Does it surprise you that, more often than not, the news of pregnancy is not welcome? It surprised me at first.
Years ago, too many to accurately recall the exact number, I read statistics on women’s reactions to the news of their pregnancy. Suffice it to say that this medical textbook began the chapter on early pregnancy by explaining how most women are upset about a pregnancy rather than excited.
My first reaction to this information was complete rejection. Babies are a gift from God…right? Now, looking back at my own life, I totally understand. With a total of 12 pregnancies, (counting in three miscarriages) I’ve had my share of thrilled announcements and unexpected test results. I believe much of what, and why, we react to having babies has more to do with our current circumstances than a philosophy of life.
The Huffington Post shed some light on my theory in the piece “Why More Women Choose Not to Have Children”:
In the final analysis, almost 50 percent of women today are childless. Though we don’t know their individual reasons, it is easy to understand how both the pressures of the modern world and the many options available for women to fulfill their creativity, other than parenthood, may very well be affecting these numbers.
Here are a few of the reasons Dr. Gail Gross points to, plus my two cents:
Putting your child first… whether you are tired, overworked or underpaid, you have to compensate for all of your issues by focusing and bonding with your child to be a hands-on parent.
Any mother can tell you that it doesn’t matter how tired you are, or what hourly wage you command — babies still need to eat, have their diapers changed and be spoken to softly. Children still want your company — at least in the early years. They will want to talk to you. They will want to tell you what they think about the new hero in their life and the game they’re interested in. If bonding is just another item on your checklist of things you must accomplish…yeah…don’t have kids.
Being tired, overworked, and underpaid is common. Generations before us saw their children as a reason to endure these hardships in order to provide for a better life than they had experienced. Self-sacrifice, for the good of the family, and the subsequent deep-seated happiness it brings, is fast becoming a lost concept. The Huffington Post article goes on:
Parenting is for the long haul. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And relationships, especially between parent and child, are both complicated and messy. Therefore, a large part of your life is focused on your relationship with your progeny, rather than yourself. This requires a lot of patience, energy, commitment, obligation and responsibility for the life of another human being.
Of course, parenting is a long haul. But here’s where this analogy goes wrong. Parenting is not just something you do. It is something you become. You don’t just get up one day and run a marathon or even a sprint. If you do, you’re on the side of the road in no time trying to suck life back into your lungs.
Becoming a parent is not taking away time from your self-development. It’s teaching you more about life than you could ever learn on your own.
You’re only as happy as your least happy child. All parents know how concern and worry can dominate their day when their child is unhappy or in trouble.
No. Good parents learn that their happiness does not depend on the happiness of a child. That is as fleeting as a candy bar. It is an unobtainable ideal to think that you can gain happiness by not having trouble or unhappy family members. Your happiness should not depend on your children’s emotions. One of you has to be emotionally stable.
Everything has a price. Everything. Parenthood is not without cost, but happiness is a byproduct. You can’t capture it by chasing it. It comes by finding someone to love more than yourself.
The reasons stated in this article all center around losing something. Intimacy. Happiness. Self. At first glance, these seem to be the price paid for having children. At least, that is the perception of those choosing not to have children. To some extent, their concerns are correct.
However, what you can’t know until you become a parent is that these are not lost; they are traded for a new and better version.