No regrets: Why you should have children as soon as you can
Must have been sometime in 2003. I was sitting in my GP’s waiting room, crying my eyes out. She ushered me in. What on earth was the matter?
“Julia Roberts is infertile,” I sobbed.
I was just coming to the end of my reproductive life and a passionate, devoted, engaged mother of three. The idea that, according to some magazine in the surgery, the most beautiful woman in the world, the most powerful actor, couldn’t have kids was devastating to me. I wanted – still want – everyone who wants children to have them.
I tell the Julia Roberts story a lot because one, it’s true; two, because it shows how those menopausal hormones send you crazy; and three, because my children are the absolute blessing of my life. Also, four, do not believe everything you read in a women’s mag. Roberts has three children now.
There has never been a time (of more than five minutes in length) where I resented having children. So I am writing now as an antidote to one of the saddest stories I have ever read in these pages. You know, the one last week about parents who regret having children. It was tragic. The parents who feel like their old lives stopped when they had kids. “I used to see bands, go to the theatre, read books, travel and visit bars. I used to have conversations about art, politics and music; now it’s all about schools, lawns and swimming classes. I’m lucky if I get a couple of hours a week to myself.”
I read that story and wept, devastated for the children, furious at the man himself and sad for all the women and men who want nothing more than to have those babies and can’t. Also Mr Bands and Books guy is a selfish jerk, I thought. He can wait for those bands, books and bars and wait to put himself first again. Children don’t need hands-on forever. My children would argue that hands-on didn’t end soon enough. Children do you more good than you do them. They are both a fast and slow lesson in generosity and invention.
I was born to want a whole family. All four grandparents murdered in the Holocaust, parents strangers in the very strangest land and with no support, no connections. They believed so much in family and love and company and dinner tables despite working long days. I wouldn’t say they were the best of parents but so what, that makes all of us. When I met my husband and discovered he had six siblings, I thought, I’m going to have me some of that. (He has many attractive qualities but his place in a big family was certainly one of them. Also, he made it crystal clear we were definitely not having seven children.)
When I see my kids, all in their thirties now, I still feel the little fillip of maternal joy, the same pierce you get in your heart when you hold your baby for the first time. They come to dinner on Sundays and I get excited about seeing them (also grumpy when they’re late). Hearing about their lives and loves, their work, their opinions, how they navigate the world, is like several teaspoons of joy, one by one. Yes, you spend the first few months of your child’s life marvelling at the fact that sex makes babies. But after 30 years, what really brings amazement is that these tiny squidges have survived and thrived (so far, fingers crossed, I am nothing if not superstitious). That they are capable. Also, they look like their very gorgeous father. Same inquiring gaze. Same luscious hair.