Your life is over when you have kids

I remember when we told people that my wife was pregnant with twins.twins

There were plenty of handshakes, hugs, and congratulations. But I also heard this line quite a bit:

“Oh man, your life is over!”

A common refrain, and one which all parents have heard expressed, in some variation or another, many times.

Of course it’s usually said with a smile and a laugh, but there’s a message beneath the surface.

Your life is over when you have kids.

I’ve been thinking about that statement a lot these past few days. Anyone who follows me on Facebook (find me here, by the way) has been treated (subjected) to the stories of our trials and tribulations as we have attempted to move from Kentucky to Maryland with our two kids, two cats (unfortunately), all of our belongings, and all during the holidays, in between family reunions, baptisms, and weddings.

Despite a serious flood in the living room from a cracked pipe, this week we finally thought we could settle down, put the finishing touches on the house, and carve out a new routine in our new home.

But the twins made other arrangements.

Luke came down with a bad stomach virus. He’s spent the last few days expelling fluids from various orifices, usually all over my wife or myself. Meanwhile, Julia developed a respiratory infection, which she kindly shared with poor, sickly Luke.

When it pukes, it pours — especially if you have small children in the house.

We took them to the doctor, despite the fact that I am newly self employed, and getting insurance on the individual market is now virtually impossible, thanks to the compassionate Mr. Obama and his wonderful “healthcare for everyone.” We’ve decided to go with a Christian sharing plan, but, naturally, the kids became ill before we could finalize our new insurance coverage.

It was an adventure in and of itself finding a place to take the kids. When we did, the doctor informed us that there’s nothing she can really do. These things will have to just run their course. That’ll be 400 dollars. Have a nice day!

Oh, but we did find out about Julia’s ear infection, so the trip wasn’t a total bust! (Hooray?)

priceless life, hands, babyI went to put Luke down to bed after we made it home from our productive trip to the doctor’s office. I feel sorry for the little guy. He’s in rough shape, and it’s not like he understands what’s going on, why he feels this way, or why that doctor was shoving things into his mouth and ears. I leaned over to kiss him on the forehead as I placed him in his crib. It was a sweet moment. Right up until he coughed phlegm right on my face. It even went up my nose. UP MY NOSE. I’ve never had somebody else’s mucus inside my nostrils, and I wish to God that particular streak was never broken.

That night, the kids woke themselves up coughing every 45 minutes. I think I slept at some point, but I’m not sure. Today, I sat down in my office intending to write a post about the Chris Christie scandal, but I was too tired to put my thoughts together. I started to send some emails instead, and I fell asleep mid-type. I was having those weird awake-dreams you have when you’re sleep deprived. I think Bill Paxton showed up in one of them, or maybe Twister was on TV.

In any case, if we’re swapping parenting horror stories, I’m sure many of you could easily outdo this little tale of sickness, exhaustion, and Bill Paxton. It’s run-of-the-mill. Totally unremarkable.

And so is this revelation:

Your life is over when you have kids.

It’s true. They were right. It’s over.

My life is over now that I have kids.

My life is over.

That thing that I called MY life. That portion of existence — that long, lonely chapter — when I lived for me, and me alone. That delusion known as my life, where I exerted, or thought I exerted, ownership over my whole self. Where I separated my life from all other lives, and lived to satisfy my whims and desires.

That’s over. That’s all over.

It’s not automatic, of course. I’m a fool, so I thought there would be a sudden transformation from Selfish Matt to Generous, Selfless Matt. I thought the moment my kids emerged from my wife’s body, I’d instantly morph into a mystical creature known as “Dad,” and my old habits and old self-obsessions would magically evaporate. I thought that the first time our kids woke us up crying in the middle of the night, I’d leap out of bed with a smile, prance over to them, and sing a song of comfort and reassurance. “Everything is OK children: Dad is here! I shall tend to your needs with happiness in my heart and joy radiating from my inner being!”

But the kids cried that first night after they were born. And I was tired, frustrated, and irritated that first night after they were born. And then I felt guilty for being tired, frustrated, and irritated. I don’t think I pranced or sang at all, in fact.

So I’m learning this lesson. I’m learning it slowly. There’s no other way to do it. I don’t get to cut to a whimsical montage full of slapstick parental mishaps, ending with a pithy slogan where I say what I’ve learned, and then we all live happily ever after. It doesn’t work that way. I’ve got to earn it, one sleepless, vomit-soaked night at a time.

I’m not living for me anymore. I never should have lived just for me, but now I can’t. Either I become less selfish, or I fail in my duty as a parent. There is no middle ground.

