A longtime reader and friend of the blog who is thinking about having a baby recently e-mailed me with a grave concern, something that was making her rethink this whole baby business…
No! I’m not talking about how pregnancy makes your nipples increase to the size of dinner plates*. Although she and I should have a chat about that, too.
I’m referring to parents who appear to regret ever becoming parents.
Jenn writes about a neighbor, a new dad who regularly makes wistful remarks about how he can only live vicariously through their childless life now… how she and her husband are so lucky to have their freedom. In fact, “he comments on it so much,” says Jenn, “that it sometimes makes me wonder. Do they ever wish they hadn’t gone there? Do they sometimes secretly wish for their old life back?”
My old life…? The one in which I regularly got at least six hours of sleep a night, could guiltlessly kick back countless margaritas and actually finish my meals at restaurants without a toddler abruptly cutting them short with, “ALL DONE! ALL DONE!” Gee, why would I ever long for those days again?
“What if I become a parent,” Jenn adds, “And then privately think, ‘Well shit… there goes my life. What did I go and do that for?’ It sounds so insane putting that out there. The answer seems so obvious ~ that the son/daughter that one has is so beyond worth every sleepless night, every shitty diaper, etc. etc. Right? That’s what I’m expecting. But my neighbors aren’t the only ones that have made those sort of comments. Lots of parents have made comments like that. Like MOST parents have said things like that. And it’s kind of freaking me out.”
Shame on you, parents, freaking out a wonderful prospective mom like that! Tsk, tsk. Also: I hope Jenn enjoys having so much time to construct a thoughtful e-mail, because once she has a baby, she can say “buh-bye” to precious Internet time. Oh, how I miss being able to sit in front of a computer in peace and quiet, without a baby screaming and a toddler pounding on my keyboard —
Wait. Where was I? Oh yeah. Parents who make parenthood sound like the pits. Just terrible of them. TERRIBLE!
So Jenn, knowing I am the kind of person who would miss being able to kick back countless margaritas, wanted to get my thoughts on the matter. Here is part of what I wrote:
“…I will be totally honest with you. Frankly, I’m sure some people do have regrets about having kids. Your neighbor may be one of them. Or maybe he’s like me – I have moments where I would LOVE to have one Friday night when I could just TOTALLY cut loose without worrying about the kids. (Because even though my husband and I do have date nights, once you’re a parent, you are ALWAYS worried/thinking about the kid(s) in the back of your mind. Always.) Or be able to fly off to Cabo at a moment’s notice. I think it would be weird *not* to have those longings sometimes. But would I give up parenthood to have that freedom back? Well, you know what I’m going to say – absolutely not. And I’m not just saying that so I don’t sound like an asshole. I love being a mom.”
And I’m not just saying that so I don’t sound like an asshole. If THAT’s not a lovely maternal sentiment, I don’t know what is.
Upon giving Jenn’s observations more thought, however, I’ve realized there’s more to it. Because so many of us do lament our lives to our childless friends, don’t we? Making a point of mentioning how jealous we are they can hit the bars while we — *SOB* — have to go home and put the kids to bed? Oh, woe is us that we have to snuggle with our adorable, pajama-clad toddler and listen to her read about “Sam-I-Ham” (Skye’s interpretation), then hug and kiss that bundle of cuteness good-night!
See, that’s just it: We can’t say how awesome that is because we’re afraid it will make us sound like an asshole to our childless friends. Instead, we want to sound like “cool parents,” the ones who don’t brag about our kids all the time and do dream of nightclubs. We downplay the fabulousness of parenthood, lest our bar-hopping friends find us boring and sappy. (Which, of course, we are.)
Besides, why waste time when we’re with friends by boring them with too-precious stories and pictures of our kids? That’s what Facebook is for!
Which is my long-winded way of telling Jenn: Do I ever wish I hadn’t gone there? No. Do I sometimes secretly wish for my old life back? Only parts of it. Especially my perkier body parts.
*Don’t worry, Jenn. They shrink back to the size of tea cup saucers. If that’s any consolation.