NOTE: Let me say right up front that having kids is not for everyone. It’s a calling that not everyone has on them, and that is fine. There are any number of reasons, ranging from the physical to the emotional to the mental to the spiritual, that one would not want or should not have children. This post isn’t about or directed at such people. This is about women who are on the fence about it. And apologies to men out there, but don’t know about the mental process to becoming a father, and can’t add much to that discussion. I can only speak to the experience of motherhood.
I get it.
You are just walking around Target, minding your own business, then BAM. A kid is screaming that his parents won’t let him get the super awesome toy he needs. His harried mother looks like she hasn’t had a decent night’s sleep or a shower in many weeks. You sigh, shake your head, you might even roll your eyes.
This, you think, is why kids are a terrible choice.
But then, on the other hand, your best friend’s baby is gorgeous. Well-behaved. Curls like an angel. And that baby smell, my god. Your friend tells you, “it’s just different when it’s your own.” Your friend says, “it’s all worth it.” And you think, “yeah, she’s probably right.”
But you don’t know. You think, “maybe” or “in a few years” or “when I’m ready.” You think, “I just want to finish school/get to this position in my job/see the world.” You think, “what if I’m not cut out for it?” So you debate and you go back and forth and friends and family start to wonder if you know that your biological clock is ticking, (of course you know).
So let me be real with you.
You’re never ready.
No amount of discussion or debate or pros and cons lists or books or listicles prepare you for being a mom. It is a whole being transformation. Your body changes. Your mind changes. Your life changes. You’ll have to make decisions and compromises. You may lose your freedom to travel as much as you like. You may not be able to bear the emotional or physical toll of returning to work. You may have to lay aside your desire to write that book or finish that degree for the time being. (Though, I will note, if you WANT to travel or meet whatever goal or work, you CAN. Having a kid does require compromises and changes, but it absolutely doesn’t mean your entire life has to be put on hold. Plenty of parents have successful careers or travel the world. Having kids just makes it different, but not impossible.)
And it’s hard. No lie. There are poosplosions and illnesses and sleepless nights and if you’re LUCKY you might not get postpartum depression. And your friends start to treat you differently. And your social circles start to close and contract around other people with kids, and your mind suddenly is more on whether your kid is eating enough and getting enough mental stimulation and you can’t remember the last time you could just take a bath in peace.
But, and here is the absolute, God-honest truth, nothing freaking compares. Yeah, blowouts and projectile vomit are not fun. Teething is a bitch and learning to breastfeed will take every ounce of will you have. But in the long run, in the grand scheme of things, these days don’t last long. Before you know it, that thing that took up so much of your time and effort is something your child already raced past. And your worries suddenly become that it is so ephemeral, so short-lived.
My son is going to be a year old soon. And for all of the hard days and times I dissolved into tears and felt like I wasn’t going to make it to morning; it’s all in the past now. He’s walking. He’s learning to talk. He even knows some sign language. He COMMUNICATES. He has WANTS and DESIRES and TASTES. He likes certain types of music. He likes certain movies and books more than others. He brings things to me and says my NAME like it’s his favorite word. He gives hugs. He tries to make you laugh. He’s become a little person with personality and his own unique identity and, no offense to dogs or cats, because pets are great, but that’s something that ONLY a human child can do. Only they can grow up to become people, people who, if you’ve done your job right, will contribute something to the world, who will, in whatever small but significant way, make the world gradually better and better.
So if you’re on the fence, if you really don’t know if you want kids or not, think about that. And consider what will be your bigger regret: that you didn’t get to live in the biggest house or make the biggest paycheck or see that one place that would have made a great background for a selfie… or that you didn’t help make and raise a unique human being?
I know, at any rate, what my answer was. And for whatever physical, emotional, mental toll it’s taken on me (and it’s considerable) there has never been a single moment that I’ve regretted it. And I never will.