When you have kids, you sacrifice a lot. Is all that sacrifice worth it? Is parenting worth it?
I’m not sure I can answer that.
Both because there is no definitive, universal answer, and because I don’t know yet.
Your devotion to and/or outright enslavement by your tiny spawn prevents you from going to the movies, from eating at nice restaurants, from taking relaxing vacations. You find yourself making inconvenient treks to far-away schools just because they’re rated more highly, removing all the fun junk food from the house because you don’t want to set a bad example, watching fewer violent movies, using fewer swear words, getting drunk less often (at least in the daytime).
I’m not complaining. I made my bed, and I love my kids. But neither am I willing to ape the party line and tell everyone ‘it’s all worth it.’ Because I’m not so sure!
The entirety of the parenting experience is built around trade-offs. Whether or not you think it’s worth it depends on how you feel about the ones you make.
Like I said, I love my kids. My baby is cute AF and almost unsettlingly happy. My six-year-old is a lot like me, which, um… But, leaving aside the inconveniences and frustrations that come with babies and six-year-olds (and tweens and teens and etc…) I’m glad to have them around. Is my life better off? Are all the trade-offs worth it?
I honestly can’t answer that. At least, I can’t compare it to the alternative.
I don’t know the other side, or whether the grass is actually greener there. This isn’t The Family Man, or It’s a Wonderful Life, or the literally ten(-plus) different movies on Lifetime or Hallmark or the network-formerly-known-as-ABC Family (WTF does “Freefork” even mean?!) that allow their protagonists to see what their life would have been if they’d made different decisions. My life is my life, and, like everyone else, I’m living it the best way I know how.
There are definitely things I wish I could change – my career, waiting too long to get contact lenses, ever having a goatee – but I don’t want to not have my children!
Is it always fun? Look at my face right now. Am I laughing? (No.)
Is it always terrible? Look at my face right now. Am I laughing? (Yes, but ironically.)
I don’t have any answers because I think it’s a stupid question, “is parenting worth it?” I don’t know, is anything worth it? Ask your Philosophy 101 professors. But I do know I hate platitudes. I hate bullshit. Don’t tell me it’s all worth it. You don’t know my life. How do you know if it’s worth it for you?
Changing diapers, cleaning spit-up, going to the emergency room, paying for daycare, moving to a bigger place, working a tougher job, getting a minivan, scheduling playdates and after-school activities and music lessons and summer camp, arguing over dinner, helping with math homework, scrambling to make the bus, warning him not to drink and drive, hoping she gets a scholarship, staying up to make sure he gets home okay, praying weed doesn’t lead to worse, dying to get her out of the basement. It never ends. Some days the good outweighs the bad, other days it doesn’t. The experience of being a parent is not easily quantified. Not at the beginning, not in the middle, maybe never.
Maybe in twenty-five years, when your kids are finally out of the house (please god) and you finally have some free time back, maybe then you can look back on your life, and look at your successful, well-adjusted kids, and say it was all worth it. Right now, though, it’s a crap-shoot.
Don’t tell me parenting is worth it – or that it’s not. Because it’s not about worth.
If you think it is, you’re not going to enjoy parenting one bit. And despite this post and this blog and my general demeanor, it is possible to enjoy it. There are fun bits. But if you’re looking for kids to somehow complete or even simply improve your life, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Literally get a dog. That’s not why you have kids. Kids are a job. A commitment. Nonstop responsibility.
It’s not about worth. It’s not about return-on-investment. It’s not about payoff. What is it about? I honestly have no idea. You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and, with apologies to the late Alan Thicke, you make it work. You live your life, with or without your kids. You do you. For better or worse. Either way, it’s probably gonna be hard. Whether you have kids or not.