Monday, August 8, 2011

The Truth About Kids

Okay, so my thoughts on family have been deemed blogworthy by a couple of people. Keep in mind that this was never intended as a blog post. It was a frank response to a dear, dear friend on the question of whether or not she should engage in the trial of procreation. She asked my opinion because, and I quote, "You are not one of those 'you have to have babies to be a whole person' freaks."

(And make no mistake about it. I am NOT. Every person's journey is different. Children don't complete you. Neither does marriage. IMO, you should be complete before you engage in either of those things, albeit with room for growth.)

Here are my thoughts, with names eliminated to protect the innocent:

Holy crap, Dear Friend. I can give you an opinion on procreation but the only person qualified to know if you should have kids or not is YOU. After you have one. Because the thing is, you might be one of those people who falls head over heels in love with the little peanut when it gets here.

I can tell you in all honesty I would have been fine without them. I luuuuuurve mine and I don't regret having them or anything like that, but the day in/day out quality of my life definitely turned south. Things I hate:

  • Having to plan ahead for a week to go out to dinner instead of deciding at 6 pm that I don't feel like cooking.
  • Having to bring my A game for every Halloween, birthday, Christmas, whatever.
  • "running to the store to pick up milk" requires that I dress myself and TWO OTHER PEOPLE (term used loosely), one of whom still requires help with the seat belt, herd them through the door while they jockey for position to be the one who gets to open the door and then they race to the car to see who can be first and THEN they start yelling at each other and don't stop until we get back home.
  • Carseats.
  • Feeling guilty every time I turn on the TV so I can get something done.
  • I never go to the bathroom by myself. Ever. And Princess likes to hand me toilet paper.


  • When one of them says I'm the best mom ever. Boy, have I got them snowed.
  • Being able to tell them things like, "No, Mama didn't toot. This is a magical couch and it toots by itself," and watch them try to figure out if that could possibly be true.
  • When That Boy I Married gets home from work and they both drop whatever they're doing and yell, "DADDY! DADDY'S HOME! DADDY! DADDY!"
  • When they sleep.
  • When Pirate comes to find me and says, "Mama? I just wanted to give you a hug and a kiss."

The other thing to consider, and it's an icky thing, is how you feel about a child with special needs. We wouldn't have been thrilled to find out one of ours would be Down's, for example, but we knew that we would still raise it. And there are other things that are subtler, like a gifted child, that still require more parental involvement than your average bear. You can't ditch a gifted kid with a nanny. They totally know what you're up to and they will figure out how to force you to pay attention to them.

I know that there are moms out there who really love doing the school christmas parties, taking kids to the park, setting up trips to museums and aquariums and hikes and scouts and all that crap. I am not one of them. I only do that stuff because I have to and even then, I don't do it much. I feel guilty all the time because MY kids are totally getting shortchanged. 

And the fear is awful. I have these panic attacks about stuff I have zero control over, like what if one of them has Alport's- my weird kidney thing? What if one of them does something insanely normal, like drive drunk when they're a teenager, and they get hurt or killed? Or worse, hurt or kill somebody else? What if one of them has an addiction? Addiction fear affects EVERY SINGLE DECISION I make. My kids don't get benadryl. I won't even consider ADD meds despite the three teachers and two pediatricians who thought Pirate needed them. (Screw them. I know what he needs and he's doing great without the meds. And two years in a row he smoked every kid in his class on standardized testing.) What if Pirate's girlfriend is 17 when he's 18 and her daddy finds out what they're up to and Pirate ends up on the sex offender registry for statutory rape? OMIGOSH! Is that a tick bite? What if one of them gets Lyme disease?

Your lifestyle will be less appealing than it is now. Being closer to your family when you have kids is a huge luxury because the only people you will trust to love them the way you do is a grandparent, aunt, or uncle. Bangkok, any of the -stan countries, Africa, all those places will become bigger and scarier. Yes, we all know bad things can happen anywhere but living in a third world country where you are a political target is going to suck.

And if you think you have a hard time keeping up with your car keys now, honey, let me tell you. Getting kids in and out of cars without slamming little fingers or letting one of them strangle the other or letting the dog out while you're coming in and HOLY SHIT you have to pee because you couldn't go to a public restroom with a 7 year old boy but you couldn't leave him alone outside while you went... I defy anyone to remember where they left their keys under those circumstances.

