Growing up, we were scared shitless about parenthood, and for good reason. In the 1990ies there was a wave of teen pregnancies. Plan B pill reduced this number but at the time, the only way to stop a pregnancy was to scare kids into not having sex or making sure they always had a condom handy, and girls started birth control before they hit puberty. However, this also created an unintended consequence: the fear persisted, long into adulthood.
My wife recently gave birth to our daughter. Five days ago to be precise. The men around me and the books I read scared the shit out of me. I remember walking with my best friend in Mexico after our last meal of my dadchlor, and he was describing how the benefits of having a daughter are no projectile pee but the negative is that you have to scoop shit out of her vagina. It was things like this, and the non-stop scaring about no sleep and exhaustion that made me think that this is an impossible task. And yet, I also knew that my parents were not superheroes, that no matter how crappy many people are at their jobs, they still manage to have kids who do not die. So how is it that people are so scared of babies who only do three active things: eat, poop, burp?
It’s all about mindset. The Mormons, Orthodox Jews, and many other cultures have many children. The youngest end up being raised by the oldest. The most difficult child ends up being the first as the parent has no skills or stamina for the extra work. And that’s what it comes down to, parenting is just extra work. It’s like you take your life and you put it into a blender. They create chaos, and a lot of things and destroy time. But they do not actually add complexity, they simply are. It is your complex life that suddenly loses meaning when compared to the human life that you are responsible for.
So why is it underrated? It makes you a full human being and a better human being. We all know crazy and bad parents, but I fully believe that those people would have been even worse otherwise. However, while parenting makes you less selfish towards a few people, it often makes you more selfish towards others. You are no longer responsible to society as much as you are responsible for the human you put into the world. The society also deems you far more responsible for the life and actions of your human. However, it does bring love to your life if you are ready for it if you are ready for the responsibility and desire to create a decent human. Sometimes teachers and friends intervene and fix a poorly raised child, but that is the exception, not the rule. Most of the time you get what you put in. If you chose to spend your time on a career and philandering, you will get a child that also feels little love and seeks to show their worth through career and philandering. If you focus on the child, on making them a full human being, you will get a decent human being. But first, they have to survive.
The survival part is stressful. The hospital in the first few days makes things easier. They provide you with food, there’s no need to wash or clean anything. Your entire time is just devoted to sleeping, feeding the human, and learning. It is a crash course while the hospital also determines if you and the child are good to survive in the real world. Once you get home, the true work begins.
The work is less about the child, the child is actually fairly easy: every two to three hours you offer it food, check the diapers, and let them sleep. The difficulty lies in the fact that these 2–3 hours are also during the night, so you have to wake up for an hour or so at night. This is just two to three times and it is manageable. The problem comes in if you want to clean, eat, and do anything else. You do have to clean things, you have to shop, you have to take the dog for a walk and you have to deal with friends and family and if you want to work, then the house collapses.
What a child does, is help you set priorities. They are the massive ball in the jar around which all other things will have to fit around. Their life is in your hands and you will either work as a team with your spouse or fight as competitors for who will do more work with the child so you can get your things done and deal with the childless.
I cannot imagine a fate worse than an unwanted child. A child that some religious person was upset to have aborted at 6 weeks but cares not what happens to them in a family incapable of taking care of them. Every child grows up to be an adult and they are only as good as the effort that goes into them. The effort makes one a better person and a more efficient person, but only if they are up to the challenge. The challenge isn’t great if they have a good spouse, a good network of friends, parents who are nearby and willing to help out, health insurance that does not set them back financially, and a workplace that allows them to have the time off. Without those things, child raising isn’t a challenge, it is hell. And hell creates devils.