An American journalist, Jennifer Senior, has written a book about parenting, titled ‘All Joy and no Fun’. I have to admit that I haven’t read the book but am intrigued by the modern take on parenting and the paradoxes that seem to be present. The talks around parenting and ‘how to parent’ and the differences in life-styles between people who are childless and people with children seems to occupy an astounding amount of talk and reading space and general debate.
My times dealings with small children are now gone but I do remember well the stresses and the impositions on one as a parent. However – and I’m trying to not really be on one ‘side’ or another but feel the need to ask: How long are you a parent? True, it is a never-ending part of your life, BUT…it is only a fraction of your life that you are a parent of a child or children; that is, one who has small, medium or large children at home with you.
If you have (say) two children and you give birth to them about 2 years apart and they leave home, at about age 18, for university, or to travel, or to work or whatever, (and, yes, I know, I am generalizing here), you will have children at home with you – and ‘eating you out of house and home’ and trying your patience as well as giving you joy – you will have children (children) in your lives for approximately 20 years.
For starters, you will have only one baby or toddler for two years, then, for the next 16 years, you will have 2 children in the house, then only one child for another 2 years, then you should (should?) have an empty nest.
Supposing you are going to live for 80+ years, your child-rearing days constitute a little less than one-quarter of your life. That’s not much, really. And, afterwards, you will be blessed with your very own (adult) family members, who know you well, who know your (and their) history well, who will be around to celebrate milestones in your (and their) life and will love you.
And YOU will LOVE them.
Wasn’t it The Beatles who sang, “All You Need is Love”? It’s true!
Of course, they may not always be physically nearby. Grown children sometimes drift apart from their roots; some may choose to live far away. But you know they are always there.
To sum up, I suppose I wish to say that all this talk of how hard it is to parent (notice how the word has turned into a verb?) and how you (especially women) can’t ‘have it all’ – because children do not always let you experience the joy of having them while you are also following the career of your choice.
Who cares? Why is it so Important that we should expect to ‘have it all’?
And, yes, I know that the world population is exploding and we really shouldn’t be reproducing much at all but…
Here’s another thought - what about prospective grandchildren? You know, those little (but later, big) people who start the children = joy thing all over again.
I don’t know about ‘All Joy and No Fun’. More like, ‘Lots of Joy and Lots of Fun – and a bit of other stuff in between’.
PS: I apologize to all those parents who are still experiencing the ‘joy’ of having their 20-something and even thirty-something children at home.
I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.