On the other hand, Princess is hugging my neck right now, while I type.

Here's the thing. For somebody like me, quality of life goes down. There is no spontaneous any more. That Boy I Married and I did not spend a night alone with each other, without a child, for a year and a half after Pirate was born. (He slept in his room, we weren't the nutjobs who kept the baby in our bed, but you sleep with one eye open all the time while visions of SIDS dance behind your eyelids.) 

The payoff takes a while to kick in. Pirate was one before I began to enjoy him. And the payoff is so...metaphysical. I can't tell you one thing I'd like to do with my day that is centered around my kids yet everything I do with my day is centered around my kids. But I'm glad they're here. 

My house is trashed, I don't remember the last time I put on make-up, I'm suffering PTSD from the noise fatigue of three kids last night at dinner time (ours plus a neighbor), and summer vacation is killing me.

But still, I had the second one on purpose. I can't tell you why, so I made the slideshow.

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  1. Awesome post and cool slide show, nice job!

    An Amen to this: Children don't complete you. Neither does marriage. IMO, you should be complete before you engage in either of those things, albeit with room for growth.

  2. Thank, thank, thank you for this post.

    I am pregnant and just about to enter my second trimester. We planned to have this baby (didn't think we'd get pregnant RIGHT after we started trying though), but I still have a lot of anxiety. Because we were trying, I found out very early on I was pregnant, and I've tried not to worry about miscarriage since then. Now that I am about to enter my second trimester I know the risk goes way, way down even if it's still not a guarantee.

    But that's when it dawned on me. This worry I feel? It will ALWAYS be there. Something can ALWAYS happen. I will still worry when the baby is born, when they are young, heaven help me when it's a teenager.

    I am not crippled with fear, but it was humbling to realize that I will always be concerned about the well-being of my baby. I also worry about being a first time parent. I am independent and like my writing time.

    I feel bad because I know my writing time will become shorter and harder, and I am not looking forward to that. But I agree with you. I am a complete person outside of my husband and my unborn child. They simply enrich my life.

    Thanks for this post. It makes me feel less like a bad person because I worry about the sacrifices I will have to make.

  3. Rick: Tkx!

    Elizabeth: Congratulations! And you're welcome. I really do believe there are women out there who absolutely love every minute of the mom gig, but there are a lot who don't and we do each other a disservice by pretending it's always perfect. Why should anyone worry that they are crazy or inadequate when what they really are is NORMAL?

    Also, just the fact that you are already anticipating sacrifices that you will make but not necessarily enjoy will make it easier. I had several friends who floated through pregnancy on cloud nine and then thought they were either terrible people or bad mothers because they didn't love being a mom right away. I, on the other hand, thought it was going to suck. And it kind of did for a couple of months. But since it was what I expected, I had a much easier transition than my friends who were more eager for motherhood.

    More than one of them told me later that they were so glad I didn't sugarcoat things because that was the only reason they knew they weren't crazy. (Although using me for a yardstick for crazy is, ah, ill advised.)

  4. Ah kids. I lived with one boy from ages 8-11 (until his mother and I parted ways). I miss him still and probably always will. On days when I'm feeling stronger than I do today, I call him my son.

    Was it the parenthood that you speak of? Not really. He had plenty of parents in his life already and didn't need me to be another one. And yet, I had to set boundaries and figure out what to say when and how.

    I decided at one point in my life that I would not personally bring another child into the world. My family medical history is rife with reasons why. And adoption has always seemed like the way to go for me. But I'm a dysfunctional rescuer that way. My wife and I are still considering adopting an older child or two or three. Dunno yet. We can't right now for a few good reasons.

    I did think a lot about having a child of my body when my biological clock kicked my ass. It wasn't the right time or relationship for that though. And then I really thought hard about the lifestyle changes and decided I couldn't do it.

    I settled for looking to my brother's daughter as my heir. As you say, something might happen and it did. She was killed by a drunk driver when she was 17. He has 2 step-daughters, but, unfortunately, it's not the same. They came into his life later and I was not living close and didn't get to know them well. One has a problem with drugs and the other is the dysfunctional rescuer who has a problem with self-esteem. They certainly fit in my family very well with that dynamic. And, of course, I'm sure the first one has low self-esteem issues as well. I know I did when I was drinking and using.

