Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hi. My name is Christine, and I am a parent.

Hi, everyone. My name is Christine, and I am a parent.

Yes, I know I chose this life for myself (well, ArtGuy and I chose it together). I wanted to be a parent and a stay-at-home-mom, and although homeschooling was not originally on my "to-do" list, it is most certainly a choice. I accept all that.

However, I do increasingly resent the growing popular thought that my children are "luxuries". That I am somehow indulgent for having multiple children. I am not even going into the theological reasons for having children (when possible). I am just talking about practical, down-to-earth reasons.

I read an article on Slate this morning about parenthood that was meant to be cute, but really just annoyed me. Called "Parents Are Junkies", the premise is that parenthood stinks, makes you unhappy and depressed, but parents get addicted to the love of a child or the precious moments and those few moments make us addicted to parenthood.

Admittedly, this is not a scientific article, but that is part of the problem. If it were in a journal, not many people would read it. A popular, snarky article gets a lot of hits.

The writer compares parents to gambling addicts. Gamblers like the thrill of the chase, the hope of reward. "Like addicts, parents will sacrifice anything for the glimpses of heaven that their offspring periodically provide."

This equates parenthood to shopping and children to accessories. And yes, if you view your children as accessories, then you are going to be unhappy most of the time. You can put an ugly purse away in the closet. An ugly (behaviored) child needs a lot of attention, and should not be ignored. Children will take hours and hours and hours of your day. They are not meant to be seen for a brief moment before you get back to your "real" life.

I mean, really, who would choose children as accessories, anyway? That is an unrealistic view. My four "accessories" have given me 50 extra pounds to work off, perpetual headaches, and bad hair. Not to mention the boobs. They totally ruined those, too. Because of my "accessories", I drive a mini-van that barely works and I cannot afford to replace. My dryer takes 2x as long to dry mounds of laundry. If I had no children, or only one, I could afford a nice washer and dryer and do my little load of laundry in half a day each week. Without children, ArtGuy and I would not be tens of thousands of dollars in debt (medical and repairs), and be able to get through one conversation a day without constant interruptions. Heck, we would actually be able to spend time together.

No amount of addiction would make my life worthwhile at the moment.

It is so much more than that.

I know this is terribly not PC, but I am doing a social service - a favor to my community. I have given birth to four beautiful children. I am raising them to be kind, socially aware, strong-minded, involved citizens. I am educating them to be well-versed in history, science, theology, literature, geography, philosophy, and the arts. I cannot makes specific promises yet, but I feel confident that you will be getting a doctor, a priest, an engineer, an artist, a chef, a teacher - something very useful out of my boys one day.

Children are not accessories or drugs - they are work. They require vast amounts of sacrifice - painful at times. Yet parenthood opens you up to whole new horizons. Your world becomes so much larger than it was before. You become connected to the universe and to the community in a way you did not understand BC (Before Children).

I am a parent. That is my way of giving to my world. The love ArtGuy and I share grew so big it had to overflow who we are. Who we are become a physical manifestation in the Young Adult, Cookie Boy, Romeo, and the Mad Toddler.
I sacrifice my little self in order to become a vessel of life for something much bigger than who I am and what I wish I was doing right now (instead of staring at mounds of laundry, broken train tracks, mud on the kitchen floor, and an over-tired toddler).

That sounds exclusive. Some people long to become parents, and just cannot do it. It does not mean that they get shut out of this - parenthood comes in many forms. But for those who do have children, it is not just an addiction - some random impulse that you get stuck with for life (although it can feel like that at times!). I am not trying to judge why you may have no children or one or two - those are private, and something painful, decisions or reasons. But I am asking for the same consideration - I wish people would please stop looking at me like I am crazy for having four children....and boys, at that. (I cannot tell you how many times I have had someone tell me that that is why they did not have a third or fourth - it might have been another boy! Oh, the horrors!!!!)

Parenthood is my job, and like any job, it has its rewards and its problems. It is a vocation - a calling.
It is life-affirming. It is something we plunge into with our eyes shut because we know if we saw the truth, we could never do it. Parenthood is love.

One thing I know it is not - an addiction.

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