which there is no return (and I’m talking to myself here), might I suggest we take a moment to scale back the constant “joys of parenting” parade and concentrate on the enormous task of raising good human beings? Because in the end, isn’t that what truly matters here?
P.S. If you’re sans kids and looking for a “random act of kindness” opportunity to fill your quota for a solid few months, perhaps offer to take the kiddos off the hands of one of your poor friends who used to resemble a human being before becoming a parent on an outing to the park or some such. You will be giving your friend the small miracle of the briefest quiet, whilst being joyfully reminded of your own wise life choices. Or maybe, just maybe, you might be asked — as I was by my almost three-year-old son Raine — “What did this worm have for breakfast, and can he be my new friend?” and you’ll think, “Holy Shit that’s cute! I gotta get one of those!”
Be warned: They can be charming little devils. It happened to me, and it could happen to you. And if it does, take heart, it’s not so bad. In fact, sometimes it’s quite beautiful.
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