Is Parenthood as Scary as It Seems?

As she considers someday having kids, one Brooklyn woman wonders: I hear all about the cons of parenthood.

On a recent Saturday night, I was strolling to dinner near my home in Brooklyn. The weather was nicer than it had been in a while. The restaurants were packed. Groups of singles gathered at bars; laughing couples sat at tables near windows, with wine glasses filled. My boyfriend and I were leisurely deciding on a place to eat, little more than a relaxing date night and good food on our minds.

Then a woman with two (apparently tired) children approached. They looked to be around 2 and 5 years old. My smile in her direction caused her to walk faster, head down. As she passed us, it felt to me as if being near the carefree—aka childless—was too much of a reminder of a life that was no longer hers.

Part of me sympathized: While I don’t have any kids, I’ve seen many examples of how much work they are.

Then the other part of me wondered: How much did the reality of motherhood take her by surprise?

In recent years, a string of friends and relatives have announced pregnancies and the arrival of new babies with pride. Then, when we finally see each other to catch up, months, even a year or two, later, they talk wistfully about the exciting city life they left behind, the monotony of the suburbs. Those who were once fitness devotees frequently lament their post-pregnancy bodies, claiming they no longer had the willpower, time, and/or energy to devote to staying in shape.

The woes varied depending on the parent (to a degree. Exhaustion and no time for oneself were fairly consistent). They all had one thing in common, though: At some point, they’d gaze at their newborn’s face and declare they wouldn’t change a thing.

So I’m confused.

I’ve been told that parenthood makes you more efficient. Does it? Or is that just code for over-scheduled and frazzled?

Is that happy photo you posted on social media the norm, or was it just the one you snapped between tears?

Are playdates only fun because they give you a chance to trade war stories with other new parents, like free therapy?

Is an uninterrupted 6 hours of sleep (let alone sleeping past 7am on the weekends) something you now only dream about? I mean, daydream about?

If all of the above is true—and I know it is, at least in the early years—then what makes it all worthwhile?

As a woman in her mid 30s, I’m conscious of the whole “ticking of my biological clock” thing. I still marvel at the concept of pregnancy and wonder how my own body would respond to it someday. I’ve progressed from holding babies gingerly, worried that I’ll drop them, to doing so confidently, proud of my own maternal instinct.

And yet: I’m in no rush toward motherhood.

I realize that for some, parenthood provides a sense of direction and purpose, a natural next step on this journey called life. Yet I also know couples without children who also “wouldn’t change a thing.”

While I look forward to discovering the “mom” version of myself—and loving and getting to know my new son or daughter—I know I am not ready yet to start reminiscing about the freedom I once had. Until then, I’m happy to be there for my new-mom friends…whenever their newly packed schedules allow it.

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