Violet kindly wrote me a post and it’s much appreciated because I do love having some food for thought to chew on. It’s “..about the sacrifice of parenthood,” and is actually a somewhat grievous post in that it presents having children as an act of great selfishness.
It’s somewhat sad to me to read because I do know some selfish parents, I do know children who suffer from their parent’s poor decisions, and I do know how rocky those relationships can be. I’ve written about my own parents, my mother really is a narcissist, she cannot even perceive the world beyond her own self. My father, although not entirely his fault, did speak to me about contributing to their divorce, the ensuing custody battle, and making many selfish decisions that he actually came to regret later in life when he realized the damage he had helped to create. His confession was actually a very sweet and sacrificial thing to do for a daughter and lead to a great deal of healing and reconciliation. So even my own parents, the very epitome of selfishness, still had their moments of great sacrificial love.
One’s personal experiences however, do not determine All Things, nor is it a particularly good way to make a blanket statement such as “having children is one of the most selfish acts humans indulge in.”
Violet is also a mom with young children, so all in good humor here, but good grief girl, you have got to give yourself some credit! The first thing we sacrifice is our bodies, which will obviously never be the same. There are stretch marks and weight gain and swollen ankles and endless nausea. Then the pain of childbirth, yikes, now that is something so uncomfortable as to be nearly unspeakable. Then, while thoroughly battered and bruised, one has to try to recover, in the midst of nursing and being woken up every hour. You have just sacrificed your body, our health, your peace of mind, your sleep, but you have also made yourself incredibly vulnerable. Physically vulnerable because you now have a dependent to look out for, but emotionally vulnerable too, because the thought of anything bad happening to them is enough to crush you. So, battered, bruised, vulnerable, sleep deprived, and now able to have your heart ripped out of your body, all very sacrificial things.
That’s just birth, we haven’t even got to the terrible twos or the ferocious fours, or having your favorite shampoo flushed down the toilet or the indignity of tantrums in the grocery store or the relentless patience and humility one is called to have. I kid you not, if we truly lived in a malevolent world ruled by human selfishness, we’d simply eat our offspring while their bones were still soft.
Harsh perhaps, but they aren’t cost-effective, they cannot work, they take all your resources, and they force you to change your lifestyle. If anyone tries to have children for so-called selfish reasons, they are dumber than a box of rocks because there will be little to no payoff there. I forget precisely how much it costs to raise a child, but it’s hundreds of thousands of dollars in the US, by the time you are finished.
All in good humor here, but we haven’t even got to the teen age years, the years when those precious babies decided to rebel against your huge investment, all your words of wisdom, your endless patience, and throw it all back in your face. Good times, sure to bring grey hairs, wrinkles, and heart attacks. Unfortunately for you, your heart still believes those shrieking banshees are precious little babies in need of protection. Those teens however, will tend to perceive you more like some kind of moronic cash cow, that was stupid enough to have children. If you say “no” to them they will hate you, but if you say “yes” to them too much, they are likely to get themselves killed.
These are just the “normal” parenting experiences, don’t even get me started about those who have special needs children or devastating health challenges. That adds a whole new element of sacrifice, hope, and raw pain.
I’m now smiling rather wryly reading Violet’s words, “This rose-tinted view of reproduction seems to be mindlessly accepted in many societies,” Have I presented a picture of parenthood far too sentimental? Are those coke bottle rose-colored glasses or designer ones? I’m just vain enough to want the designer ones.
I haven’t even mentioned moms and dads yet, the challenges to be found in trying to raise children in a partnership. Mom’s often risk being abandoned, left behind to fend for themselves, or abused if they’ve chosen the wrong mate. Men often risk having their own hearts ripped out if they are cast aside or estranged from their children. Sometimes those roles are reversed, men are abused, women are estranged from their kids. And some times people even separate, rise to the challenge, and still maintain a healthy relationship for the sake of those kids. That is yet another sacrificial act in the journey of parenting.
There’s a type of spider in the world that becomes so swollen with eggs, she cannot hunt anymore. She must stock up food for herself and burrow underground because as she begins to grow, she will lose her ability to move or defend herself. While she is slowly starving to death, she will often chew off her own leg to nourish those eggs. In the end she dies, leaving behind her own carcass to nourish and feed hundreds of babies. That’s motherhood, Violet, in all it’s rose-tinted sentimentality.
People, however are not spiders. We have children for a variety of reasons and some of us even manage to survive the experience. Like many things in life, our perceptions about ourselves and what we are doing have a way of becoming our reality. Violet says of parenting, “Moreover, they are playing Russian roulette with the existence of another sentient being…” Yes, yes we are, and one of the best things you can do for that little sentient being is to love them sacrificially and to know our own worth and value.
To insist on believing in a malevolent and selfish world serves no healthy purpose, does not honor you for who you are, and does not serve children well. I know this because I grew up in that selfish, malevolent, world that congratulated itself for its superior intellect, its brave and prideful ability to perceive the world as it really is, and its powerful aversion to rose-colored glasses.
My parent’s were wrong about the nature of reality, Violet, something I forgive them for. God taught me the truth. It is God that actually defines reality for us, but we have a choice about how we perceive the world around us, what we pull towards us, what we embrace. Be sacrificial, submit to the possibility that there may be more going on then you can see. Our perceptions have a way of creating our reality and the reality our children will live in….or spend a lifetime struggling to escape. Make that reality a good one for their sakes and for crying out loud, honor the sacrifices you are making.