Parenting is certainly not for the faint of heart, but here’s why I’m thankful I went ahead and had children anyway.
“I’m a little scared to have kids,” my friend admitted. We were hanging out at my house after she’d helped me get my children to bed while my husband was away on a work trip. “I see how much work it is for you, and I just don’t know how I’d be able to do that!”
I told her I could understand her hesitation. Parenting is certainly not for the faint of heart. It may be one of the hardest things we can do in our comfortable modern lives. But, I told her, I was very glad I went ahead and had kids anyway. Here are some of the reasons I gave her:
1I’m playing the long game
Having little kids in the house is intensely demanding and difficult. No bones about it. But to see that reality and stop the conversation there is shortsighted.
My children are only young for a few short years. The vast majority of my relationship with them will be during the decades of their adulthood.
At that point, our relationship will be very different and much less exhausting. Once children grow up, they add enormously to the happiness, wellbeing, and life satisfaction of their parents:
Scientists asked 55,000 people age 50 and over from 16 European countries about their mental well-being, and results suggest “the positive aspects of parenthood dominate when getting older.”
One of the biggest factors is that children become a form of social support, and the researchers point out that social support networks are associated with greater happiness and less loneliness and can act as a buffer against stressful events.
Intrigued? There’s a fascinating book called Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids that dives into the research on this in great detail. Check it out for lots more interesting data.
Keeping my eyes focused on the long-term goal of relationships with my adult children motivates me to get through the hard days.
I like to picture my Thanksgiving table in 40 years. I imagine a home filled to the brim with my grown children and grandchildren and the unconditional love among all of us.
When the baby is crying at 3 a.m., or the toddler is having yet another public tantrum, this vision keeps me going.
2I slow down and enjoy the little things
I once read a very thought-provoking story about a Mexican fisherman and a businessman. It makes the point that happiness isn’t something to pursue with strenuous effort. Rather, happiness lies in slowing down and appreciating the good things that already surround us.
One of the great things about children is that they really help you to slow down and enjoy the little things, because that’s all they really care about. They’re just as happy to splash in mud puddles in the front yard as to go to Disneyland. In fact, they’re probably happier, because they won’t have their routine and sleep schedule messed up!
Big, fussy events and activities are really for the enjoyment of the parents, not the children. The kids are just as happy to stay home and spend time with Mom and Dad.
And that’s exactly the beauty of parenting. All your child really wants from their parents is your presence and loving attention.
This slower pace of life is an enormous gift. Kids teach their parents how to slow down and enjoy the simple things, and we’re all happier for it.
3The sacrifices are worth it
Parenting is replete with sacrifices and requires profound self-emptying. I’d never deny that for a moment. But as Catholics, we should know better than to fear sacrifice or run away from it.
We know that hard things can be sanctified and offered to God as a gift. We know that suffering is not meaningless, but can be united to Christ’s suffering and offered as a powerful prayer for others. We know that making sacrifices for a greater good is worth it.
So let’s not hold back from doing hard but good things, whatever that might mean in our stage of life. And if the thing that seems hardest to you is having children, ask God to help you. After all, he knows what it’s like to be a parent!
Courage doesn’t mean the absence of fear: It means feeling the fear but doing the right thing anyway. Having children in today’s world takes courage, but believe me when I say that you have what it takes.
And when you feel like you may fall short, ask for the help of others, and for God’s grace, which will be more than abundant to make up for whatever you lack.