A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Parenting is Life (1)

I woke up this morning with that same vague, fatigued feeling that I've been experiencing through the last few days. It's like having the 'flu but... not really. I'm not sure what my body is telling me but it's hard to keep up with an active 3 year old when you're feeling blah... and when all you really want to do is hit the nearest pillow and sink under the covers.

I read this blog post a couple of days ago and it has been on my mind ever since. It's the sort of thing that comes up when you're wondering if you should have more children or whether having children has "put your life on hold"... Do more children mean more personal sacrifice... and less personal gratification?
When you think about it, it's really a 21st century question. A 21st century, wealthy person question.

Not that long ago, people didn't really have a choice... they just kept having children until... well... the reproductive system was er... ready to retire for life. Having children was a matter of course when human beings said "I do", and to get down to brass tacks, being fruitful and multiplying was an investment in one's future and the future of society. To be frank, when I see the dishes pile up and when I'm too fatigued to do the vaccumming for the third time in four hours, the light penetrates the fog. I can see, albeit reluctantly, the wisdom of having more than two children... and why the Bible says that children are a blessing.

Like the author of the post, I'm an older parent... and I'm often tired and especially in the cold weather  I'm often down with some kind of ear-nose-throat malfunction. More nose and throat than ear. Hence, as  my body ages slowly, I'm becoming convinced that reproduction is... to put it crudely.... a young person's game.
On some level, I don't regret working in those early years of our married life... it did me a lot of good personally, not that I was  particularly careerist. But these days I kinda wished that I had started having children a lot earlier when I was fitter and less set in certain habits.

Raising children is enormously challenging... especially if you have more good intentions than you need to have. But the truth is, raising children is fundamentally about steering your children warily through the different stages of life until they reach adulthood. They don't stay babies, they don't stay children and while they may kick and scream all the way to adulthood... they eventually get there. This is a concept that more or less coalesced in the functioning areas of my brain when #1 started school. It is something I wish I had known then because I wouldn't have wasted so much time and energy being so paralyzed by fear of making mistakes.

Maternal I certainly wasn't but after the second one, it finally dawned on me... "Hey, this mothering thing ain't so bad." I even... *gulp*... allowed myself luxury of thinking... "Hey, I'm an experienced mum now... cause I actually have some idea of what they're screaming about. And guess what... they actually grow out of the baby stage when they turn 1. Phew... what a relief."

Did I have children to be happy? Not really. I was terrified at the thought that I was going to have a child and I was utterly clueless. The impending responsibility weighed so heavily on my mind that I had minor panic attacks all throughout my entire first pregnancy.

Despite our little battles, I don't regret having them... the children... that is. They have brought me a lot of deep personal satisfaction... and even in the short space of time we've been together, I have learnt far more from them than they have from me.  I don't know if I'm happier for having them (not having anything to compare it with) but I don't stake my life on happiness so the question is moot. To me happiness is fleeting and too fickle a criteria to base quality of life by. Lots of people use happiness to justify all kinds of irresponsible behaviour so I'm "happy" to leave that alone.

I don't believe the goal of parenting is happiness. If it is, then it is biggest cosmic joke ever. Perhaps when I am older and wiser I will change my mind on that point. However, I'm convinced that it's a lot simpler... that parenting is life... it is a necessary part of life for many of us so that by having children, we cease to be children ourselves.

Nothing compels change faster than having to care 24/7 for someone so dependent and so helpless.

(To be continued)


  1. Hi Lilian, as usual love the blog. My inlaws are from the Indian subcontinent and often boast on how children are a blessing from God and it is their duty as parents to sacrifice to fulfill God directives. Sounds admirable until on closer inspection you realise this is nothing more than a grotesque form of parental investment, and an insurance policy for old age. Jaundiced even controversial but true.

  2. Hey Rebel...
    Good of you to drop by. I'd be interested to know how you found me. :D If you're not already a friend of mine. ;)
    That kind of thinking is fairly traditional in that part of the world. Prosperity and Judeo-Christian principles I think, is what differentiates between eastern and western cultures in many areas not just parenting. I can certainly speak to that as an ethnic Chinese. It seems to me to be part of the Confucian ethic. Not sure how that would apply to the subcontinent though.

    Thanks again for commenting. It's always exciting to get comments because I don't get them too often.


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