My husband and I found ourselves in a rare moment alone in the kitchen one morning. The baby was sleeping. Our big kids were playing in another room. “Do you ever wonder what it would be like if we didn’t have kids?” he asked. I found myself feeling momentarily horrified only partially by my husband even asking the question. In fairness to the man, he was just coming off of a night of no sleep. We had both been up all night with a sick baby. When our four-year-old woke up in the morning, he puked. He was tired. We were tired. I understood why he asked the question. My horror was directed more at myself and the realization that, yes, I had thought about it many, many times.
Back when we were dating and first married, we both worked in banking in NYC. We lived in nice apartments in the expensive Paulus Hook neighborhood of Jersey City. We went for happy hour and out to dinner most nights of the week. We took elaborate vacations. The rare times we were home, we laid in bed watching Netflix. Our life was optimized around fun and pleasure. Fast forward to the birth of our oldest son and we very quickly realized that life was gone and never coming back. Fast forward a few more years to our messy house, piles of laundry, and three sons, and I can say with conviction, “Good riddance!”
One of my favorite quotes from the late Pope Benedict XVI:
“It is when we attempt to avoid suffering by withdrawing from anything that might involve hurt, when we try to spare ourselves the effort and pain of pursuing truth, love, and goodness, that we drift into a life of emptiness, in which there may be almost no pain, but the dark sensation of meaninglessness and abandonment is all the greater.”
Hedonism Does Not Equal Happiness
My life without kids would have continued the pursuit of fun and pleasure, but it was selfish. When I look back on those days now, I don’t recall someone living in a carefree and happy state. I see someone much like Pope Benedict XVI said – drifting and empty. I was desperate for purpose and meaning but looking for it in money or success or material things. If I had stayed on that path and never had kids, I shudder to think of the person I would have become. I worked for and with some of those people – dedicated to their corporate way of living, childless. None of them were happy people.
Instead, I was fortunate enough to meet my husband. We have now brought three boys into the world. Our life is chaotic, unpredictable, and messy. But our life is now optimized on the truth, goodness, and love that makes it worth living.
Three-Dimensional & Made With Love
I thought about all this one year when putting up the Christmas tree. My Dad bought us a set of beautiful Christmas ornaments as a housewarming gift. And they are beautiful to look at on the outside – shining and sparkling against the lights of the tree. But inside they are hollow. I also hung up the ornaments my boys made in preschool. They are certainly sentimental, but not what I would call beautiful. No one looks at my tree and asks where I got the ornament made of popsicle sticks. But it’s solid and three-dimensional and made with love. And I realized that in leaving my old life behind, that is who I have become.
From the outside looking in, my life does not appear exciting or enviable. But I know I wouldn’t change a thing. Through all the hard work and sacrifice of becoming a mother, I have found real and lasting happiness.