Having children is like living in a frat house – nobody sleeps, everything’s broken, and there’s a lot of throwing up. – Ray Romano
Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. – James Baldwin
Perhaps it takes courage to raise children. – John Steinbeck, East of Eden
The talk “this week” was about having kids. I put “this week” in quotes because it has been several weeks now since the actual day. This post took me a long time to write for several reasons (several of which I will explore) but not the least of these has been the timing. This was just…. really bad time. I was busy with work and feeling frazzled but most of all it was January. Now that may not sound like anything, just another month, but for me it is big. January, for what reason I have yet to fully pin down, is always a hard month for me. When I say hard month, what I mean is a depressed month. I feel like I am as stable, from a depression stand point as I have been in my adult life, but still, every year, January rocks me. I don’t know if it is the emotional and energy release after the holidays, the snap of cold without the festivity of Christmas carols, or the looming of the ever scary “future” that the new year inevitably brings, but something flips and by mid January I am struggling to keep my emotional stability. I switch to survival mode and everything that is non-essential gets neglected. Even some things that are essential.
Anyway, I survived and now it is February and I can breath again, at least a little. So the talk. Hmmmm. Well, to begin with I should start by saying that I don’t hate kids or being around them. I actually really like them. But for me they are not energy givers. For some women (nope, lets broaden that out to people) children give a burst of energy. They are life giving hope springs and being around them makes these people feel fulfilled and happy. That isn’t me. Being around kids is a sacrifice of love. I love them, but I sacrifice my energy in order to be present with them. I don’t regret the sacrifice. I love my nieces. But it is a sacrifice none the less. I require recuperation time after. Decompression before I can continue. It is this truth that has always lead me to the feeling that I love being an aunt but I am on the fence about being “Mom.” Mom doesn’t get a day off. She doesn’t have privacy or down time. She is always Mom, always on. I watch my mother and I am amazed at how much she did and still does for us (and all of her children are fully grown, although two of us still are living with her again). I compare myself to her and I seriously wonder if I could even do it. Do I even have what it takes to be a good mom?
And that is where I have always stalled out. And it didn’t matter too much before now. I mean, before I met my love I had no reason to think I would have to consider being a mom. It wasn’t on the table and that didn’t bother me one bit. Now, let me take this moment and clarify that I am not, and have never been, diametrically opposed to the idea of raising a child/children. When I did spend an odd moment thinking about it it was more of a “mmhe” and since there was no prospect and no regret, that is all the further I would go. I know for certain, I could not do the “stay at home mom” thing. If you can, more power to you. But for me that would rob me of my sanity, what little I had. But I have thought from time to time that I might adopt or foster if God opened the door and pushed me through.
So here we sit, in my worst month, and we are talking about children. Now, we had touched on this before and come up with much the response above- both kind of ambivalent and on the nah side of mmhe but neither firmly planted. So we start talking and thinking and exploring and wouldn’t you know it, God brings out the real issue. Fear. The more we talked the more I saw the fear in both of us. Now I still don’t know if children are in our future. I don’t know if that is what God wants for us or what we really want. What I do know is that a lot of what had put us leaning on the “no thanks” side of the argument had more to do with our fears than anything. Fears of having to parent alone, of not having the time to spend with children, of sickness, of mental health, of pain, of loss. Our fears are many and varied and, to be honest, many rooted in solid truth. Many of my fears revolve around making mistakes or choices that would hurt or psychologically damage my kids. I know just a bit too much about embryology and child development to feel safe about pregnancy or parenting. When you know all the ways it can go wrong my brain has a tendency to fixate on those. But the more we talked and the more I prayed the more the same thing kept coming to mind. Whatever we do, I don’t want our lives to be patterned on fear. My dream for our life together is that we build on faith, hope and love. Fear is not what I want to base my decisions on. I don’t want to have kids out of a fear of being forgotten, I don’t want to not have kids out of a fear of screwing them up. Fear cannot be the driving force if I seek to live by faith.
1 John says that perfect love casts out fear. One of the primary aims of this courtship was to ground our relationship and our life together in the foundation of faith and love that comes from being united with Christ. Over the last month I have been struggling with how to write this blog because I was not sure what I wanted to say. The truth was that what I learned most from our conversation and the subsequent conversations it spawned, was that I wanted to make a commitment to not live by fear. It is so easy for me to spiral into fear circles and come up with a million scenarios that justify why my fear should dictate what I do or do not do. But this is counter to the message of the Bible and my desire for our life. I wanted to explore the idea, to really take the time to look my fears in the eye and tell them that they were not going to get to call the shots. I believe that God has a plan, whether that plan includes us having children or not remains to be seen. But I choose now to not put God in a box because I am afraid of what might happen. Fear is the opposite of faith and I choose faith.
So, to the love of my life, my favorite person, the only man I would consider raising children with, thank you. Thank you for your honesty, for your openness. Thank you for your willingness to explore the terrifying unknown and see an adventure. Thank you for seeing my fears and not shying away, for loving me in all my crazy. Thank you for riding out the storm, for being there for me every step of the way. I love you so much and whatever God sends our way, I am so glad to be on this adventure with you.