Our society has a problem: we somewhat detest the 'live and let live' philosophy. Rather, we are followers of the 'live and let's tell others how to live' movement.
And true to this ideology, if you happen to be a single person on the slightly northern side of the age scale that begins at twenty-one, it is highly unlikely that you haven't been asked even once: "So, when are you getting married?" And even if you somehow manage to run away from that question and eventually with someone you want as your better half, they come up with the next question: "So, you've been married for 'n' years - no kids yet?".
Sadly, there's nothing much we can do about it apart from silently mouth, "Mind your own business!" or deliver that witty and sarcastic one-liner we've been carrying around.
As the father of a cuddly, yet at-times overly active three-year old, I have my hands full pretty much all through the day. And trust me - it's the mother of all jobs. So hats off to every single mother on the planet for making it seem so effortless. I guarantee you, it isn't as easy as it seems.
Ever since we've had our little one, there have been times that we've questioned the sanity of our decision to have kids. Yes, it is incredibly delightful - sometimes it's like living with walking, talking, laughing, utterly cute and cuddly teddy. But at times it is also a rather dreadful experience when neither you nor the kids know why the other is throwing a tantrum or bursting into tears over something as silly as a broken glass vessel. Yes, it's a mixed bag of emotions, feelings and experiences, to say the very least.
During my pre-fatherhood days, I've often mused about this whole parenting thing.
What is it that a kid brings to that already healthy equation of two loving partners who mean the world to each other?
Is a kid necessary for you and your spouse/partner to complete the picture of a 'perfect' family?
Or is it because you are really worried about your lineage and that without kids it may stop with you?
Or is it because you love your parents so much that it has been your lifelong dream to give them grand kids?
There were plenty of such questions running through my head when we were trying to decide if we wanted kids. And to be brutally honest, even as we waited for the home pregnancy test unit to show either the plus that would make us jump up for joy or the minus that would just make the optimists in us try again, I still did not know the answer to many of these questions.
Over the past couple of years, since I've started journalling my fatherhood journey, I've had a few friends and readers ask me this question - if fatherhood/parenting is as awesome as you make it out to be, then why aren't more people taking it to it? I could be plain blunt and answer that question with the charismatic smirk of a know-it-all diplomat and say, "to each their own'. And while that as a phrase is as good an argument as any, on a more personal level, I can only tell you what I've learnt.
For what it's worth, I'd like to share it here:
- Do not let anyone rush you into this parenting thing. Because once you're a parent, life as you know it will change. You will still have late nights - except that the drinking and dancing will now be replaced by a feeling of helplessness while trying to figure out what the confused little soul wants. (Oh, did I mention, the confused 'crying' little soul?)
- Parenting is complicated. It always will be. People will try to 'uncomplicate' it for you, but remember this - only YOU can do that. Because every kid (yes, even each of your own) is different.
- There are no shortcuts or right ways to parenting. And no, there are no coursebooks. It is mostly a learn-on-the-go kind of practical lesson and you must be open to trying out what best works for you, your partner and your kid(s).
- Having kids is like trying to eat your favourite ice cream while trying to navigate a heated obstacle course filled with LEGO bricks and other every day objects.
- If you're lucky, until they grow up and are ready to clean after themselves, every day will involve dirty diapers, poop-y behinds, sniffling noses, watery eyes, various bumps all over the body, chipped tooth, messy clothes, wiping drawings of Picasso off various surfaces such as walls, tables, sofas and sometimes even your favourite white shirt, projectile food and picking out stuff from your hair or pockets and being held to ransom over going to bed and wanting to play.
- If you're extremely lucky, you may get to see all of these in a single day. Sort of like the weather in magnificent England.
However, as with everything in life, parenting has this balance which you must experience to see the blissfulness.
Like in my case, I was a happy person before I met my wife. But having her in my life gives it a whole new meaning - a new dimension of happiness that I cannot begin to describe. And with my little one added to the mix, I'm now happier than ever. For it is a strangely humbling experience to realise that you will do everything in your power to make your kid's life as perfect as you possibly can. And despite the constantly messy, confusing and exhausting life that I have now, I am richer and feel more loved than ever before.
Plus you have the perfect excuse to eat ice cream almost all the time and play with toys and video games.
Jokes aside, there is no right or wrong answer to why you would or wouldn't want kids - there are just careful, deliberate choices. So if you do end up having kids, make sure you give them the best you can. And if you don't want kids, well, you can always be the fun uncle or aunt - all the fun but not much of the pain.