Family life

The moments that make it all worthwhile

While it's hard to describe to people without kids, Tracy tries to sum up the simple joy of parenting.

By Tracy Chappell
The moments that make it all worthwhile

Anna's note to her dad. "I sounded it out all by myself!" she exclaimed.

Before I had kids, I couldn’t quite understand why anyone wouldn’t want to have kids. I mean, what would they do with all the years ahead? What would Christmas morning look like? How could they envision old age without children to help them out and grandkids to spoil and cuddle?
But since having kids, I better understand why some people choose not to. I don’t mean that the way it sounds. I don’t mean that I wish I never had kids. I wouldn’t trade my life for the world (even on bad weeks), but I definitely get why some couples choose to go through life childfree.
In some ways, it would be easier and more fun, right? Once you have kids, you have to sacrifice a lot of yourself — and your wants and needs for the wants and needs of your children and your family. If you choose not to have kids, you get to be selfish. You get to do what you want all the time (it seems like such a foreign concept now!). Hopefully these people have fulfilling relationships and money and time to explore the world or indulge their favourite interests and activities.
Answering the question “Why don’t you want to have kids?” is actually easier than trying to explain why you do. Because when you do, you just do. And couples who are childfree by choice may look at your life and say, “Wow, it just looks like a lot of work.” And they’re right. It is a lot of work.
Telling them about the moments that make it all worthwhile wouldn’t convince them, because they just sound like little shiny tokens in return for your multi-million dollar investment. And we don’t have to convince them. We just have to know in our hearts that we’re experiencing something pretty incredible, even in the day-to-day struggles and monotony that are inevitably part of it.
Bedtime cuddles. A small hand in yours. Uncontrollable giggles. An unexpected love note (like the one I posted here, from Anna to Sean). Boo-boos that heal only with your kiss. An impromptu “I love you.” Seeing the pride of accomplishment. A wave from the stage. Overhearing your daughter say she has the best mom in the world.
I know there will be bigger moments ahead (and harder ones, too). But these small moments nourish us as parents, heart and soul, and somehow they are enough. Sometimes more than enough. They remind us that — in the everyday ordinariness of it all — we are doing something very important in the guiding and loving (oh, the loving!) of these little human beings.
Our giving never ends, but we come to realize that we never want it to. Because when they no longer need us — to read the book, or go trick-or-treating  — we feel a little empty along with that pride in their fledgling independence. And we realize it was not really a sacrifice at all, but such a privilege.

This article was originally published on Apr 13, 2012

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