If I Had It to Do Over Again

Having recently had an interesting conversation with a friend who’s expecting her first baby, it got me to thinking about another conversation I had more than a decade ago.

Before I had Cait, I’d once asked a dear friend, if she had it all to do over again, would she still have kids. She hesitated for several long seconds before she answered. That hesitation spoke volumes. She finally said, “Probably not.” I was a little surprised by the answer, but not by her truthfulness. I could always count on her to speak her truth.

As I recall, what prompted me to ask was that I’d just finished reading a well-researched book that cataloged mothers’ ambivalences about having and raising children. It was an eye-opener — both the book and my friend’s answer.

I also remember something one of my brothers had repeatedly told me before I had Cait: “It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do.”

I nodded, secretly thinking it might be hard for him but it wouldn’t be for me.

I would like to publicly apologize to you, Eric. You were right and I was wrong. This is without question the hardest job I’ve ever loved.

Feeling a little more seasoned and steady on my feet a decade later, if someone were to ask me that same question: would I do it all over again? I wouldn’t hesitate to answer yes. But I wouldn’t lie and say that I haven’t had my moments of ambivalence. Sometimes those moments have been pretty fierce. But they’ve only been moments and they always pass.

The only thing that never passes is how much I love my daughter. I’d never been able to find words to express how much until my own daughter said the words during one of our “I love you as big as” sessions. She opened with, “I love you as big as the ocean.” I countered with, “I love you as big as the sky.” She came back with, “I love you as big as the whole world.” I answered, “I love you as big as the universe.” She trumped that with, “I love you as big as infinity.” And that, folks, pretty much says it all.

I hope for my pregnant friend that she can tell someone ten years from now that she would do it all over again too, because she’s discovered that she also couldn’t imagine living without a love as big as infinity.

17 thoughts on “If I Had It to Do Over Again”

  1. It takes a lot of courage to honestly evaluate and respond to that inquiry.

    My answer would be “yes, but . . . ” and then I would list the things I would change about the 20 years that have passed since I had my first kid. However, there is no point in regretting anything. Can’t change it!

    Thanks for contributing this post to this week’s Carnival of Family Life, hosted at A Child Chosen. The Carnival will be live on Monday, February 5, 2008, so I hope you and your readers will stop by and check out all of the fabulous entries included this week!

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  2. Parenting….It is hard. It is long. It sure wasn’t something I aspired to. And there were times (and I am sure there will be more)….but I would do it all again in an unconditional, unhesitating, definite heartbeat. Raising them has been the most important job I could ever have had. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to do so.
    There are so many times when all we need is each other…This morning we were late starting chores because the three of them and I got kidding around in the kitchen and ended up laughing so hard over nothing that we were nearly passing coffee through our noses. I could never have that much uninhibited fun with anyone but them. Then they pitched in without complaint and helped unclog our bridged up grain bin in all this snow and wind (about five tons of dusty, stinking, spoiled grain had to be dug out pound by pound mostly by hand or with a screwdriver).
    I wouldn’t trade the years with them for the presidency, Bill Gates’ money and being thirty again. Still, I am also real glad that the youngest will turn 18 in two months. lol

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  3. Mary Alice, I very much share your feelings on parenting. That said, just as I don’t think everyone should have a dog just because they can, the same goes for it not being a good idea for everyone to have kids just because they can. Some people are really suited for parenting and some aren’t. Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to know until it’s too late…

    Simply Jenn, while I’ve survived my two teenaged stepsons (who are now in their twenties)they were relatively easy. Let’s see how I survive Cait’s teenage years… :)

    Deb, that cartoon so beautifully captures the feelings of parenting when it’s going mostly right. If you were to ask me in person and not on this blog, I’d tell you that I have three kids, because I love my stepsons as if they were my own. But, for the sake of their privacy, I don’t talk about them in any significant way on this blog. And, I too feel that love multiplies. One of the reasons I wouldn’t have more today is because the support network is so often lacking. At least in my case, it is. I don’t live near family, and my friends’ kids were all grown by the time I had mine. I think it’s also often the (not so) little things like that that can affect the parenting experience.

