Somehow, giving birth has made me an expert on childrearing and the satisfaction that it can potentially bring into your life. Clearly, I jest. I'm not an expert about anything - but if you heard the recurring question I get asked from friends contemplating procreation, you'd think I was. The question I am constantly being asked about motherhood is - is it worth it?
Maybe I get asked this question because I make a living divulging personal information and giving women advice they never asked for. Maybe it's because a lot of my friends are professionals who have waited until later in their lives to have kids. Regardless, I think women are always pretty surprised when I give them my answer.
Nope. It's probably not worth it. Whatever it is.
Being a mother is something I always knew was in the cards for me. It's a role I always wanted for myself, for as long as I can remember. When we spent years having trouble conceiving, I remember thinking, this can't be right. I'm supposed to be a mother. Why isn't this happening? Frankly, I've never been that sure about anything else in my life. There is no logical explanation for it.
We waited until we were in our early 30s to even start trying, not knowing it would take five years to get a pregnancy to stick. I gave birth to my first child at 37 and will be giving birth to my second in May of this year. I will be 40. I realize it's a late start, but I've never really done anything traditionally. I didn't have children because I thought it was something that was "expected" of me. I did it because I really, really wanted to.
That's why the advice I give to my friends is always a little unexpected. They see that I enjoy motherhood and expect me to say something along the lines of, it's the greatest thing, ever! As soon as you give birth you will realize that this is your destiny! It's worth every sacrifice you have to make, and then some!
Instead, I usually say, If you're really not sure, maybe you shouldn't. You have a pretty terrific life now, right?
Blank stares and confusion usually follow.
What's wrong with having the freedom to travel anywhere at a moment's notice, drink in the daytime, and devote endless hours to your profession or passions? What's incomplete about building a life with a partner, or by yourself, and fully enjoying that life? I have a lot of single, childless friends in their 40s - and they're happy. I also have a lot of miserable ones, but I don't think inserting an infant into their lives would change that.
I happen to be one of those people who truly, truly believes that all women are not hardwired for breeding. Just because you have a uterus doesn't mean you need to use it. I think that ultimately, many couples fall victim to the societal brainwashing that says you need to breed to be complete. No you don't.
First of all, that line of reasoning really isn't working for us as a species. The world is totally overpopulated. We don't have the natural resources to keep up with the demand that all these new babies brings. At present, there really isn't some global biological imperative to perpetuate the species. We're good. We've got plenty of bodies walking around and breeding. You can all breathe a sigh of relief.
Also, parenthood is hard. It's an endless series of sacrifices that you have to be really ready for. Every time I write or utter those words, someone gets offended. She must be doing it wrong! What sacrifices? Motherhood isn't hard! They're big, fat liars. Yes it is. It may be great - but it's hard.
The biggest problem is that the questions that we all want answered when we are trying to figure out whether to have a family are unanswerable. Why should I have a child? Does the decision to breed make me stronger and less selfish, or exactly the opposite? How will having a child change me? Will I like this new person? What will my new life look like? No one can answer these questions. If they do, they're probably just full of shit.
That's why I give the answer I do. Not sure if you should have children? Don't know if you really want them? Then don't have them. When attempting to answer a question as profound as this one, I can only draw from my own experience. My complete desire to have children and certainty that it was something that I wanted is what gets me through all of the difficult times that parenthood brings. If I didn't have such a deep desire to have children, I don't know how happy I would be now.
I'm certain there are plenty of people who weren't sure they wanted to be parents but were over the moon when they became them. Even if that is the case, I have to believe there is an amount of certainty that must be behind a decision this big. You're bringing a whole human being into existence. It's something you should at least think you're sure about, right?
Then you can become a parent and realize that you're never really certain about anything.
(photo: zimmytws / Shutterstock)