Lately, I've seen an increase in the number of media articles about women who have made the decision to step out of their children's day-to-day lives. These are not women who are dealing with long-term debilitating illness or incarceration. These are not women who have made the excruciating decision to send their children away from their families to get them out of a war zone.
These are women who found parenthood to be more work than they'd expected. In a word, they got bored.
Consider Rebekah Spicuglia, who got pregnant at 17 with her son Oscar. When she got the opportunity to attend a college at the other end of the state, she left Oscar with her by-then-ex husband – and the “freedom” so exhilarated her that she never looked back. In her words, it's still “so hard to talk about. But secretly, inside, it was the most exciting thing. If he was living with his father, I would be free to do what I wanted to do."
Or consider the headline at the top of the Yahoo! news page earlier this week: “Parents who hate parenting: The latest trend?” The article is a collection of “expert” opinions about why raising children is hazardous to your physical, emotional and financial health. Time magazine is quoted as saying, “Having kids is an economic and emotional drain. It should make those who have kids feel worse.” The author opines that women who wait until they're older and more established to have children “know exactly what they're giving up when Junior arrives. And they miss it.”
My advice to these people? Grow up.
Once you have given birth, you forfeit the right to have life be all about you. It is now mostly about your child. No matter how wonderful you are, you have to take a back seat for the next two decades.
This is why your parents/teachers/religious leaders spent so many hours trying to drill it into your head that, yes, sex is fun; but no, you shouldn't have it unless you're ready to deal with the consequences. You were thinking (if you thought at all) that you covered every consequence that affected the all-important You, right? The most important side-effect of sex isn't “will he respect me in the morning” or “do you believe in Friends With Benefits” or even why it burns when you pee. The most important side-effect of sex isn't really about you at all.
Sometimes, when you have sex, you make a new human being.
You can't do that provisionally.
Having a child is not like adopting a pet with the idea that you can take it back to the shelter when it stops being fun. If you take on this responsibility, you take it on for life. Yes, it can be messy and dangerous and heart-rending. A lot of it is tedious and menial and boring. You may have to skip a vacation or miss your favorite TV show. You probably won't be able to take every opportunity that comes your way.
If you want to live your life on your own terms – if you want to be free to travel on the spur of the moment, pursue your art or your passion to the exclusion of all else, or spend all your money on yourself – don't have children. It's not mandatory. What is mandatory is that you take responsibility for the human beings you bring into the world and raise them to the best of your ability until they are old enough to take care of themselves.
Even if that means – and it probably will – that you have to postpone that graduate program or world cruise or Tupperware party.
I find parenthood to have a much higher fun-to-drudgery ratio than any of the other “jobs” I've held. Some people don't. I find that there are numerous opportunities for creativity, learning and making deeper connections. Again, some people don't. I find it to be an endless cycle of mind-numbing tasks, repetition and plain hard work. I think everyone would agree with me on this one.
Don't fool yourself that your child will be “just fine” without you. Other people can do your job but no one else can fill your role. You have a child, and you need to raise him.
You may wish you'd made different choices.
You may not think it's fun.
You may not find it “fulfilling.”
Get over it.