Maybe it could be said that parenting requires you to be the sort of person you always should have been. After all, my life was never really my life, anyway. I never owned it. It never belonged to me. There are only two things you can do to proclaim final ownership of yourself: commit suicide, or go to hell. That’s the horrifying irony of hell: countless souls, tormented in the Nothingness, shouting “MINE” into the abyss, forever.

Parenting is the precise opposite of both decisions. Parenting requires you to live, and to live for something greater than yourself. In fact, it requires you to redefine and repurpose your concept of self.

Surely, that doesn’t mean that I have no identity, or that I shouldn’t take time to unwind, or that I shouldn’t be sure to step away from the kids sometimes and take my wife out on a date. I learned the importance of these things from my parents. Mom and Dad were, and still are, famous for their rigorous adherence to date night. It could have been flooding during a hurricane during an asteroid strike during a zombie attack during an alien invasion — if it happened on a Friday, you better believe that Mom and Dad were still going out to Bertucci’s and coming home with a movie to watch together. They put each other first, and then the kids. One day, during my teenage years, when I was trying to play my Mom against my Dad to get something that I wanted, or to get out of some trouble I was in, my Mom finally even told me as much: “Matt, you’ll never get me to turn against your dad. He’s my first priority. Not you.”

That was a tough pill to swallow, but my parents were willing to give out the harsh medicine when the situation called for it.

So I get it. My kids aren’t my life. But I’m not my life, either. I was at one time, or I thought I was, but not anymore. And their lives are eternally tied to mine, and mine to their, and every decision that I make will have an impact on them, for better or for worse. This is a responsibility that I must always keep in mind, all of the time, no matter what.

It’s not my life. It’s hers, it’s his, it’s theirs, it’s ours. Ultimately, it’s His, and He has given it to them. So my life — MY life — is over.

This is true. This is beautiful. This is why parenting is a high calling.

birthparentsAnd this is exactly why our society hates children.

No matter what anyone else says, THIS is why we’re experiencing historically low birth rates. It’s got nothing to do with an economic crisis, and everything to do with a selfishness crisis. This is why we dehumanize children, kill them, exterminate them. This is why we have less of them, and why we call birth control a “preventative medication.” It’s why couples who choose (note: I said CHOOSE) not to have kids will often refer to themselves as “child-free” — much like a recovering patient might call himself cancer-free.

We run around putting “my” in front of things that cannot be ours. It’s MY time, MY life, MY body. And then we conceive a child and we simply can not let go of the “MY.” Barney and Mr. Rogers failed in their mission to teach us about sharing. We kill a million babies a year just because we don’t want to share.

These are the truths I’m still learning, and still sometimes struggling to accept. It’s a long process. My kids are just starting to learn how to crawl. I guess you could say the same about me.

Editor’s Note: This article was first printed on The Matt Walsh blog on January 10, 2014, and is reprinted with permission.

  • MamaBear

    Beautiful article. You are so right that we have a selfishness crisis in our country, in our world today. I agree that is what is behind all the anti-children sentiment today.
    The very same selfishness crisis is behind the push for euthanasia and assisted suicide. We have no time for our elderly, our disabled, either.
    Hang in there Matt. There can be some rough times, but there can be some unspeakably wonderful times, too. They grow up all too fast. 20 years from now you will wonder how the time passed so fast.
    By the way, grandbabies are the best. You can spoil them, love them, enjoy them, then turn them over to their parents for all the dirty work. Just, nobody has figured out how to have grandbabies without having kids first.

    • Banner

      I don’t understand why people say it’s selfish to not have children. I have chronic medical problems. So it’s selfish to not want to pass those on and watch my own flesh and blood suffer? And it’s selfish to not want to be a mother who can’t give her children the time and attention they require because some days she can hardly care for herself? Is it also selfish to not have children because I’m concerned about the environment? Is my choice to not have my own children so that YOUR children will have a better planet selfish? Or how about the fact that I’m just not interested in having children of my own? From your perspective, I should have children and completely disregard the fact that I don’t WANT them and therefore probably won’t be a very good parent. I think your view of selfishness is very narrow and skewed.

      As for euthanasia, again, your idea of selfishness makes no sense. You’re trying to say that keeping a person alive because and extending their suffering because YOU are not emotionally ready to let them go is not selfish but euthanizing them to minimize their suffering IS selfish? That makes no sense. Euthanasia has NOTHING to do with not having time for these people and EVERYTHING to do with humanity, love, and mercy.

