I think that she makes some good points and that it is definitely worth reading.
Maybe you weren’t sure that you really wanted a child. Or maybe you were sure that you really didn’t want a child. But everyone was insistent—your parents, in-laws, family, friends, co-workers, the Jewish community as a whole, which considers it the solemn responsibility of every married Jewish couple to help rebuild the Jewish population after its decimation in the Holocaust. So here you are, responsible for providing a child (or more than one) with the love and care to which every child has a right. How do you feel, considering that you weren’t sure you wanted a kid in the first place?
I admit it: I’m selfish.
We had a delightful marriage. We did whatever we wanted whenever we wanted, within the limitations of our budget, work schedules, etc. Why would I want to have a baby and turn my life upside down?
First, I lost my place at the center of my husband’s world to this charmer who couldn’t even let me get a decent night’s sleep.
To make matters worse, our parents lived out of town, and our siblings weren’t available either, so we had absolutely no family support system whatsoever.
The result was that, while some of our friends could leave their kids with their parents or siblings and take some much-needed time away, we had to sharply curtail our “outside” activities for well over a decade because of the cost of babysitters.
And, to boot, it turned out that our kid had social, emotional, and learning challenges.
So while one of my girlfriends could brag about how her darling toddler sat quietly in a Chinese restaurant contentedly gumming bits of steak, our own child not only wouldn’t eat, but wouldn’t sit down or stay still, either. For several years, we could only take our kid to fast-food restaurants. Seriously, where can you go with a child who’s still throwing lying-on-the-floor-kicking-and-screaming temper tantrums well into elementary school?
Until our child was old enough to stay home alone, I honestly felt like a prisoner of my own kid.
And while one of my girlfriends used to go on and on about how well her little genius was doing in school, ours spent years in special-ed.
The teenage years were terrible, of course. Teenagers are generally a royal pain in the butt, and ours was no different. But, for me, that lack of difference was not entirely a bad thing. Already in early elementary school, our kid was a defiant know-it-all who honestly believed that I had little to teach her/him because he/she knew everything. It wasn’t until our child became an adolescent that I was finally able to say, in all honesty, that our kid’s behavior was typical of a child of that age.
I once told my therapist—back when we could afford one—that, while my kid and I certainly had our moments, for me, motherhood was an enormous amount of work for very little reward. There are some things that you can’t say even to your best friends—and that was certainly one of those things. Before the days of the Internet, the only way you could actually say some things without fear of repercussions was either to write them in a diary and pray that the person about whom you were writing would never find it, or literally to pay someone who was professionally obligated to keep your words confidential.
My particular sympathies go to ambivalent parents who ended up having a kid with disabilities. Parenthood is already a challenge, even for enthusiastic parents, some of whom have been known to have an additional child, or more than one, even after having a kid with special needs. But adding the difficulties of caring for a child with disabilities to the question of whether you wanted a kid to begin with is a recipe for extra frustration. Top that with the insistence of some that you go ahead and have another child anyway, and you get—in my case, anyway—one angry mom.
Everybody says it: “Enjoy it while it lasts. Kids grow up so fast.”
For me personally, the opposite was true. As far as I was concerned, my kid wasn’t growing up nearly quickly enough. I couldn’t wait for my child to move out, so that I could finally have my life back.
Not even among other mothers of kids with disabilities did I ever hear anyone admit to anything that radical.
Our kid is now an independent adult. I’m happy to say that we managed to have some good times together as she/he got older. I’m also relieved to inform you that, somehow, he/she has managed to flourish despite my dubious parenting. We’re very proud of our kid’s accomplishments.
Even so, I can’t help but feel that I lost over a decade of my life.
Back when I was in the throes of heavy-duty parenting, I would have given my right arm to have had a place to vent anonymously and get feedback from others going through similar situations. Having passed that stage of parenthood already, I’m not a good person for the job, but if some other soul who’s currently in a situation similar to the one I described would like to start a blog for parents in this position, I think it would be a real public service.