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To prepare for parenting, I got weird with all my parent friends. I harassed the closest ones with questions like "Really, why do I want to sabotage my very good life with children?" They put up with this and me and we're still friends (they're cool people.) Honestly though, I never got a satisfactory answer. The irony of exhausted-looking parents juggling constant mini-disasters and screaming tantrums while telling me "It's the hardest thing I've done... but it's just so worth it" and "I wouldn't trade it for the world" was not lost on me
I was convinced that these people I loved just wanted me to share their misery because secretly they were jealous of my happy, comparatively carefree life.
Now that I've jumped on that bandwagon, for better or for worse, I realize that somehow what they were saying is the exact truth. And there are some things worth sharing that go beyond "I know I'm constantly exhausted and a hot mess but it's so great, really." (I mean, I am exhausted and a hot mess. Whatevs, man.)
With all the negative press parenting receives lately, it can be hard to feel positive about such a huge undertaking. So we'll share some thoughts from parents on what makes it worthwhile and amazing. If you're hesitant about diving in or you've been horror-story convinced parenting's not for you, read on.
What this isn't
This isn't pressure, dear reader. God knows there is WAY too much pressure on the whole wide world to reproduce, which is ridiculous because parenting is not for everyone. Parenting is barely for most parents. If you're not of the parenting genre, carry on, good soldier- with the blessing of everyone, and the pressure of none. Be free.
What this is:
A manifesto for those who have always wanted to have babes, but thanks to the internet and honest mom-friends are entirely terrified because it looks and sounds 100% terrible. (These good people, they are not lying. A luxury travel writing gig this is not.)
So if you're interested and need some convincing, read on.
Or if your kid just stuck his hand in your pee stream and you need to remember exactly why you decided to do this- also for you.
Adding depth to life
Does shaving your legs basically feel like a spa day? Is reading a chapter of a book without interruption like to a cruise to Jamaica? Does finishing a cup of coffee while it's still hot make it the best day EVER? This may sound ridiculous to the unititiated, but to parents, the answer is a resounding heck YES. The intense joy that the small things bring come as a result of the intense difficulty and pain this job carries. The highs really are incredibly high, and the lows often agonizingly low. While a more stable range of emotion might sound preferable, there is definitely amazing depth and beauty in living where the kids are- in the intense height of emotional capacity.
Kids are really, painfully good at taking it slow. Consider the extra half an hour you have to plan just getting them into the car with all their stuff packed...for a trip to the post office. Parenting efficiency is solidly half (or less) of non-parent efficiency. This may sound terrible, but slowing down is a gift. Speed and productivity are so revered in our culture that we miss our own lives, trading in moments and faces and magic and joy for speed and stress and burning all the candles at every end. Slowing down can feel terribly inconvenient, but it's truly a gift that children give to us.
Having kids can make you laser-focused. This is because you actually have NO TIME for yourself. Like, none. So all the superfluous things get chopped, and what you actually want out of life takes center stage. You're forced to figure it out- which is really, really good. Here in parent-land, pursuing the things you love makes you more disciplined, efficient, and focused. As a result, you may find that you can get tons more done than you did pre-babies (especially when you have time without the kiddos). Wins all around.
LOVING little people
Even if every child you've met annoys you, you may find that your own small people suit you beautifully. This is a weird but completely real phenomenon.
I have felt love and beauty through these two little ones in a way that has been life changing and phenomenal -Hannah
Deep personal growth
Whatever your background, education, and confidence, parenting will school you. Sadly, there is no "raise them this way and they'll make you look good in public for the rest of your days." As a result, good parents are constantly learning, adapting, deepening their inner strength, patience, resolve, and skills set. It doesn't feel like that, of course- it feels like constant failure. But wow, it'll grow ya.
To that point, selfishness takes a pretty solid hit. And by pretty solid hit I mean complete devastation of everything resembling self-consideration. There's just no time for that business, especially not with very small people. Attempts at self-consideration will be sabotaged. Coping skills will be used. In the way that flesh is torn when flogging happens, parents grow when children happen.
There is no better way to find true humility and selflessness...the little necks and giggles will demand it of you. - Steve
Creating beauty in a world that needs beauty
Kids bring inherent beauty to the world (even when it goes unrecognized) just because of their innocence, wonder, and zest for life. And all people (every one of whom experienced a childhood) have the potential to bring beauty and joy into the world. If you are of the mindset that we are here to add beauty to our incredible earth, raising littles who have a heart and focus to do just that is exponentially effective.