      • MamaBear

        If you have chronic medical problems that would interfere with raising children, then I think you are smart enough to know we are not talking about people like you not having children. As to the environment, most of Europe and North America are barely at replacement birthrate levels. If we want to societies which have the scientific expertise to fix our environmental problems to continue, those societies need to be at least at replacement level.
        Now to euthanasia. I shall assume you are well-meaning, but ignorant. There is something called palliative care. Doctors who specialize in diseases which can be terminal, are very good at providing it. More research needs to be done to improve more, but it is not what our grandparents went through. Myself, and the other stage 4 cancer patients I know have all had the discussion with our oncologists about what happens when nothing else works. Each of us has been assured we will be kept comfortable at that point.
        I have talked with a number of people about this subject. I have found reasonable people, who when they are made aware of end-of-life palliative care, switch to saying that it the better way to go. I have found many who switch from talking about “mercy” for the patient, to arguments of inconvenience and cost to the family. Euthanasia is NOT about minimizing suffering. It is about removing the inconvenience of caring for a dying person and cutting the costs of their care.
        Over and over I hear people say men should not have a voice in abortion because they don’t have a uterus. Well, I am going to use their same logic. If you don’t have a terminal illness, you should not have a voice in euthanasia!

        • Banner

          The fact that we aren’t at replacement level birthrates is not a bad thing. There’s a good argument for the fact that overpopulation is an issue. To fight that, we need to be below replacement levels. Yes, societies will have to adjust but there’s more to the world than just humans. If we keep breeding and increasing numbers, there won’t be a world left for everyone.

          Actually I do have quite a bit of experience from working in a hospice for years. Your experience is with one particular case. I’ve seen hundreds. But go ahead and assume what you like. You know what they say about assuming…

          Saying that people who don’t have a terminal illness should not have a voice in euthanasia is ridiculous, as is the idea that men shouldn’t have an opinion on abortion. How closed minded. No one should have an opinion or input on anything they don’t have direct experience with? That’s completely nonsensical.

  • Basset_Hound

    I found Matt Walsh when Mark Davis, a local talk show host read his blog piece to his son “Don’t Let Robin Thicke be a Lesson to You”. I’ve been a fan of his since.

  • MarcusFenix

    Been following Matt for a while…glad he is here too!

  • Guest14

    I call myself childfree because childless has negative connotations. It indicates a lack of something desired. I have never wanted children and that may never change. It’s that simple. I’m wired that way. There’s nothing you can do about it.

    Check your facts and don’t put words in my mouth. Lumping me in with people who murder children is quite insulting considering that most children are abused and killed by their parents and relatives. Also, look at polls that ask why people have children. Most of them have as one of the highest reasons “having someone to take care of me later on”. How is that not selfish?

    The childfree I know of don’t go around beating their drum about being holier-than-thou. In fact, most of us spend a lot of time investing in our partners and volunteering our time. (As well as covering for you folks who go on repeated maternity leaves, subsist on government assistance, or miss work because Little Tim is sick or has a soccer game.)

    Bottom line is, maybe you should stop wasting your time worrying about those of us who are choosing not to reproduce and work on teaching your kids to be kind, non-judgmental, respectful productive members of society. That’s going to be worth a lot more down the road–and will be a TRUE service to humanity–than putting down a demographic who will in no way be affected by your accusations of selfishness.

    • LittleKnives

      Exactly. I am CHILDFREE… Free of the burden that is children. I am not childLESS in the sense that I am lacking children that I desperately want. In fact, I am super fertile and am having to use several methods to prevent pregnancy… I find this is the case with a few other childfree people I’ve talked to as well! Man I wish I was born sterile, lol!

  • LittleKnives

    I’m childfree. I don’t care if people want to have kids… the only time it bothers me is when people make excuses to miss work because of things going on with their children that are non-emergencies. You chose to have children. You also chose to work. You need to be 100% dedicated to both, otherwise, go get a part time job where the schedule is flexible so I’m not forced to pick up your slack because of your life decisions. The moment your life choices impede on my life, we have an issue. I’m also tired of people thinking that because we don’t have children, that we are always available/interested in either overtime at work, or baby sitting. People also assume that because I’m a woman, that I would love to babysit their children, and when I tell them “no thanks, I don’t like kids” they get personally offended. Sorry to all the parents out there, but no one cares about you or your snot nosed kid! I am totally at peace admitting that I am selfish, I want my husband all to myself for as much time as realistically possible. I don’t want to share him with anyone besides the family he already has. I don’t plan on having my body expand and my vagina explode to make anyone else happy, because I know it sure wouldn’t make ME happy! I’m glad you like being a parent. More people who have children need to be happy about it. HOWEVER, don’t say that there’s something wrong with us childfree folks just because you happen to disagree with us. The fact that you have a problem with it is just that… a personal problem, not our problem. Lastly, why don’t you quit wasting your time writing about childfree people and go spend some time with your kids?? Sounds like someone is having second thoughts/regrets about becoming a parent when they have little ones and go one to write something like this and they are just trying to convince themselves.