A few days ago Grumpy Dad came home from work looking quite confused and asked me how I would explain to someone who neither had nor wanted children, how children improve your life. I opened my mouth to answer and immediately realised that there is no simple way to do this.
It’s easy to see why someone with no desire for children would struggle to see how they improve your life. After all, even if you manage to keep some semblance of your old life after having children the likely-hood is that you will have less disposable income, you will socialise less, have less freedom to do what you want and less free time to do it in. It’s also fairly likely that your house will be constantly messy, your body will never be the same, the hobbies you once loved will be shoved to one side and you will lose some if not all of your non-parent friends. That’s a lot of negatives and I haven’t even mentioned the poo and vomit of which there is bucket loads. But despite all this most people still choose to have children, promising themselves that their little bundle of wriggly, screaming, joy will make it all worth while.
Creating an opposing list of how children improve your life is however almost impossible because all of the improvements are relative to the parents. Having a child changes you. When I became a parent my whole outlook on life changed. I had expected to love my baby but this expectation was nothing compared to the reality of how I felt when Baby arrived kicking and screaming into the world and as much as I hate to say it, I don’t think that is something you can explain sufficiently to someone who hasn’t experienced it for themselves. Even though I may not be able go to the pub on a whim in the same way I might have before I had a child, it doesn’t matter because I just don’t care anymore. Suddenly I can take or leave many of the things that I thought were important before having Baby. What has become most important to me is her happiness and that of my family, her safety, and the tiny moments in her life when she does something minuscule, like hold an item in both hands for the first time, and I find myself realising that to her this is a mammoth feat of coordination. Your child improves your life just by existing, even when they’re pitching a fit because they’re tired but they don’t want to go to sleep.
It turns out that Grumpy Dad eventually answered this question (which had been asked by a co-worker) by saying that if he hadn’t chosen to have children he would now feel that his life had no purpose. An answer which went down like a lead balloon with his happily childless audience, but I see where he was coming from. Before I had Baby there was a baby shaped hole gnawing at my insides. I have in the past been in a situation where I have been convinced that unless I did something drastic I wouldn’t have the opportunity to have a child. As a result I know that if I hadn’t had Baby I would have eventually felt that my life had been pointless. Not everyone feels this way and if you don’t want children I think that is a perfectly valid choice and should be respected, but for many people children give life meaning.
So, how do children improve your life? They make you a stronger, less self-centered version of yourself and bring joy and meaning to your life. I think that just about covers it.
I’d love to know how your children have improved your life and how you would have answered this question.