Before I had kids, I used to hate the cliché I heard every parent say: “raising kids is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s also the most rewarding”.
I also disliked how I could hear parents complain about their kids and then in the same breath talk about how much they love them.
I never understood how people could give up their dreams after having kids. I never understood how anyone could just be happy being a mother and nothing else. I found the whole concept appalling.
As a child, I didn’t even care about baby dolls. I found them abhorrent. I found babies disgusting. Icky stuff leaked out of every orifice. They always seemed filthy. In high school, the one time I helped a friend baby-sit (a baby, not an older kid), she handed it to me to put clothes on it. I held it for a second, then handed it back saying, “no way”, holding it at arm’s length as if it were something contagious.
Prior to having children, even as a small child in elementary school, all I ever wanted was
a. a career
b. a good, strong marriage to the person made just for me.
I never once daydreamed about a wedding. I dreamed of finding a relationship with a man who would be my love, that I would share my life with. I dreamed of a career I would succeed in and grow prosperous in, in every sense. From Kindergarten age, I sought both with every fiber of my being. Those 2 goals, I worked toward long and hard for as long as I can remember. I never quit. I never gave up. I always held on to the knowledge that one day, I would succeed in both.
In my late twenties, I met the man I’ve now been with for 10 years, married for 6 of those years. After a while, I found myself wanting kids. It wasn’t just a biological clock ticking. It wasn’t just that I wanted babies. I wanted HIS babies.
However, neither of us were 100% sure how we felt about having kids. When he was 13, his half-sister was born. If you want birth control for a teenager, have a baby and let them help care for it. Boom, success! He met many women before me, but you sure as heck can bet there were precautions that resulted in no babies.
In the early months of our relationship we discussed, as all heterosexual couples should when they begin having sex in a new relationship, what would happen if I found myself pregnant. We both decided we were OK with the idea, but frankly preferred no babies any time soon.
Seven years later, upon a doctor’s advice due to medical concerns, I went off the birth control pill that I had been on most of my adult life. My husband and I again discussed the possibility of me being pregnant and decided we would just play it by ear and see what happened. We were in no rush, somewhat interested, but not 100% ready.
For a year and a half, I didn’t get pregnant. I even got to finally finish college (after 17 adult years of working toward that goal).
A few months after graduation (of course), I got pregnant.
At the time, there was some information I lacked.
1. At the age of 35, a woman is more likely to have twins. With each passing year, the odds increase. The rise of multiples in modern society is not just from fertility drugs, but the growing number of women waiting until 30s and 40s to have children. Basically, our bodies say, “we’re running out of time! Bombs away! Fire them all! Go! Go!”. Our bodies begin releasing multiple eggs each month in an attempt to increase the likelihood that we will become pregnant.
2. Twins run in my husband’s family. And they run in mine, on both sides. All those years of my Grandmother telling stories about Big Boy and Tiny, she neglected to mention that they were twins. No one ever told my husband or I that twins ran in our family.
Just a couple of minutes into my first ultrasound, the technician said, “Congratulations. You’re having twins!”.
In the 10 years we’ve been together, it is only the 2nd time that I’ve seen my husband at a loss for words. He sat quietly for 10 minutes, staring at nothing, while I howled with laughter and tried desperately to reign that hilarity in so the technician could do her job. It was not the insane laugh of someone going to the gallows. It was a laugh of acceptance at the joke the Universe played. Because my reaction was: “of course! Hey if it was going to happen to anyone, it would happen to us”. There is nothing “normal” about us, our relationship, or our lives.
So here we are, two and a half years later. Having children is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and it is the most rewarding. It is the hardest job I have ever loved. Some days, I want to throttle my kids while at the same time I want to hug them and soothe their hurts.
People say these sentiments because we have no other words for the feeling. It is said because over 1,000s of years, the feeling has been become as well-expressed as we ever can with our limited vocabulary.
Or, as my mom says, “having children is like falling in love all over again”. What it does to mothers biologically is astounding, fascinating, frustrating, and thrilling.
So all of those cliches that frustrated me before I had kids, and all the parents that annoyed me before I had kids… Well, let me put it like this: if you don’t have kids, you understand, in theory, what it it’s all about. But like sex, until you have it, everything you think about the subject is only theory, and sometimes baseless opinions.
This is not to say being a parent makes someone better than another person. Only that we are different. As with all things in life, no one can truly comprehend a situation until they find themselves in that boat. And as with all things, knowing on an intellectual level is completely different from full comprehension due to immersion in that experience (or as Valentine Michael Smith said in Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, “grokking in fullness”).
I now grok the cliches. I grok in fullness the conflicting feelings that are part of being a parent. I grok that this is one of the hardest life experiences I will have. I grok the sacrifices, the deep and gut-wrenching sacrifices, all parents make to raise their children. I know I will find harder sacrifices as my children grow up, and I will welcome them. Being a mother, especially a good mother, is one of the best accomplishments I can ever do, no matter what else I should ever accomplish in my life.
Happy Mother’s Day to you all.