Friday, November 30, 2007

The Hidden Truth about Parenthood

The hidden truth about parenthood

You can admit to disliking just about anybody nowadays; parents, spouses, even a hatred for Don Bradman gets a sympathetic hearing - but what if it is your baby that is the target of your venom?

Almost every parent I know talks up having kids like they are an Easter Show urger, saying "it changes your life!", "you don't know what love is until you have a child!" or "it focuses you on what's really important!".

However, scattered among those exclamations will be a person who will admit "if I'd known what it was going to be like, I probably wouldn't have done it" or "I'm really struggling. I want my old life back."

These disclosures are usually accompanied by a sense of guilt or fear they will be judged a lesser person, or at least parent, because of their "failings".

The shame of this is that with so few people talking publicly about the negative aspects of parenthood they often come as a nasty shock to new mums and dads, with "why didn't anybody warn me" being the unspoken message.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates one in four women in this country will remain childless for "a wide variety of reasons … these range from lifestyle choices relating to the pursuit of education and a career, to a preference for a life without children".
. . .
We all know mums and dads who have put more thought into their Lotto numbers than having kids and it is often difficult to empathise with their plight; it is the couples who think they are ready for parenthood, who read and plan and embrace it, then find the task overwhelming, fail to deal with the seismic change in their lifestyle and fall into depression or bitterness, that scare the hell out of me.

Recently, I've run into a purple patch of mums and dads who have warned me off parenthood like it is a Chinese formaldehyde-laced blanket. Several have admitted that the greatest day of their life was actually the worst because they have realised their little bundle of joy is a mistake they can never undo.
. . .
If you have found parenthood a nightmare, you are often considered weak or selfish or lacking a certain humanity. Perhaps we would all be better off not shouting down or judging those who have found the experience unfulfilling or nerve-shattering and instead let their stories be heard so the rest of us can walk through the nursery door with our eyes wide open.
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