Okay, I admit it. Over the past few months I have become a Facebook addict. I never thought it would happen because frankly, when I first heard about Facebook, I didn't understand it and didn't get the appeal. I didn't even get the appeal when I first signed up. But over time, as more and more of my old friends, neighbors, coworkers, band mates and long-lost family members began connecting and interacting with me, I finally got the appeal and now my daily visits to Facebook are not only an addiction, they are a virtual episode of This is Your Life. Very, very fun.
It's interesting being a childfree person on Facebook in a sea of cyberparents. Every day I am greeted with their updates, many of which concern their children, and here's the interesting thing - when people comment about their children, inevitably their comments are negative. For example:
"Mom's Taxi..still up and running at 1:45 am! ugh!! .... No matter how old they get, Mom is still the 1st one they call! (but I wouldnt mind being the 2nd or third once in a while EITHER!) lol"
"...is selling her encyclopedias...I have a 20 year old that thinks he knows EVERYTHING!!!"
"...poor baby G was screaming and teething all day long."
"...Is wishing everyone would stop needing me! (just for a little while).... needs an escape!!!"
Here's an observation I have often made about parenthood - and it is precisely this observation that was critical to informing my decision not to have children:
If parenthood is so wonderful, if the benefits of having children far outweigh the costs, if all the hardship is so worth it as parents like to claim, why is 80-90% of what we observe coming out of parents concerning parenthood negative?
I observe the people in my life who are parents. I watch them interact with their kids. I listen to them talk about their kids. I read their Facebook updates. I observe the effects of parenthood on them - their physical, spiritual, psychological and emotional health and what do I see? I see exhaustion. I see aggravation. I see stress. I see upset. I see financial strain. I see marital strain. What I do not see is joy, happiness and fulfilment.
A parent's typical answer to this is "yes, it is really hard, but it's so worth it. The good makes up for the bad."
Okay, so for a moment, let's take parents at their word. Let's assume the good of being a parent outweighs the bad. Here's my question. If the good makes up for the bad, and even outweighs the bad - if the cost of being a parent is lower than the rewards, shouldn't we observers see more happiness and joy from said parents than unhappiness and strain? How about a 50/50 split? Even that would be somewhat convincing that the good makes up for the bad. But that's not what I see. When I look around and observe the people in my life who are parents, what I see is primarily strain and unhappiness. I observe closely to witness this overriding joy and happiness they claim makes up for all the strain and unhappiness, but the joy and happiness I see is at most brief and fleeting - the occasional smile, laugh or look of love at a child, followed by a corresponding 12 hours of stressing and straining under the burden of them.
I do realize that the love a person feels for their child is larger than almost anything in life and there's nothing like the feeling of intense love. But at what cost do people pursue this version of love? I have an intensity of love for my husband which is greater than any love I have ever had for any person or any thing and guess what? It doesn't cost me anything. I don't have to struggle, stress and strain to enjoy our love. It flows freely and evenly and there is no cost associated with it. Parents might argue that the love one feels for a child is greater than the love one feels for a spouse. My response is that I don't want to love anyone more than my spouse. Hubby comes first in my life and always will and I like it that way. I love making him my first priority and the object of all the good, the giving, the joy and love I have to offer. I also enjoy coming first in his life too. It's a good deal all-around - a real win-win situation.
When I tell people that I am happily married, they can observe my hubby and me together and their observations will validate my claim. Try applying the same test to parenthood and what do you get?