A twenty-something work colleague has decided that she emphatically does not want to have children. Clearly her choice, good on her.
However, she did remark that us mothers in the office weren’t very good at motherhood public relations. Every day she hears our stories of the challenges we face dealing with our children who range in age from five to twenty. Apparently, we don’t paint a very positive picture of the whole raising children thing.
It’s true, mothers tend to highlight the struggles rather the golden moments of parenting. I think it was probably important to our generation to be honest about what we were experiencing rather than pretending that all was great when it wasn’t. A whole truth-in-parenting conversation began that was often funny, frequently emotional, always relatable and often sad and to a non-parent probably a little confronting.
Maybe along the way we forget to tell our younger friends and colleagues there is an upside to becoming a mother.
So, in honour of my workmate I write this post on five reasons I’m glad I had children.
Having Children Made Me Very Good at Reinventing Myself
Motherhood forced me to reinvent myself many times over. The stay-at-home years were some of the most challenging I have ever experienced. However, in between changing nappies, wiping snotty noses, watching the Wiggles on an endless loop and being embarrassed by tantrum throwing toddlers in the supermarket I discovered my job didn’t define who I was as a person.
Sure, people’s eyes glazed over when I mentioned I was at home with the kids, but those years forced me to look at my priorities and reassess what was important to me.
I was no earth mother, this was not my natural habitat, but I adapted to the circumstances. I had to think outside the square when it came to earning money. I ended up working from home teaching scrapbooking and selling the products to make albums (me, who didn’t have a crafty bone in her body and had never sold anything in her life). When my daughters went to school I accepted work both in the school and as a volunteer on the P&C. I developed new skills, overcame my fear of public speaking, learnt leadership techniques.
All these years later, even though I am back in fulltime work, I know that if worse comes to worse and the job ends tomorrow, I’m capable of adapting to new circumstances.
A child goes through many stages as they grow up, a mother reinvents herself alongside each one.
Having Children Gave Me Strength
Becoming a mother made me stronger. There was now somebody in the world who relied on me for everything. I had to front up and accept these two little beings were more important than me. I was responsible for them, their development, their safety, their life.
There was no longer a choice to avoid difficult situations or ignore bad situations. I had to speak up on their behalf. I had to defend and protect.
When the worst of times arrived and my husband died I had to keep on going because, even though my daughters were now teenagers, they needed to know I was capable of being there for them. When their world collapsed, I had to be the person they could cling to. I’m still surprised the mothering me found a strength that no one would have expected from the pre-child me.
Having Children Helped Me Live in The Moment
Look, I didn’t always fully embrace this one, but children make you focus on the here and now. As a big picture thinker, I was always living one step ahead of today. As a mother, there were many times when the children dragged me back to the present and helped me understand that going at a million miles an hour wasn’t always the answer.
Young children have a habit of revelling in the smallest of moments, “look mum it’s a ladybug”. They are notoriously slow and are completely unable to operate to a deadline.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight I’m glad of those years at home when we could ditch the day’s responsibilities and just hang out at the park. I’m much more appreciative of the times when I relaxed and joined in the water fight. The benefits of slow living linger and help me focus when life is getting too rushed. I know it’s OK to stop for a time and regain your bearings rather than rush on into burnout.
Having Children Grounded Me
Being a mum means keeping it real. It grounds you in the essentials of existence. While I may be irritated, or frustrated or angry at something from the outside world, I know at the end of the day what really matters is the basics, having people in your life who love you, have your back, believe in you. Knowing everyone is healthy and happy and safe makes the daily issues a little less tedious.
It’s hard to stay fixated on a work issue when you end the day greeted by an excited child who wants to tell you about this “amaaaazing thing”.
In this world of family my husband and I created a safe space where everyone was respected. I modelled (not always perfectly) good behaviour, humour, kindness and care.
Now, that safe space provides love and support in a way I probably didn’t imagine it would when I was dealing with time-outs, sibling arguments and food throwing at the dinner table.
Having Children Is My Legacy
Let’s face it I’m unlikely to discover a cure for cancer, I’m not going to found a multi-million-dollar empire and I can’t see myself ever providing the world with the level of philanthropy needed to house all the homeless or feed all the hungry.
Instead I live an ordinary life, pay my taxes, try to do a good job at work and prioritise raising decent adults, who can contribute in the world after I’m gone. They too will probably lead ordinary lives, but the world kinda needs the ordinary people to keep the cogs of the economy turning, the humanity of helping each other intact and ensure society keeps on functioning.
I’m comfortable at this point in my life with knowing that if I did nothing else at least I’m leaving behind two decent people who will be good partners, friends and maybe one day, mothers to their children.
So there it is, my reasons for why I’m happy I had children. Why are you glad you became a mother (or father)?