The wonder of it
Kids see beauty and marvel at normal things, which makes life so much richer. They LOVE and live like every moment is THE most important moment. That is a gift. It really is. A gift that we grownups too often forget to savor.
“One of my favorite things about parenting is seeing characteristics of my family - my husband, our parents, siblings, me! - come to life in the new little people. When I say Madi is my mini me, or Brooklyn looks just like her dad when she's working...it's amazing. Which leads to another great thing about parenting: seeing their individual personalities emerge! So much of who they are is nature and so much is nurture. It's endlessly fascinating and humbling, to be a co-creator with the Lord, shepherding these young hearts.” –Jaime
Kids keep you young
Kids allow you to let your hair down and have fun. How often would you build with legos, blow bubbles, jump rope, fly kites, or tell stories without them? Probably never.
Because it’s some of the hardest work on earth, parenting can be incredibly fulfilling.
When they make their own jokes, or actually laugh at something you've said, or write you a love note, or pick you a flower...there is just nothing like it. -Jaime
Having teachers tell you how your kids behave and treat others at school! Feels like a parent win.... well most days- Valerie
My favorite thing is seeing them do something they couldn't do before. -Genevieve
They’re completely adorable
For the same reason you love puppy videos and adorable kittens. Kids are just so squeezable! If you have none, you may be entirely uninterested, because for real, kids are generally covered in some goo or another. But when it comes to your own- whom you can bathe at will- different story.
Little necks and little giggles. Addicted. Hopelessly. - Hannah
…Good morning hugs from sleepy-eyed, footie-pajama wearing, bed-headed wonders, and hearing a little voice tell me, "God made me and put me in our family." Ahhh!! I'm going to hug those little turds that woke up at 5am and interrupted my workout time!!! -Kristi
They make you better
Kids are not afraid of truth. Nor are they afraid to be exactly who they really are, or call you out when you’re not who you should be. Kids will mirror and model and become whatever you’re displaying. Which can be as annoying as that workout video with the instructor shouting at you the entire time. All you want is for him to shut up and leave you alone, but if you listen and follow the cues, by the end of it you’ll be so much healthier and stronger. Kids will be that same difficult, irritating reminder to actually be and do better. If you do the work, you'll definitely be better and stronger for it.
They make me better...They reveal God's heart to me for others and remind me what a human is supposed to be..[They] enter into to other's lives on a daily basis and asks the tough questions…. –Melanie
Kids add ridiculous amounts of humor to life. Some things are only funny after the fact, but kids often have an innate sense of comedy, and love to make people laugh. Even when they’re not trying to be funny, the mixture of poor timing, the inability to stay quiet, and lack of social awareness can cause them to be hilarious without even trying. And bonus- you'll learn to loosen up, never knowing if what's coming next will be funny or awkward.
If you don't have kids, you'll just never know how many ways a normal statement can be turned into a poop joke. -Kristi
Parenting is really raw. You feel so deeply, and often the vulnerability and love you feel for your children extends out into the world.
The type of love a parent has for a child is truly something that must be experienced to understand. Some people- even the non-parent type- find it to be the most incredible gift in the world, this love.
No one and nothing anyone could have told me would have prepared me for the level of love that I get from being a parent. I wouldn't and did not understand until I first heard the heartbeat and then, the moment when my first child was born. There's ups downs, joys stresses etc. But in my case I have found a love that I never expected. I always craved romantic love and I'm greatful for it, but I never understood parental love until it happened. It's a pretty rad kind of love. Everyone's situations are different but I've found this to be the case in my experience. -Aaron
*If you’re a parent and don’t feel that, or didn’t feel it at the “milestone moments”- NO FEAR. Parenting is about seasons. Everyone walks through tough seasons (or days, or years) when loving your spawn is hard work.
Experiencing God’s love
Being a Mom is the closest thing I'll ever get to experiencing 1/1000 of the love that Jesus has for me. My view of Christ's love for me has completely changed since I've have had children. Grace and forgiveness is a totally different form for me now. -Jen
It’s Not for Everyone
Far and away, the one theme that continued to come up with all parents interviewed is this: It’s ok if kids are not for you. They’re not for everyone.
Parenting is some of the hardest work life has to offer. Really. So if you’ve found your sweet spot without littles, there is nothing selfish or wrong or unacceptable about staying right there. Not only that, but choosing to start a family or not is an extremely personal decision and one that some people don’t make for themselves.
Truth. Kids or no kids- live your own best life, be free to love the people around you, and stay in whatever lane fits you best.