I’ve been seeing a lot of stuff recently on how parents get held back or held down by their kids. A lot of things about how having children stifles your dreams and your options.
And this isn’t false, exactly. Having kids does limit what you can do, both financially and because you suddenly have to think about how what you do impacts someone else with every single choice you make.
But honestly, that is true about every decision you make. When you choose to study philosophy instead of medicine, that limits your life options. When you choose to study medicine instead of literature, that limits your life options. If you choose to get married and be with one person forever, that limits your life options. If you choose never to get married, and go through life as a single agent, that limits your life options. That is what choice is ALL ABOUT. Picking a particular road over others. And then taking that road.
And sure, you can go back and restudy or get divorced, or change your mind about never getting married because you met The One, and you can’t really change your mind about a kid once you have them, but even then, you’re once again choosing one path over others, which limits your options.
But actually, this post isn’t about arguing that particular set of semantics. I chose to have a child. This has resulted in limitations, yes, but it hasn’t actually held me back. Quite the opposite.
When I realised that my life wasn’t really what I wanted it to be, and I set about changing that, my kid was a fundamental motivator. Because I wanted him to know that was possible. Because I think having parents who are willing and able to follow their dreams, to do the work required to rebuild a life into what they want it to be, is VITAL for kids. Because it meant I could be an example to him, to show him, later, that that is something he can do, if it arises. To prove, by example, that consciously and actively building the kind of life you want is a worthy and possible thing. I’m still working on it, of course, but when I want to give up, I think about how he’s going to tell this story as an adult, and I know it HAS to end with “and she did, too”.
If I hadn’t had Christopher, I don’t think I would have survived my depression. I don’t think I would have been able to claw my way up from that. I don’t think I’d have had the strength to fight back. It was touch and go for a while there. But every single day I got up and did what needed to be done, because I had a small human relying on me, SO I HAD TO. I got that strength from him. I didn’t give in to the despair, I didn’t give up, because of him. If I am standing here on the verge of the life I want, fighting for it every day, getting back up when I get knocked down, it is not despite my child, it is BECAUSE of him.
Because there were days when I sat on the floor of my living room crying, and he came and put his tiny arms around my neck and said, “Mommy, do you need a cuddle to make you happy?”
Because there were nights when all I wanted to do was drink until it stopped hurting, and I didn’t because he was sleeping in the next room and I knew I’d have to take care of him the next morning.
Because there were times when I wanted to get in my car and just drive until I ran out of road, or get on a plane to anywhere, and try (once again) to outrun my demons, and I didn’t because his life and what’s good for him is more important than my fears.
My child has never held me back. He has never stopped me attaining my dreams. He has never interfered with my life plans. He has given me focus when the world was dark and roiling and impossible. He has given me firm ground to stand on when the world is quicksand. He has been the scaffold on which I built those plans. And a reason to keep building them when I wasn’t reason enough.
I chose him. I chose to have him. And I am certainly not suggesting that everyone’s experience of parenthood is the same as mine. But, for what it’s worth, he is still the best thing I have ever made. He is still the greatest thing in my life. And if I am succeeding in making my life everything I want it to be, if I am succeeding in becoming the best version of myself I can possibly be, which is a hard, exhausting road to walk some days, it is absolutely and unquestionably because of him.
I am reason enough most days, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t about selflessness and sacrifice. It is the opposite. I want to be the best me. And mostly, I want to do that for me. But that is NOT in contradiction to what is good for him. It is best for him too, if I am my best me. But on the days when the demons are loud and it feels impossible, the thing that keeps me fighting is him. Because (on those days) I can fail me, that would be okay. But I absolutely CANNOT fail him.
So I stand back up.
He does not hold me back. He pushes me forward.