Karen Edmisten recently wrote a beautiful post outlining 40 reasons to have kids. She wrote the blog in response to Corinne Maier, a French writer and mom of two children who readily admits (to the world) in a published book that she regrets having children. I read an article about her here and at first I was angry. Really angry. This is a woman who tries to come off as being insightful, witty and truthful while likening children to vicious dwarves who are born only to disappoint their parents. I can’t help but think she would have been better off being born a rat where she’d be excused for eating her own offspring.
Aside from bemoaning her own regrets with having brought forth new life into the world, she globally denounces motherhood as ever being a fulfilling path for women and joins the ranks of radical feminists who claim that having children takes away more than it gives. I rolled my eyes when I read her feminist hoopla. If you ask me, Ms. Maier’s children are not the problem. Her lamenting about all the demands being a mother of two brings is just another cover for what Ms. Maier’s real problem is – untempered selfishness. I gritted my teeth as she undermined motherhood. But when I thought of her children, who she faults for being more interested in Harry Potter than her book (Who can blame the kids for preferring to read about teenage wizards rather than cracking open a book that’s basically saying they represent nothing more than pangs of regret to their own mother?), my anger softened and was replaced by a deep sadness.
Lately, I’ve been having a tough time down in the trenches of motherhood. Sleep remains elusive. Madeline, my soon-to-be-3-year-old, has been extremely needy because of constipation problems and is rooted to me like a little barnacle even more so than my nursing Baby Rae. Last night Madeline threw a tantrum of epic proportions simply because I would not fill the bathtub up with anymore water. My shins were kicked…twice. Once the kiddies were finally asleep my husband and I tried to steal a few minutes together only to hear Rachel Marie wailing. I finally crawled into bed at midnight and savored about 40 minutes of sleep before Rachel Marie needed to nurse again. After nursing, I found myself misplaced by a spread-eagle Madeline who was monopolizing my entire side of the bed. I gently eased her closer to Dave, who was snoring…loudly. I drifted off for a few minutes until Madeline started crying telling me her tummy hurt. Turns out, the poor child has more than constipation problems. The pediatrician suspects she has some sort of virus.
After we returned from a two-for-one pediatrician appointment (we had a well-child visit for Rae already scheduled and they kindly squeezed Maddy in after I called and asked…errrr…begged…if she could be seen as well), both kids needed my undivided attention all daylong – Rae was hungry for milk and cuddling; Madeline was hungry for mommy TLC. I was tired and wondered if I had anything left to give… Then Madeline wrapped her arms and legs around me, offering her signature bear hug, as I held her. Rachel Marie cooed at me at the same time Madeline was embracing me and when I looked at her, her face lit up with the most beautiful smile. Then we all cuddled together on the couch. Rachel Marie fell asleep in my arms while Madeline nuzzled into me. I breathed in the sweet smell of their skin, my babies, and I thought, “It’s all worth it.”
Motherhood has evoked a lot of emotions and feelings in me – from wonder to humility (God has entrusted little, old me with these two beautiful souls???).
Admittedly, I’ve experienced some less than rosy feelings, too. There have been times when I’ve been consumed by an intense fear – the fear of failure. What if I’m not the mom they need and my children end up not embracing God or their Catholicism, or what if they suffer from an eating disorder or a drug addiction? Or the fear of losing my child (the world is a scarier place once you become a parent). Some days I feel frustrated. Other days I feel doubtful of my calling to be a mom. Why does God trust me so much? Can I really answer his call and raise my children to know and to love Christ? Some days I’m just plain confused. Why in the world did Madeline throw a fit this morning because I cut her waffles up like I always do? Is Rachel Marie hungry or does she just want to fall asleep on the boob? Where did I put my sunglasses, that burp cloth I just had and Madeline’s favorite dog figurine, Gabby-Gaba?
But feelings of regret? Never.
I have never regretted having children, not for a moment, and I never will. Although I have certainly doubted my ability to be a good mom and to continue to be open to life. After all, raising and nurturing little ones (and older kids, too – I’m just not there yet…) takes a whole lot of work, money (but not nearly as much as you think – kids don’t need high-tech toys or fancy Pottery Barn bedrooms, especially if they have Mom and Dad’s love and attention), time and for me, precious hours of sleep away from you. Ms. Maier, no doubt, sees children as nothing more than takers.
My children not only give me glimpses of pure joy virtually every day – their smiles, their laughter, the way Rae tenderly holds my shirt while I nurse her, the way Madeline folds her body against mine in the middle of the night when she’s frightened or the way she says, “I love you, Mommy, so much,” when I least expect it – but they are also offering me the possible gift of eternity. Motherhood is sanctifying. It is the essence of sacrificial love. The holy office of motherhood acts as conduit for graces to flow throughout the entire family unit. It is a means of bringing me closer to sainthood – not that I’ll ever quite get there. Above all, being open to new life and embracing each child God gives us as well as the challenges that comes with him or her brings us closer to Christ and to Heaven. And how could I ever regret that?