Monday, July 14, 2008

Musings

So I recently read this article in Newsweek.

Basically the premise is that having children does not make you happier, and indeed, makes you more miserable. Personally, I take issue with their research. Truth be told, the low points of having children are far lower than any other times I think I have ever experienced in my life. When Connor fell into the fire pit last year, I physically felt his pain. I willed myself to switch places with him so he didn't have to hurt. I don't think I've ever felt anything like that level of fear and dread.
Simply giving my kids a punishment also hurts. To see my kids cry and yell and tell me I'm mean, well, that hurts. The stress I put upon myself to be perfect is also insurmountable. I take such little things so seriously. "Did we read for 20 minutes today? Did they brush their teeth? Do their clothes match? Did I handle that argument correctly? Did I encourage their self esteems?" Somedays I feel the pressure will smother me.
Then there's the spousal arguments. If we had no children I don't know what we would argue about! We both handle things slightly differently. The level of communication it takes to raise children is draining and shocking. There are times I just can't manage it and, well, we argue.

That being said, the highs of having children are like nothing I ever could have imagined. In May, when Siobhan was being born, I was able to watch through a mirror (thank heavens for non-emergency births!) What a miraculous event! It still brings tears to my eyes. When Al brought her over to me, she was still crying. When I spoke to her, she stopped. Amazing!
When Connor played piano at his recital this year, it brought tears to my eyes, and a pride to my heart that I didn't know I had. To see how proud he was of himself! When he helps Aisling on the swings, or is so gentle with Siobhan, that brings out feelings in me I didn't know existed. When Aisling cracks a joke, or talks with her crazy facial expressions, I want to hug her until my arms hurt. Simply nursing the baby, what an amazing experience.
I could literally go on for days. My point is that I'll agree, parenting has brought me some low points in my life that I wouldn't have expected. Low points I didn't really know existed. It's brought to my life a level of stress and anguish I would never have dreamed possible.

On the other hand, it's brought me a level of joy that is so amazing words cannot even describe it. I am not a qualified enough writer to be able to describe the experience of being a mother without making it sound cheap. I just have no way to put into words the feelings of love and joy. Perhaps that's part of the problem with the article. I can describe for you all the stress and anguish I feel at times about being a mother, but I cannot describe the joy and love I feel at the same time. Perhaps that makes it sound like there are more periods of anguish than there are joy.

I've been thinking a lot about this article, and wondering what I would be doing with my life if I wasn't a mother. Truth be told, I have no idea. I cannot think of anything that would be equally fulfilling. I really can't. I simply cannot picture my life without children.

I was making a joke with a friend the other day. I went to the doctor with three children in tow, on in the wheelchair, one in the carrier, and the other, well, being herself. As we left the receptionist turned to the other and said "I don't know how she does it". I joked with my friend and said "I don't know why I do it". But that's simply not true. I do know why I do it. Because having children has brought me a level of joy and unconditional love that I didn't know existed. I never knew that a person could love another person so much. I never knew that simply going in and watching my children sleep would bring tears of joy to my eyes.

So, to the writers of Newsweek, I concur; there are times when being a mother has introduced levels of unhappiness with which I was unfamiliar before having children. However, children have introduced to me times of great joy, pride, love, and caring that I never knew existed within me. I think your article left out these facts.
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