Running on Empty: Yes, kids are worth it

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I saw a tweet that became mildly popular yesterday. Like most mildly popular tweets, it was divisive. Unlike most mildly popular divisive tweets, it was not political. It was parental. To be specific, it was about being a parent to heathen, ungrateful, time-energy-money-sucking kids.

No, that’s not my opinion. It was the opinion of the author. And at first, I was with him.

The tweet started out harmless enough, a dad expressing exhaustion and frustration with his two small children and the energy and sacrifices it takes to be a father. This is a key component of healthy fatherhood – the ability to be honest about the ups and downs of caring for children. Those who keep it in or cover it up risk becoming mysteriously bitter and resentful, inexplicably disconnected from bundles of joy that feel like beasts of burden – your burden.

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Fatherhood – parenthood – is tough, and it’s not for everyone.

Like I said, I was with him in the early goings as he opened up about his struggles, and I found myself nodding my head when he talked about the flip side (hugs and smiles). But then he lost me.

The tweet continued (It’s 280 characters now, remember? In the Twitterverse, that’s like a Tolstoy novel!) by passing judgment on having children in a tasteless and ironically childish way, calling it “not obviously a good choice in life.”

What rubbish.

Children are hard precisely because they are self-centered. No, I didn’t say selfish. A selfish person knowingly makes choices that are harmful to others for their own benefit. But a self-centered person is capable only of thinking of themselves and how events or circumstances affect them and them alone. When confronted with their narrow life view, they usually, eventually, respond with humility and kindness.

Mostly.

That’s the perspective of childhood. The entire world revolves around them, so naturally, they demand a lot. A lot of attention, a lot of money, and a lot of time.

It absolutely is exhausting. But it’s not intentional.

The irony here is that the author is also self-centered. No, not because he expressed difficulty or frustration, but because he concluded that because of his own struggles, children are not worth it. The sacrifices don’t matter. They want too much of me!

In other words, he’s viewing the world only from his own point of view. He’s being self-centered. Imagine being married to him.

For most parents, children bring unimagined depth to their lives. What would it be like without kids, they wonder. Would I just spend my days indulging in my every whim? How many times can I go to Starbucks and spend an hour or two reading or sipping espresso? How many movies can I see before I’ve seen them all? How many hours can I spend playing video games with friends at 2:00 a.m.?

How much self-indulgence can I take before it goes bland?

No, children are not necessary to enjoy life. That’s ridiculous. But they do bring a surprising amount of joy, flavor, love, and overall contentment to a well-lived life.

Spend time with your kids. Take them to the circus or the park or just for a walk around the neighborhood. Prepare a meal and sit with them – device free – at the dinner table, or order pizza and watch the latest Marvel movie on DVD.

Yes, it can be exhausting, frustrating, and, as the author put it, “life destabilizing” – but isn’t that kind of the point? To shake things up a bit?

Kids are hard, in ways you never understand until you have a couple…but they sure are worth it. And for most of us, they are hands-down the best life choice we ever made.

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