    Caffienated Cowgirl, I always knew I’d get to have kids so I was never in a rush. Mine are the best thing that’s ever happened to me too — by a long stretch. :)

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  4. That is beautiful…and true. When I was younger, I didn’t want children…but I would never trade a moment with my son…he’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. Good luck to your friend :)

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  5. I have never thought of dividing my love or myself among the children. My outlook has been more in line with Bil Keane in his comic strip “Family Circus.” (Don’t remember the year – sorry) the mom is somewhere with all four little ones and this stranger boldly asks how she divides her love to which she replies “Oh I don’t divide it; I multiply it.”

    That is not the reason I would hesitate having four today. So many more kids today are “unsupervised” that it puts a bigger burden on the parents who do. And while I don’t think the world is more evil than then, accessibility in undetectable means is more of a problem.

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  6. Karen, thank you for that honesty. I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t have my kids, but I do feel that ambivalence and it’s very hard to feel as a mom. With my oldest two at puberty, some days I am at a loss as to what to think or say to them, but most days it’s not a problem. Lately I’ve been wondering why I have five (but I can guarantee you my enthusiasm is right up there with anyone with ANY number of kids because I THRIVE on chaos, I truly do), but then I see them together and I also thrive on their closeness and the wonderful fact that my kids ALWAYS have someone that they truly LIKE to play with. I wouldn’t redo a thing.

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  7. You are so right. What a beautiful tribute to joys and tears of parenting and love as big as infinity. It is something no one can really grasp until they have experienced it for themselves. I know because I could never have imagined that kind of love myself, prior to experiencing it. I never could have imagined how very very hard parenting could be or how many tears or how much joy it could bring.

    A few days ago I said in a blog post that “Parenting, to me, is the single most important work you will do in your adult life.” It is the hardest and the most joyous thing as well. One of my dear commenter’s felt uncomfortable with that statement and thought it a bit of slight to those that have chosen not have to have children or who can’t have children and yet have very important and fulfilling careers…I replied that “when you are a parent, parenting usurps whatever other responsibilities you have in your life….no matter how important those responsibilities are to you or how they define who you are as a person.” I have siblings who have chosen not to have families and I don’t think any the less of them for concentrating on careers. Their lives are filled with joy…but the difficulty and the joy of parenting cannot ever be imagined by those who haven’t walked in the shoes of a parent.

    May your pregnant friend experience love to infinity.

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  8. One of the book’s discoveries was that there was a direct relationship between how many children a woman had, and how close those children were in age. There was an inverse ratio of number of kids and enthusiasm.

    The friend I asked had three children. Deb, I could definitely see where thinking of having four in this day and age would change my experience. Having only one allowed me to not feel divided. I’ve no doubt two is a comfortable number for most people. According to the book (can’t remember the name) once a mother got beyond two, the inverse ratio started kicking in.

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  9. After birthing 2 daughters…age 25 and 15, I can honestly say I have never nor will I ever experience a love like this. Jumping off a cliff kind of love. amen to what you wrote!

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  10. My answer is yes, however it comes with some qualifiers. Things were different 32 years ago and I do not know if starting today I would be as eager to have four.

    Every mother has moments of wondering if she was in her right might when she set out on this journey and none should panic at those occasional reality checks because questioned faith examined fairly is often stronger in the end.

    Somehow it came with my survival programming that having children and being a real mother to them was my role to undo so much garbage that had been passed on for generations. But a secret corner of my heart despaired that children would be my lot because I was so damaged (flawed).

    When I have been asked by young women what is a good reason to have children, I tell them that reasons are pretty personal and not a one size fits all. But rather I suggest that they would do well to look at their reasons and see if it/they will get them through the worst nightmare that parenting could bring from their point of view. If it won’t still be the right choice in that situation then they would do everyone a favor by waiting.

    Sorry, I’m feeling terribly philosophical this morning.

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  11. What a beautiful post, Karen. Yes, there have been times in the past 14 years when I thought, “I can’t do this.”, but they’re fleeting and I soon fall in love all over again.

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