an excerpt of a new book on Slate that a friend had shared where the author writes quite a bit about why having one child is the best decision for anyone who wants to be happy. She goes into studies about how much more work each additional child brings for the mother and comes to the conclusion that parents are losing themselves and that our democracy is suffering as a result because apparently we can't be trusted to see the world clearly while we're inside "a domestic cocoon." Here are a couple paragraphs that stood out:
"...But the issue today isn’t as simple as washing sippy cups and dirty socks, or even the sheer number of hours we spend away from our friends and our thoughts. As the demands of the workplace have expanded to swallow up our lives, clashing with our consuming love affair with our children, parenting has simultaneously morphed into something grotesquely extended beyond traditional ideas of care. It’s hard to imagine how anyone can find time to make a living. Or read a newspaper. Or have a conversation with one’s partner about anything but what errands need to be done, who is covering pickup or making dinner...
...We may not have the time or energy to organize and participate in movements for social change, or even read the newspaper, but we can bake organic cupcakes and supervise algebra homework and spend our lives driving from soccer to ballet and watch Nick Jr. in our media rooms. All that overparenting seems selfless for a reason: Parents are literally losing themselves. Our communities and democracy are losing them too. Imagine if all that devotion wasn’t just directed inward to the family, but outward into the world? It’s hard to, isn’t it? The world can sound and look remarkably hazy from inside a domestic cocoon..."
I guess this means I'm going to be running out of hours in the day soon, and I imagine many of you who are reading this are having to add hours into the 24 hour cycle to make up for all those additional 120 hour blocks that have been thrown into your year with each additional child.
You see, I haven't found these studies, or the author's conclusions to hold true in my day to day life. And to be honest, I spend far more than 13 hours a week on "child care." My kids are with me all the time and if I had to estimate my time spent on child care I guess I'd have to say that 7 days a week 13 hours a day would cover most of the time from when everyone gets up to when most of the little people in our house tend to be asleep. Amazingly I somehow also manage to get other things done, like making meals and running a small business. Still, I guess I'm 7 times over this "grotesque" average that is said to swallow a mother's self.
I'm not sure exactly what I expected, but I'm certain it wasn't what I got. The life that blossomed in the months and years that have followed those first prayers, while not easy, have been far greater and more rewarding than anything I could have designed or imagined for myself. And I am far happier than I was when I was the center of my own little rapidly spinning world. I haven't lost myself as a wife and mother. I've found myself here, in my vocation, in who I'm called to serve and love.
This idea is contrary to what the world tells us. It tells us that happiness is in pleasure and in seeking what we think we want. In being who we are. To be honest, the facade I showed the world and the goals and desires that I held to be incredibly important, feel shallow and empty in retrospect. They wouldn't have filled the void in my soul that was always seeking, searching, waiting for the chance to say yes to grace, to ask forgiveness and be reconciled with my creator.
Like anyone else living in this imperfect world, I don't feel "happy" all the time (although I would say I'm much happier than I was before I set off down this path). I have my off days where the basement floods and I feel like everything is going wrong. But the greater gift of joy, even in the midst of suffering, remains. And that joy is not something I could have found if I'd kept clinging to my own ideas of what I believed would make me happy and the plans that I was building in my mind.
The path I've been called down may seem little and unimportant to the world, but I have found it is the path to who I truly am and I am thankful that so far I've been able to accept the grace to follow where it leads.