It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and we were hanging out at the residential pool. I asked my neighbor about her daughter. She’s thirty, single and traveling around Europe---doing a bit of studying, working and exploring.
“She’s still not ready to settle down, and certainly doesn’t want children. She says kids ‘suck the life outta you.’”
I thought that was quite a harsh assessment. Then I took notice of what was forming around me. My kids, whom I love dearly, are ambushing me with demands and filing complaints about each other.
“Mama, can I please have some?” In unison, three of them lunge at me and tear the food from my hand just as I am about to take a bite.
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I reconsidered. Maybe she is right---99% of the time.
Parenting is indeed taxing. It wears you down emotionally, physically and mentally. And from an outsider’s point of view, it doesn’t seem very gratifying. I get it.
As you mature and settle into your ways, the notion of rearranging your entire life to make room for these “little takers” is not appealing. Talk to any parent, each stage brings its own string of trials and challenges. “You think you got it hard now between the lack of sleep and tantrums? Just wait until he’s a teenager. You’ll long for these days and these kinds of troubles,” a good friend cautioned years ago when I was bitter and sleep-deprived from five kids aged seven and under.
A New York Times article published on April 1, 2009 exposed shocking data that the kid-factor not only did nothing to bolster the happiness factor for parents, but had the inverse affect on marital harmony. Couples confessed to less-satisfying marriages once kids entered the picture.
It’s true. Many women are frazzled and disappointed with motherhood. They feel duped by a media that successfully misled them into thinking their rosy-cheeked angels would bring nothing but fulfillment into their lives. Strike up a conversation with most any mom at the park, at the supermarket, anywhere and she’ll admit to less joy and more stress in her marriage and life as a result of raising children in today’s world. Between the house, the errands, the kids, work, and spouse, or worst yet, doing it all as a single parent, mothers have no down time. It paints a pretty bleak picture.
However, what that free-spirited travel bug doesn’t see or realize is this: Life is a series of fleeting moments. Some not so good; some take your breath away. But time does not discriminate; both the good and the not-so-good eventually pass. It is the feeling we take from these short-lived experiences that endures and impacts the rest of our days.
Yes, parenting is grueling and wrought with heartache; it is not for the faint of hearts. However, it is the epic moments that make it all worthwhile, the unplanned connections between parent and child when intimacy deepens---the breakthrough moments---when your kid unexpectedly shares a secret, confesses his fears, or spontaneously asks for guidance.
Kids are impulsive by nature. A breakthrough moment can happen anytime, anywhere. Whether it is an enchanting, “I love you; you’re so cool, Mommy,” or an inquisitive, “Why doesn’t God listen to me?”---such interactions can carry you blissfully through hours, days and even years of the in-between, not-fun stuff.
Breakthrough moments are the priceless, soulful exchanges that build character, strengthen relationships and shape our futures. They’re the ones I cling to, the ones that stain my memory with indelible ink.
And you’ll never appreciate their transformational power until you become a parent.