    And yet, I survived my childhood, lived to be this grumpy old woman (not really that old yet). You never know when, where, how it all ends. Living for today, in today, is the best recipe I know for happiness and peace.

  5. Oh, Sarah. I knew you were close with your niece. That's how my sister feels about mine.

    Also, I'm not sure that a drive or need to rescue is dysfunctional. Even if it's tied to your self-esteem. It can lead to dysfunctional behavior, like supporting an addict, but the basic impulse comes from something good. Empathy and compassion. As long as you temper it with an assessment of whether or not your "rescuing" is truly beneficial to the other person, I like that quality in people. And what a great world this would be if everybody was dysfunctional that way! We'd all take care of each other.

  6. Omygosh this made me so happy and i couldnt even tell you why. Actually I could. I am so terrified of being amothe and having kids, im scared i'll hate them, or get boed of them like i do with my pets when they're not cute and smalla nymore, scared that i wont get to do half of the things i want todo anymore, that the stress will ruin my imaginary marriage. I think about downs, and SID's, leukemia and super genius's's scarey, but somehow reading you voice out all your fears and all the absolutely hilarious things you hate about being a mum really made me smile, and happy. I want kids, I do, it's so nice to read this and know my fears aren't all in my head and absolutely insane.

    Such a lovely post. Thank you.

  7. Great post!

    I'm one of those freaks who let the kids sleep in bed with me and my husband until they were toddlers and who fell instantly and madly in love with my kids the minute they were born. I love organizing trips to museums and parks and festivals and stuff like that. I am deep in my element here.

    But all that stuff you said, about the fear, and the worry, and the GUILT, and the hating the constant races to be the first one there and then the yelling, and the loving it when they tell you you're "the bestest Mommy in the whole world"? And the definite downturn in quality of life, in terms of having a clean house and looking your best and getting enough sleep and travelling and eating out? That's all still true.

    And don't even get me started on having a kid with special needs.

    Being a parent is a sacrifice. It just is. But for a lot of people, it's totally worth it. And you won't know until you have kids.

  8. Ishta: LOL! You're just a better mom than me. Although I did take a trip to the National Infantry Museum, just me and Pirate, recently. We had a great time.

    Mostly, though, I made the trip because he needed some positive Mama time. We had a rough week prior so I wanted to find something that would make him feel good and important, something that would give me an opportunity for positive interaction that wasn't false or forced. He's exhausting, but he's a sweet little soul.

  9. Laurel,

    I love absolutely everything about this post...

    esp. that last picture!


    Love, Kim

  10. Great post. My sis is pregnant with twins and I feel that I'm obligated to tell her how rough it's going to be all the time. I can't help it. I feel like no one told me how HARD it was going to be. Even with having a great hubby. I tell her being a mommy's the best and worst job. Every minute it changes.

  11. @ Steph: Good luck to your sister! Twins come with their own trade off, according to my friends who have them. LOTS harder at the start when it's all feeding and changing around the clock, but they start to play together very early. They entertain each other instead of always looking to Mama as the entertainment committee, like singletons.

    No matter how you slice it, though, it's rough. Even if she doesn't believe you now at least she won't think she's crazy at 6 weeks post-partum.

  12. all of what you say, and so well...

    we had 3 of em... so far, so pretty good

    then there are the separation, including from the kids [by the width of the country], the divorce, the single parenting [after she had massive stroke, unable to speak to this day, crippled on right side]... and the beat goes on....

  13. Oh, laughingwolf. It's a whole 'nother level. When they grow up, they are still your babies. Their hurts are still your hurts. And their mistakes? Maybe those aren't yours, but you still sort of feel like they are.

    My childrearing philosophy is extremely simple. I want to raise them in such a way that my guilt load for their adult mistakes is minimal. Yep, you read that right. It's all about me.

    Except that since having two children, the "me" part of me split itself off and found housing in two other, unique people who have their own opinions and flaws. The only control I have over the damage to my heart is training them to make good decisions. Then, if they don't, I can hurt for them but I don't have to compound that with guilt.

    And as for the pain that comes to you through them, the kind with no guilt attached, I have a line in a WIP that sums it up for me. "Pain is like love. Sharing it doesn't make it less, it just gets bigger to include other people. So I don't like it when people I love hurt with me."