What We Give Up to Be Parents, and Why It’s Worth It
Parenting is the paradox of joy and challenge. We give, but receive more. We suffer, but love the source of the suffering. We rejoice, but stay grounded in the possibility of another tantrum or explosive diaper. No one I’ve met wished they hadn’t had their children in their lives. Many people prefer not to have them and don’t. What are a few things we give up to be parents? Why is it worth it?
1) The obvious ones we give up.
Sleep. Time alone. Time with our partner uninterrupted. Disposable income for hobbies. No responsibility for a dependent. Autonomy. Ease of travel.
This is a lengthy but completely non-comprehensive list. Why on earth would a rational being give up all these freedoms? I can only answer for myself: love and the perspective that life isn’t about self-fulfillment. In the long run, I’d rather have memories of the little kiss my son gives me after a long battle to change his diaper than more time reading alone. I’d rather watch he and his dad play croquet in the backyard than be skiing in San Moritz unfettered. I’d rather buy organic produce and make our food than eating out whenever I wanted to. I’d rather read all morning with J than be at the barn with my horses like I was pre-J. And I’d rather we lug a cooler full of organic produce and Super Baby Food to my in-laws, a 6 hour drive, than just hop on a plane and feed J whatever fast food is available.
Do I always rather these things? Of course not! I wouldn’t be human. And neither would you, for whatever sacrifices you make as a parent. They are joyful, and they still sacrifices.
2) The ones we hold on to.
Returning to hobbies when children are bigger. More sleep when babies are toddlers. Date night. Being creative in including children in what you want to do. Enjoying the moments alone or with your partner, sans children.
I had to part with my last horse when I was 5 months pregnant with J. After almost 15 years of riding, showing, training, traveling, and loving my horses so dearly, it was a tough decision. But swapping horses for babies isn’t a permanent thing. Most equestrians take a break, do the family thing, career thing, and return when middle-aged. It will be so much more fun with J et al. can enjoy horses with me! And I do get great sleep, for now, pre-baby number 2, as J is a good sleeper. And we do go out just the two of us on dates. And there are many moments when J is sleeping on the weekends that AA and I get to read together, cook together, and enjoy lazy morning breakfast together. For all that we’ve given up, J has made it all worth it.