Friday, May 14, 2010

Being a Parent

For some people, having kids is a duty. Having children may be something you do for you humankind to perpetuate the species. It could be the hope that your religion will grow in numbers. Many people have children to assure their care into their old age. In more rural areas and times, children could be useful around the family farm or homestead. Male children can carry on the family name (depending on your culture) and estate. Daughters may be accomplished or beautiful and could increase the family esteem through a favorable marriage. Many of those reasons have been cited when people are deciding to have kids.

The sad fact is that people didn't need to decide why to have kids. Children came as a natural result of living. There were few reliable methods of contraception. Preventing children is against the teaching of Catholicism (yes, yes--they've okayed the rhythm method, but I'll bet someone could easily argue that having sex knowing you couldn't conceive is right up there with withdrawal). Fertile women could do nothing more than raise kids. Many families may have considered a child 'just another mouth to feed.' Children were a common commodity and not necessarily well-received.

I'm fortunate to live at a time and in a political environment when reliable contraception is available. My reproduction is almost completely within my control without sacrificing an essential part of what it means to be human and in love (sex--hopefully good). I am glad that I've been able to decide to become a mother.

By most accounts kids are difficult, inconvenient, costly, time-consuming, and resource-consuming. When they're infants, they wake you up, need to be fed frequently and you have to change their diapers. When they're toddlers they have nightmares, have a hard time going to sleep, still need to be fed frequently, and the diaper situation may be less frequent--but the job is necessarily bigger. As they become kids there's education, toys, play dates, and toilet training. All along you are constantly watching out for personal hygiene, removing trash more frequently, doing extra laundry, cooking, shopping, putting away toys, asking them to put away toys, trying to teach chores. It is easy to understand why people choose to not have children.

I'm not exactly sure why I knew I was going to have kids at even a young age. Perhaps it had to do with people around me talking as though it was an inevitability. In fact, even though I knew children could be rewarding, I was completely surprised by the sheer joy I felt after having them.


christinemm said...

Nice post.

Next assignment an essay telling us more about the joy of mothering even when one feels overworked, tired and maybe underappreciated.

Sometimes mommy blogs come across as always complaining about the tedium of daily life. I'd love to see you do a blog post to offset some of that. :)

Deb said...

Kim, really nice thoughts.

I think it would also be an interesting exercise for you and others to post WHY they had kids.

Most parents look at me blankly when I ask them why they had kids; they're amazed at the idea that you need a reason beyond "I wanted kids."

I always knew, from the very first, that I wanted to have kids, and that I would be a very different sort of parent than mine were.

As I got older, the "why" became more defined: I wanted to have kids because a) I enjoyed kids and liked being around them; b) I was fascinated by kids; c) I had found myself to be a good teacher; d) I felt that I had developed an excellent set of principles for living a happy life and wanted to communicate that to kids of my own; e) I wanted to help nurture young people who would eventually grow into friends when they became adults.

And, to be honest, I also wanted there to be more people like me in the world, in two senses: 1) The world needs more happy, productive people to make it a better place, and 2) I wanted more people in the world who would understand me, "get" me, appreciate the particularities that make me "me"--in the way no one except my husband ever has.

(I'm not sure that the last thing would be a valid reason, except I think it's okay as long as it's in the presence of the first five reasons.)

A side benefit that I hadn't expected is: My kids actually fill up the holes in my soul, smooth out the scars. I'm in the fortunate position of having had two girls; they're very different from each other, they're both (still... knock wood) extremely devoted to the mother-daughter relationship. If something is bad in my life, snuggling up with one of the girls, especially Ella, who is almost fervently snuggly, makes it less important.

Of course, I've heard that as girls grow into teens, they tend to *dig holes* in their mother's soul rather than fill them up. I really do hope this doesn't happen...but who knows.

shelcluzo said...

At age 62 my four kids are grown. I think they all wanted to be not only born, but born of me. (These ideas are in Michael Newton's Journey of Souls.) The soul needs a body to express through. I didn't realize when I first had them that they had their own agenda. I thought they were mine to mold into a better me than I had been. Now they have gone their separate ways and I learned to let go. But the tears I shed were only self-pity. Now I email them as friends and equals with not "Mommy" advice, but fellow journey-er on the way home, fellow discover-er of joys along the way.