People make pro and con lists for all sorts of things — my husband and I had one when we were house hunting. And what you realize with these lists is that nothing is going to be absolutely perfect, you will make sacrifices. It’s the exact same way when it comes to parenthood.
My friend and sex and relationship writer Jamye Waxman recently asked her friends on Facebook to share the pros and cons of having babies. She’s gathering responses for a book she’s working on, and of course I, a mom of 3-year-old twins, had to weigh in.
I told her that I’ve never been happier. Kids are incredible. They teach you, and you grow in ways you never thought possible. The love you feel defies words.
Clearly, I’m all hearts and flowers and smiley faces when it comes to parenthood. My first reaction when seeing the word «con» and «parenthood» together was to shake my head. There is no con. But then I saw how there were really only a few responses like mine. Maybe it’s easier to see the cons of parenthood when you aren’t a parent. Maybe parenthood does something to your mind that you only see the good stuff. Maybe it’s sort of like that anti-drug commercial with the fried egg: This is your brain (perfectly shaped egg). This is your brain on drugs (egg cracked and fried up). This is your brain before kids (clean house with a well-dressed couple smiling happily). This is your brain after kids (messy house, kids crying, disheveled parents smiling happily). Are parents brainwashed once the birth certificate is official? Is it all that oxytocin? I just think parenthood is fantastic, messy house, crying kids, and all. The pros outweigh the cons so much that I’m completely oblivious to the cons.
But I wanted kids. Really wanted to become a mom. I’m not the guy who accidentally got a girl pregnant but didn’t know it and found out years later I had a child and ended up full of resentment. I’m not the woman whose kid did something terrible, truly terrible. Even then, I think a parent forgives … at least in some way. But I really don’t know. So this pro and con thing really depends.
I couldn’t help but wonder about the guy who responded to Jamye saying how parenthood means you will still have to deal with the woman you will end up hating for your entire life. Huge con, if that’s the case, I suppose. Was he talking about the woman he had a child with? Someone perhaps he divorced? Or his daughter? There is a lot of pain in that comment. No hearts and flowers and smiley faces there.
Then when I read the response that «your child is your greatest teacher and your greatest artwork,» the birds sang again.
But back to that con up there. A child changes your relationship. If it wasn’t strong to begin with, a baby isn’t going to make it better. Though if you work at it, realize sacrifices are worth it, and perhaps with some patience — make that a whole lot of patience — everything can be sunshiney and rose-colored again. Or you move on. There are plenty of amazing single parents out there. Sometimes things just don’t work out. Though it all depends. People are still people and some people, well, let’s just say that not everyone is kind.
I will say this about parenthood: Kids break your heart every day and in every way. They crush you with their cuteness. Your heart aches the first time you leave them at school. You cry when they get really sick. When they feel emotional pain, particularly when they get older, it makes you feel helpless when all you want to do is help. Because, as my mom tells me, even though I’m older, I’m still her baby.
So we sacrifice. We trade staying up all night to watch the sunrise with heading to bed early so we can wake up with the sun, and our kids. We learn to function on little sleep. We find happiness in changing diapers because in some strange way it makes us happy and means our kid is eating well and pooping it out okay. Spit-up doesn’t faze us much after the tenth time. And even when we say we really need a break and have to get out of the house kid-free to do something adult, we still scroll through our phones and smile at photos of our little ones. They are still the topic of our conversations. And we miss them even though it’s only been an hour. The pro of parenthood is that these little beings make their way into your heart and soul and that feeling is so bright and so beautiful it clouds out any cons. At least, that’s how I hope parents feel. Even through the bad stuff. Even when they break our hearts. There is so much risk in being a parent, creating another human being, and essentially seeing a part of yourself outside of yourself. That vulnerability is undeniable. But so is the love.