We were at the lake having a picnic last night when I saw a guy go by with a newborn in a stroller. I imagined he was giving his wife a break, and thought about how she was probably on maternity leave. And then I reflexively thought, I wish I was still on maternity leave--I wish I had 12 months, like some countries. Then I thought about it some more and realized I didn't actually feel that way. The last few months have been tough. I billed over 280 hours last month. There were plenty of days when I saw my son for 20 minutes. There were some days I didn't see him at all. I really don't like that. But I loved what I was doing. I was preparing for trial (scheduled to start tomorrow, but now postponed to October) and I was having a blast. It was great experience, and I wouldn't trade it. I'm not going to apologize for it, either. My dad was a great dad even though he worked crazy lawyer hours, and I don't begrudge him that for a second. Why should it be different because I'm a woman?
I've been pondering a question raised in a very early post and procrastinating about trying to answer it: why have children at all? I wish I had attempted an answer back then because I think my answer is different now and it would be interesting to compare. My answer now will be based on what I now know about being a parent--which is much, much more than I did then.
So. Why have children? First, I should note that I did not exactly choose to have Nugget; Nugget chose me. I probably would have had children at some point anyway, but I didn't set out to get pregnant when I did. Nugget wasn't willing to wait a few years til we felt ready. Nugget is an impatient nugget.
When asked whether I planned to have children, I said for many years that I would only have children if I happened to meet and fall in love with someone I wanted to have children with, someone who would be a good father. And I did--I met and fell in love with Trent. I think that's an important part of answering this question for me: I don't just want "children," generically speaking, I wanted our children, Trent's and mine, specifically. [Sensitivity side note: this does not necessarily mean genetically "our children"; if we had adopted, they would still be "our children."] Now, that doesn't exactly answer the question. Why do I want our children? I can't answer that yet. Maybe there's something about loving someone that makes me want to build a family with him, as an outgrowth of our love. I don't know. I'm gagging a little just writing that, so let's move on.
Here's some part of the answer that I am clear about-and this is the part that I don't think I understood before I'd been a parent for a while. Watching Nugget learn about the world is the most fascinating and rewarding thing I have ever experienced.
Here's another, somewhat related part: shaping his understanding of the world, helping him grow up to be a strong, happy person, is important to me, and something that seems worth doing if you can. I think I can do it, and if I didn't, I wouldn't want to have children. There have been times when I've thought I didn't want children because I was afraid I'd be too controlling and demanding; that I wouldn't be able to turn that part of myself off to give a kid space to grow. I was wrong about that. It will probably get harder as he gets older, but so far I've been pretty good about stifling the urge to push Nugget too hard.
Another, selfish reason: not having a family of my own around me as I grow old seems like a lonely prospect. I think my life would feel empty without it.
I will have to revisit this topic, but I think that's a good start at an answer that's true for me.
[Skeptic side note: There is, underneath my thinking in all this, a part of me that says the desire to have children is a basic imperative of life, nothing more than a primal instinct to preserve the species. And maybe that's true too.]