Parenting Children vs. Parenting Adults (A.K.A., the Grind vs. the Rewards)
There are a few things in life I don’t enjoy doing, but do anyways. Running. Waking up early for work. Working. Wearing pants with a defined waistband. Eating salads. Cleaning litterboxes. Cleaning the human litterbox known as the toilet. Writing. There are things I’d rather be doing instead. Eating a pan of brownies with a fork for breakfast. Calling in sick and watching re-runs of The Richard Simmons Show on hulu. Hitting every TJ Maxx in a twenty-mile radius instead of the treadmill. But I suffer through the first group of things and (usually) deny myself the latter because I like the final product of who I am and what my life consists of. My jeans fit (sometimes). My bank account is healthy-ish. I feel, at the end of the day, like a semi-productive member of society. And the list of things I don’t like doing to get there doesn’t seem all that unreasonable.
But if I became a Mom, that list of things I don’t like doing would expand exponentially. Talking baby talk or listening to other people do it. Doing farm animal noises while reading night-night stories. Listening to the Fisher-Price popcorn vacuum run across my floor (Oh, the irony of it not actually cleaning anything!). Watching failed adult actors dressed as forest creatures singing songs about numbers. Attending anything even remotely resembling a sporting event without being allowed to read a book. Chatting with other parents about how their child was a totally believable cornucopia in the Thanksgiving play. Hearing a blood-curdling scream in the grocery store over a package of Twizzlers and then realizing it was my own child. Helping with math homework and being forced to admit that I don’t remember how to do long division.
This list could truly go on forever, and one of these days I promise I’ll devote an entire post to it. But if I’m honest with myself, the list of things I WOULD enjoy about being a Mom to young kids can probably be counted on one hand. When I read other bloggers’ lists of reasons that having a baby is awesome, there’s typically not one item I would be able to cull and claim as my own. They cite things like “baby kicks” or “teeny, tiny baby toes!” – things that make me shake my head and say, I could never hang out with this person. My paltry catalogue would consist of things like buying tiny leather bomber jackets at Baby Gap, having a reasonable excuse to watch The Lion King for the fortieth time, and never having to attend a clubby New Year’s Eve party again.
But here’s the kicker: these two lists almost entirely invert if I look at what life would be like once the kids turn 18. I would love strong-arming them into going to my alma mater and then embarrassing them by being the drunk mom at the tailgate. Visiting campus and becoming the beloved dorm parent by taking all their friends out to dinner, à la the Olive Garden commercials. Sticking my nose into their love life. Helping them pick a career path that ideally wouldn’t consist of acting in the aforementioned children’s shows. Sending them care packages of all the baked goods Drew and I can’t eat anymore because our metabolisms will have expired. Helping them pick an apartment after college and start a life. Spending an ungodly sum of money on their wedding and thinking that entitled me to choose their first dance song (Meatloaf, Paradise by the Dashboard Light). Having them home for the holidays and forcing them to stay up till all hours until I win at least one game of rummy. Giving them dog-eared versions of my favorite old novels. Eventually becoming a grandparent and purchasing the little ones’ love with contraband bowls of Fruity Pebbles.
In contrast, being a Childfree person in my fifties would probably look an awful lot like my life right now. Which I happen to like! But by then I’ll likely have eaten at every posh restaurant in town and crossed off a majority of my bucket list. I might even be sick of rattling around in the same old big house I purchased with all that extra cash. The bloom of the Childfree life might be off the rose, so to speak.
So here’s the question: Is spending a couple of decades grinding it doing parenting activities I won’t love worth it if it gives me the life I want in the post-55 years? Assuming I could suck it up and do a good job of parenting, does it make me a terrible person to admit that there’s not a whole lot I’m looking forward to in their pre-18 years?