If you’re a twenty-something (maybe even a thirty-something) you’re probably being told to wait as long as possible before having children. I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t wait—there are so many important factors that go into family planning—but I want to address one of the main reasons that scares so many of us young people away from making more young people– freedom.
You see, we are told that babies steal our freedom. And I am here to assure you that they do. They come into your trendy, fast young adult world and throw everything out of whack. Your finances. Your sleep. Your back. They confuse your social life and, especially if you have them young, they make you feel as though suddenly you don’t fit in anymore. You want to make time for everyone and everything but often you don’t even have time to use the bathroom. You’re nervous about everything and sure about nothing. You dread the sound of that cry at 2am and you feel terrible for dreading it. You adore this strange little creature with all your heart but you can’t change the fact that he’s a strange little creature and kind of a total mystery and kind of a total tyrant. You worry he won’t wake up in the morning so you put your hand on his chest to feel him breathe, and then you wonder how you’ll ever let him drive. And amidst all this you wonder when and how in the world you became a grown up and if you really are. You feel like a child taking care of a child. Your responsibilities and concerns have skyrocketed in a way you couldn’t have imagined and you feel unprepared. You wonder at the days when you felt more “carefree,” at your peers who seem more carefree, and in your tiredest moments, you wish you could somehow have it both ways– the sweet baby, and your freedom.
But then one day, you wake up. One day you wake up in the middle of the night and you rock him through his crying and his crying doesn’t make you feel quite so crazy-sometimes it even seems like singing. And you’d keep rocking him all night it he needed you too. You forgot where your phone was so you don’t know what time it is and you don’t really care anymore. The things that used to freak/gross you out are now funny/interesting. Watching him learn to crawl and playing peek-a-boo suddenly matter so much more than that text message or that grocery list. You decide to have a family movie night at 4am because it’s not worth trying to convince the baby that it’s not 4pm, and it’s more fun to all stay up together.
Suddenly you wake up and you feel like you can take on the world. You make family plans. You play more—you—not just your baby—you play. You don’t feel so constrained by everything. You choose the adventure and the fun over the practical. Messes can always be cleaned up and emails can be answered later. You don’t have time to spend worrying about whether your young life is glamorous enough– and you don’t much care anymore. Suddenly, you wake up and you feel—free.
Not just “still free.” Not just “oh okay he didn’t change everything.” No. He certainly did change everything. He took everything and scrambled it up and (literally) spit it up in your face. But amazingly, in doing so, he made it all make so much more sense. See, babies take all your freedoms. All of them. And then they give you one back. One big fat one—the one you needed the most.
Babies free you from yourself.
Now you can resist that. You can harbor bitterness and cling to that which they are trying to free you from. You can cling to being caught up in yourself. You can cling desperately to the fleeting and measly ideal of being carefree (isn’t the essence of humanity to have cares?) And we all resist it to some degree. Nobody said any of this was easy. Being a parent– being a human being– is hard. But if you at least try to surrender, babies will teach you how to let go of a whole host of things—vanity, body image issues, fear, insecurity, anxiety—if you let them, babies have the ability to unlock all the closed places of your heart—they can open you up and allow you to see things you never saw before—if you accept babies in all their messy and inconvenient babyhood and personhood you will find that life becomes so much more rich and full and beautiful. But more importantly, you may find that, more than ever, now you’re really living it.