Call me a bad mom. Judge me if you will because, yes, I can imagine life without children. I can imagine life without my four year old daughter. There I said it. Hunt me down and throw stones.
When my difficult-to-console, high-needs baby was about 8 months old, I was talking to my boss and I asked him if he and his wife had planned to have twins and then a third child shortly thereafter, or if it was totally unexpected. He said it was unexpected but that he wouldn’t have it ANY other way.
“You wouldn’t?” I asked him. I looked at him strangely. Somehow I couldn’t fathom that. He couldn’t imagine his life without three children under the age of six? Was he on drugs? He looked back at me equally as strangely knowing that my intonation had suggested that somehow I could imagine life any differently.
It was as if I had somehow turned into an alien or grown horns or divulged that I belonged to some strange cult.
“Well, I can.” I stated matter of factly. “I can very clearly and very vividly imagine my life the way it used to be and, YES, I can imagine having that back.”
Being the respectful guy that he is, he let my clearly uncaring, crazy, selfish expressions of anti-motherhood go. We would agree to disagree and would get back to work.
As the years passed, I noticed a common theme. People who had unexpectedly had children suddenly couldn’t imagine NOT EVEN FOR A SECOND their life without this wonderful, bouncing, loving, ball of joy who never cried and was the epitome of the perfect baby. I could only imagine two scenarios for this clearly delusional state: one, they were so sleep deprived they didn’t know what they were talking about or, two, their husbands were doing all of the nighttime parenting and they were eating bonbons and watching soap operas while their babies were at daycare.
Because I could image my life FOR WHOLE MINUTES AT A TIME without my baby. If I allowed myself to, I could imagine my pre-baby life very vividly. I remember watching reality television for long periods of time, sometimes nightly, uninterrupted. I remember going to the refrigerator and pulling out food and making myself a nice meal that I could eat on the couch, uninterrupted. I could imagine, very clearly, those wonderful evenings when I would call up a friend last minute and we would go dancing. I would get home late, have a snack, and go to bed. If I tried, even for a second, I could remember the blissful full night’s sleep that I had, in my own bed (without an infant peeing and pooping and throwing up on my clean sheets), and how I slept through the night without waking up, not even once. Oh, to have those days back again.
But it doesn’t stop there. I could also remember, if I gave myself permission to do so, the lovely runs that I would take with my dog for the three mile loop by my house – without having to arrange for a sitter and without the guilt of leaving my screaming child behind – or the bike rides that I would take on that same path, my hair blowing in the wind, my mind free, my body happy. If left unattended, I would even being to imagine my previous life as better than it actually was.
Do I love my baby? Of course. Would I ever let any harm come to her? Of course not. I’d throw myself in front of a moving anything to prevent a hair on her head from being hurt. I’d given my life to her for the past three years, after all. I’d given up my sleep, some of my health, the majority of my free time, and quite a bit of the best parts of the food on my plate (that’s always been a tough one). But I have done so willingly. I love my child more than anything on this planet.
Yet, there is still the question that is raised when these parents say, “Oh, but I wouldn’t have it ANY other WAY….So then I ask myself, “Would I?” “Would I do it differently if I were given the option?” Would I go back in time and undo what had been done? Would I trade in this beautiful amazing, smart, creative, and extremely entertaining little bundle of joy who holds me as the most important being on the planet and vice versa?
When asked this question by myself or anyone else, I always pause. Because I CAN imagine the life I used to have. I can imagine the freedom and the joy and the lack of responsibility and the way that life was all about me. And honestly, it wasn’t that bad.