Sunday, April 7, 2013

Children: Burden or Blessing?

I recently came across an article entitled The mother who says having these two children is the biggest regret of her life.   To be quite honest, I found it to be disturbing and my heart aches for her adult children who had such a hurtful statement publicly published about them.   But, I don't necessarily think she is/was a horrible mother.  She is just putting into words what our culture teaches.  

The article is full of quotes like this:

 I felt completely detached from this alien being who had encroached upon my settled married life and changed it, irrevocably, for the worse.

I'm wondering how she knows her marriage would have been better without the children?   It says in the article that her husband dearly wanted perhaps not having them would have driven a rift between the couple? Who knows?

But, I do know that marriage is about sacrifice and compromise.  It is about putting the other person first and giving as much as your are getting.   I believe that many marriages fail because people believe that marriage is about What can you give me? instead of What can I give you?

Raising children is definitely a sacrifice and lots of hard work and a huge load of putting the other person first.  However,  many couples find that their marriage improves with the addition of children because the more one makes sacrifices and puts another person's needs first, the easier it becomes.  The sacrifices we make for our children, carry over into our marriage and make it stronger.
Still, I wished no harm on Stuart and invested every ounce of my energy in caring for him. Even so, I know my life would have been much happier and more fulfilled without children.
 Again, how can she know what her life would have been like without children?  Would she have been happier?  I don't know.  But, I do know that someone  like Mother Teresa who spent her whole life serving others, seemed to be very happy.   I know that in my own life...times when I am the least selfish (and I can be very selfish at times) are the times when I am the happiest.   For it is in giving of ourselves that we receive (from the Prayer of St. Francis which St. Francis probably never said). 

What I valued most in my life was time on my own; to reflect, read and enjoy my own company and peace of mind. And suddenly that peace and solitude wasn't there any more. There were two small interlopers intruding on it. And I've never got that peace back.

Don't we all?  She sounds seriously introverted.  I am somewhat introverted myself...and I do oftentimes long for more peace and quiet and time to reflect.  But, I don't for one second believe that having more peace and time to myself would make me happier.  A little more would be nice....but not a huge, empty void of childless peace. 
 I never wanted to hurt Stuart - I only wanted him to prosper and thrive. There is no doubt I grew to love him very much, and indeed still do. But I always wished I had never had him.
This statement seems rather paradoxical to me.  Love does not wish someone didn't exist. I do not understand how one could say in the same sentence I love you, but I wish you had never been born. For, if she hadn't had him..he would not be here.  She later talks about her son's wife and his two children...I bet they are happy he exists.   I bet her son and daughter have both touched the loves of countless other people...people who ARE happy they exist.
  It was not that I seethed each day with resentment towards my children; more that I felt oppressed by my constant responsibility for them. Young children prevent you from being spontaneous; every outing becomes an expedition. If you take your job as a parent seriously, you always put their needs before your own.
This is true...very, very true.  But, that's not a bad thing.  Losing our natural, inborn selfishness is not a bad fact it is a very good thing.  But, our culture tells you that it is.  Our culture says that children are a burden, so hurry up and have your two kids and get them weaned and sleeping through the night and off to school and out of the house as soon as possible, so we don't have to be burdened with them anymore.   Once they are gone, we will have the freedom to jet off to Italy and eat at fancy restaurants and read important books and pursue big careers...because those things have so much more value than bringing new life into the world and raising children.  Our society tells us that being a burden is it's best if all the babies with down syndrome or other health issues requiring special care are aborted...and the old people, or those who are terminally ill, or in a coma...well they aren't worth anything let's just euthanize them.

But that's all lies I tell you..all lies.  Everyone comes into this world as a helpless, newborn baby.  Everyone comes into this world as a burden.   As a burden..but also as a blessing  Every person's life is valuable..and I find it incredibly sad that Ms. Dutton does not see the value of her own children's lives.  Sad...but not surprising.

It is her tragedy that eight years ago she developed multiple sclerosis and had to give up her job as a chef. She is now bed-bound and lives with Tony and me.
I am her full-time carer and if I could have MS instead of her, I gladly would. She knows I would do anything to relieve her suffering and that I will care for her as long as I am able. I am 57 now and as I approach old age, I have an ever-more dependent daughter.
Yet I would cut off my right arm if she or Stuart needed it.
And that, maybe, is the paradox. I am a conscientious and caring parent - yet perhaps I would have resented my children less had I not been.

When it comes right down to it, it does sound as though Ms. Dutton does love her's a shame that she didn't value them and their human dignity enough to not publicly or privately state how much she regrets them.  It's a shame that our society views children as a burden.  And, it's even more of a shame how many children aren't born because people don't want to be burdened with a blessing.

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  1. Beautiful article. Isn't it the sad truth. Parenting is the fastest way to find out how selfish we really are, and it is an ugly reality. I love being punched in the face with it, though - it is my saving grace from a life centered entirely on my own desires. Do I secretly sometimes wish for more quiet or the ability to jet off to Rome...say for the Papal inauguration? Sure. There can be time for those adventures later. The adventures we have building entire world with a box of 40 blocks is a pretty amazing adventure for now too. Thanks for sharing. And I'm sure my husband thanks you for the "St. Francis probably never said this" bit. :)

  2. Wow. This woman is a HUGE fan of the victim card: "I gave my husband a life I hated, but I gave it my all and was valiant!" What a martyr. I really wonder what is at play here: serious post-partum depression (her argument that she didn't have it because she was young and the baby was easy are irrelevant)? Antisocial personality disorder with a hint of narcissism? A serious case of denial and blame over a life that didn't turn out how she wanted it?

    "I did everything a good mother is supposed to."
    Except love your kids. And worry when you left one at a bakery.
    "I'm sure they would agree that they always felt secure and loved."
    "I don't believe either that Stuart or Jo sensed any coolness on my part, although Jo once said, 'You never tell me you love me, Mum.' And I didn't, it's true."

    I once read an article by a woman whose daughter with Down syndrome died before the mother. The mother had the same approach: "I've always loved my daughter, but I wish I'd aborted her." How on earth...


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