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Do we need to start being more positive about parenthood?

girls shadowsI’m beginning to wonder if there might be a backlash against the warts and all approach our generation have taken when talking about parenthood

I know that I’ve been guilty of suggesting that my children are terribly effective forms of contraception (it was meant as a joke… they aren’t actually *that* bad) – is there a chance that actually I’ve put a whole bunch of people off becoming parents

If you look at it logically, one of the consequences of leaving having children later (our generation start a family at an average age of 30 compared to age 26 for our parents’ generation) is that you do have rather more to give up. At 30 I had something that looked a lot like a career, I was married, had bought a flat and life was pretty good. The prospect of turning that all on its head for a totally unquantified new baby is hard to think through

Let’s face it, it is much easier to identify the negatives – lack of sleep, the £200,000 cost of raising a child to age 21, the lack of flexibility, the impact on your career, your figure and your lifestyle choices

The positives are much harder to put a value to – yes there is nothing like a snuggly cuddle with a small baby in the middle of the night, the funny things that they say, the family traditions that you build, the fact that this small person thinks you are wonderful and you can see your love reflected back at you in their eyes. I guess part of the trouble is that the best bits will differ from family to family – I’m not sure I’d ever have believed myself if I’d travelled back in time and told a 30 year old me about just how wonderfully emotional it would be to see my future 5 year old daughter getting a medal for being the 2nd fastest girl in her class at sports day but you can bet that I’m not going to forget that moment in an awfully long time

Instead of focusing on the bad things and the limits that are put on your former lifestyle perhaps we need to start accentuating all of the wonderful things that do come with parenthood – yes I may never have wanted to know the names and how to recognise all of the Disney princesses but watching my daughters enthuse about them and make up stories about them is a special thing to watch. It doesn’t sound like much in the cold light of day but there is nothing quite like trying to teach your 5 year old knock-knock jokes and their TERRIBLE attempts which keep missing the point entirely

In terms of hard value yes it is hard to define why being a parent is A Good Thing, especially when you are stuck in the grim tunnel of lack of sleep and the early years when even getting dressed in the morning can feel like a mega challenge, but there is something special that comes from watching your children grow and flourish, from watching your parents become entirely different people as grandparents from the people who raised you (or it is just me that has found that my parents are much more indulgent as grandparents than they ever were as parents?), watching your partner grow into being a parent and knowing that this is a journey that will just go on and on – your job isn’t done when they are 5, 15 or 50, once a parent, always a parent and that I guess is the joy of it

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3 comments to Do we need to start being more positive about parenthood?

  • Since being back in England I’ve read about 3 different articles by women defending their right not to have kids. Which is fine, but I’m a bit tired of this backlash against women wanting to BE mothers. We are constantly being told about the baby boom, people copying celebrities etc by having babies. But I’ve read nothing that’s been pro-motherhood, warts and all, so I really enjoyed your post.

  • Perhaps it’s just easier to point out the difficult stuff. As you say, the good stuff is harder to pin down though extremely profound. Perhaps, culturally we are negatively competitive. I often hear mothers trying to one up each other on who had the more traumatic birth, who’s child sleeps less, who’s closer to losing their minds. The opposite is sickening too.

  • Maybe it’s just instinct, not logic. Evolution needed us to want to be parents, and so we do, deep down, at a level that’s hard to investigate.

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