Sunday, July 06, 2008
For convenience with our work and social schedules for this weekend, my husband and I dropped our kids off with my parents on Friday night. We tucked them into bed before the fireworks started and then drove home as kidless parents.

We've been without our kids before. Several times. We've even left the country without them in tow. But there was something so utterly lonely about getting back to our house that night and not having any sleeping children to unbuckle and carry in.

And rather than sleeping late the next morning and enjoying the rare silence of a kid free house, I found myself rather depressed about the whole thing. I went to the grocery store without having anyone to help me push the carriage or begging to play with the car keys or my sunglasses. I stopped at a gas station and didn't have voices chirping from the backseat the car is huuungry and there were no moon faces smiling at my through the back windshield as I pumped.

Rather than accomplishing great things with all that freedom I had, I was bored, fell asleep on top of my blankets and woke up still a little sad to be alone.

We went childless to a cook-out last night. It was nice to not be chasing after mischievous little ones and to not have to accommodate bed times and picky appetites. But still, I missed them. A couple of our friends brought their adorable 9-month old with them. She was cherubic and well behaved, with only one minor scream-fest.

During those few minutes of fussiness, a younger woman walked through the house, passing us on her way to the kitchen. She said, as a joke I can only presume, Now there's birth control - to no one in particular.

(Rude, much?)

This got my friend (the mother of the beautiful baby girl) and I talking about how it is impossible to put into words how having a child changes you, changes your perception of the world, of others, of life, of yourself.

Before having children, would I have been so different in thinking that a squirming, screaming, teething baby was a nuisance and a downer at a party? Yet now, my heart strings were pulled and I felt nothing but motherly compassion for the poor baby and empathy for the mother attempting to soothe her.

The world is different after having kids. You know, my friend said, I actually feel a little sad for my husband and I before we had our daughter - how we didn't even know what we were missing out on.

It's a strange way to put it, but I feel the same way. Coming home with only my husband on that Friday night felt, well, empty. And though having children has easily been the most challenging (and frustrating and exhausting) thing I could have ever imagined - it's easily the best thing ever we've ever done. We laugh more now than before we had kids (which I never would have thought possible) - I've written more (and better) since having kids - I've earned my master's and done all of my publishing since they were born.

And though I often come here to vent about them being distractions to my writing process, the truth is they're my inspiration.

And so last night, I felt a little sad for that woman who made the comment when she heard the baby crying. That there's this whole huge world that's not yet visible to her. Of course, I'm not saying that having children is the key to opening one's eyes to a greater awareness or that giving birth somehow unlocks the door to a land of great understanding.

But, I know I have been changed by motherhood. In all good ways. And for that, I am thankful.

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Blogger Zhoen said...

Don't feel sad for her. Every abused, neglected child has parents who shouldn't have had children, who weren't transformed as you are. It's not automatic, not for everyone. Feel blessed that you are one of those who can love so.

Blogger Mella said...

Oh, I agree that there are far too many people who have had children who should not have. I suppose my remark about feeling sadness for this young woman (and she is very young, fresh out of college), was more about her attitude toward children, or toward a crying child specifically. And that she felt no twinge of conscience - that she thought nothing of saying what she did right in front of the child's mother.

It was more about attitude and compassion than about thinking she should have children to better understand the world.

Blogger Speak Coffee said...

I've never said that comment in front of the child's mother - but I have muttered it out of ear shot. What it comes down to for me, though, is fear. Fear that that will be my responsibility, that the screaming child will be mine and that something is upsetting him that I can't fix or can't figure out how to fix and it might really all be my fault, and now I've gone and ruined a baby and a dinner party.

I know most people end up enjoying the whole motherhood experience - but I think I'm still too selfish. (And fearful.)

Blogger Skye said...

Mella, I remember feeling that way about leaving my kids... a long, long time ago! Now I'm an old(ish), burned-out mother, and things are different. Oh, I definitely still feel something's missing when my kids are with their dad, and there are times when I'm somewhere and think I'd get much more enjoyment out of it if I were watching my kids enjoy it too! And I still worry about them and hope they are okay. But at the same time, it is a huge relief to be able to do something without having to stop and make breakfast, lunch or dinner or break up an argument... to not have to worry about whose friend is coming over when and what time I need to pick someone up from so-and-so's house... to just, for a few quiet minutes, be ME.

I'd like to be back where you are, though - still young and fresh and in love with my motherhood.

I really enjoyed this post! I was cruising the parenting blogosphere when I stumbled upon it. I've had somebody say something pretty similar to me ("That's why I'm glad I don't have kids!!!") when my 2-month-old was crying (colic). I laughed at the time, but on the way home I wondered how she could be so far away from the point. I didn't like the crying (I was exhausted!) but my little girl was/is more important than my discomfort. She's a beautiful 15 month-old now who has tantrums and I love her just the same! She is going to be a grown-up before I know it!

Blogger Novice said...

Mella, I started to leave a comment, and then just decided to make a post of my own on N.I.W.

For the record, I got that your pity for the woman was not for her childless state, but for her lack of sympathy and tact.

Also, I am really, really glad you had kids. I can't wait until you have more!

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