I noticed that a lot of people seemed interested in yesterday’s post, and I’m guessing the title had a little something to do with that. Why Have Kids? That just might be the question of the century. Those of us with kids who find ourselves deliriously in love with these little beings also find ourselves deliriously exhausted — and even after only 14 months, I am starting to understand why there have been so many articles debating whether or not people who have kids are happier than people who don’t (FYI: the jury is still waaaay out on that one).* But I don’t think the question should really be “are we happier; are they happier?” — after all, it’s not a competition. And why should we assume that any one camp is happier than any other? A lot of us either know we want kids or know that we don’t. So if I know that I want kids and Person B knows he/she doesn’t, why on earth would I try to compare who is happier? We are probably both happy in our own, different paths (just like I am happy I’m a writer and Person Smurf is happy he/she is a venture capitalist. Different, but both happy — hopefully).
For me, it’s more a question of “in what ways am I happier now, or less happy?” I’m happier because I love my baby endlessly and love how much Ethan adores him. I’m happier because I see the world now through the eyes of my child, who thinks socks are hilarious. I’m happier because Leo is so darn cute (as is your kid) and buying little shoes is fun. I’m less happy because I don’t ever get to sleep in anymore unless the moon is in the second house. I’m less happy because traveling with a baby or toddler is a pain in the ass. I’m less happy because I have less free time to surf the web which is admittedly a blessing in disguise. I’m happier because I imagine stuff like Leo’s first day of kindergarten and it makes me all fuzzy inside.
Or, as Bonnie Rochman says in her article, “In Defense of Motherhood: Why We Keep Having Kids When They’re So Clearly Bad For Us”:
Why do we do it? Maybe because despite all the rigors and annoyances, the love between parent and child is unprecedented in its passion. It’s blinding and fierce and feels completely different than romance. I don’t know if scientists have looked into whether parents smile and laugh more than non-parents, but I’ll bet they do. Kids are funny. They are you before you became hardened and wizened, before you experienced sorrow, before you went all cynical on the world.
I think a lot of people are looking for some magic answer to the question “Why Have Kids?”, and the truth is, there isn’t one. Yes, kids zap all of your energy. Yes, kids can make you feel like you’ve lost yourself and that you’ll never finish that novel or win that Nobel Peace Prize or get your hair dyed or hit the gym. I think most people choose to have kids because they offer some kind of longterm hope, some kind of joy, a promise of unconditional love and a close-knit family and people who will call to make sure you’re okay and also people who have to go to the movies with you because you said so. Maybe this is all fabricated, a fake thing in our brains that was put there to make sure the human race continued to procreate — who knows. But it’s there. And those little moments of pure joy tend to erase (most) of the harrowing ones from our minds. Kind of like the way you forget how bad labor was (though frankly, I don’t buy that one because I still remember that it hurt like a b***).
I am no expert on this subject, certainly. I do know that parents have more gray hairs and probably more wrinkles, but, much like my busted abs, we can look at all of these war wounds fondly (well, sort of fondly) because we know the battle we fought — raising healthy, intelligent, kind individuals who didn’t end up in jail or with a face tattoo — was a marathon of a journey, and we made it. On the other side? Grown-up kids who call you and like you and (maybe) produce a couple of adorable grandkids for you to coo over.
*We love these studies, don’t we? Every time someone new from Stanford busts out with one, we click on the purposefully provocative title with glee. Will this new article contain the key to my happiness or my cousin’s or my own work-life balance? Um, probably not. But I, too, fall for it every time.
What do you think? WHY did you have (or not have) kids?!
HAPPY WEEKEND! And thanks for all the amazing responses with blog post ideas and encouragement and motivation and muffins and rainbows.