Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I love being a parent! Right?

I fly on airplanes just about every week, and if I forget a book or a DVD I want to watch I often end up buying magazines to read. I love Scientific American- (a dream role one day would be a scientist who gets to wear fantastic clothes and lives in Hawaii)- and so I picked up an issue a month or two ago and read a depressing article about parenting.

The gist was, that parents sort of falsely inflate how wonderful it is to be a parent. If I’m remembering it, the more parents were informed of the financial toll of raising a child to the age of 18, the more they expressed the emotional satisfaction they got from being a parent. It was implied that in our current culture, where children really provide no real economic help to their parents as they had generations ago, there is really no benefit to having kids at all except for whatever emotional satisfaction loving your kids brings. And that parents don’t really have the huge emotional rewards they claim. Until they are confronted with the massive bill. Then comes all the professing of what a joy it is to be a mom or dad in an attempt to make yourself feel better about the huge amount of money sucked from your bank account annually by those kids.

As I read the article I also started to panic… what am I doing? Yikes!Was having a child just total financial suicide and I don’t even really like it? I suppose I am very persuaded by things I read, but immediately upon sliding the magazine into my seat back pocket and looking out the window into the fluffy clouds, I knew this article was kind of crazy. As a baby cried in the seat behind me, (as a former frequent-with-baby flier I am now immune to being bothered by infants crying on planes) I thought the whole article was nuts- who designed that study anyways?

I have to admit your 20’s are hard. Mine were crazy and fun and lonely and exciting, and I have some really unique adventures and people and places in my memories that are just so delightful to me that that was my life. I had probably way more freedom than most people being a mostly waiting around for work actress. Most of my days were entirely my own, to do what I pleased when I wanted in fun cities like New York or Los Angeles, and I think I had the mentality of a 24 year old until I was at least 30. Seems ideal? It was hard.Floating around with a desire for purpose, with jobs that came and finished and gave me purpose and challenges, in spurts- but striving for more of it, and striving is exhausting too, it’s draining and confusing and I questioned how fickle, mentally abusive, and bizarre my career was and if I was really cut out for a life this…. hard.

And then my 30’s just seem so much more full of joy, even though I have so much less of the things I thought people wanted. Especially as a woman. Less freedom, less smooth skin, less impromptu travel, less ability to be “up and coming”, less attention at a party, less tolerance for public transportation, ... less time. I spent time in my 20’s panicking that one day I would be in my 30’s. I was that person. And now that I am here, and now that I have found my family, I can honestly say being a mom is hands down the most rewarding, satisfying thing I could have ever imagined out of life. I often joke with my manager about the kinds of directors I want to work with, or roles I’d like and I say things like “I’d work for free!” (Downton Abbey?) or even the ridiculous “I’d pay them!” (um...maybe not quite) but the reality is, that’s what being Akiva’s mom is. It’s a role where I guess I’m paying them* to do it because I love it so much.

So honestly, I am so gooey doe-y eyed in love with my son I really think Scientific American is overlooking some key parent bonding psychological studies that must be out there... It’s a feeling so pure and awesome that if I knew it existed and never became a mother, it would have been the greatest regret of my life not to experience it. I am so proud of myself for taking on the challenges of parenting and improving in the ways I want to improve…and so blown away by watching the miracle unfold of a person creating himself. I really love this job.

I do think most parents really and truly feel this way. I think nature designed us to get an intense satisfaction from parenting, and it’s not some psychological trick we play on ourselves. What do you think? You think maybe this post is a reaction to reading about how much college tuition is going to be in 2026?

*right now thats any company that manufactures toy trains or books about trains


  1. Annie, I love this post, and I love your refreshing perspective, and I send you, and all of you lots of hugs and love.

  2. It's nice to see you back here and on twitter! We've missed you very much.

    A fan from Brazil.

  3. I left the acting profession for the reasons you described. I think the 20s are hard for most people (while fun & exciting), but the uncertainty of what's next?; and what kind of impact am I really having on the world?; and where is my next paycheck coming from? really make it 10x more difficult for artists. As I have just entered my 30s, 5 years after switching careers to become a health professional, I am so much more solid in who I am and what I have to offer. I can't wait to be a parent - just being an aunt, I see the rewards and joys children bring. I think that study and article you read sound ridiculous! Thank you for such a thoughtful and thought-provoking post!

  4. Very nice post. I feel the same way about my (23 year old) son...

  5. Thanks! OK so I'm not alone. hhfusion- yes, I was actually so fascinated by pregnancy that I had fantasies that in my next life I'll be an obstetrician. Bravo on your career change bringing you happiness! I am excited for you to experience parenthood one day.

  6. At 41 I'm not a parent, I always wanted to be but alas I feel like children deserve much more attention than I could give right now and I would not want to put only half of me in it. I'd want to be in it all the way!

    I don't know anyone, at least in my circle who doesn't think that being a parent is just the best thing ever even despite the rough times. They love it because it seems to bring out the best in themselves and they have the ability to pass on all the good things they are and they have learned to another human being.

    Think about it, how often do you have the ability to actually have so much influence over another life and how it turns out? Everything your kids accomplish in life, everything they are will always trace back to you and Matt and how you raised them. It is my opinion that being a parent is the hardest job in the world, the most important and the most rewarding. :) XO

  7. When I found out that I was pregnant I was 24, 2 months shy of graduating college and single. I think that there was so much emotional turmoil in my life at that point that the "joy of parenting" was lost on me. Not that I wasn't already in love with my baby, but I was soooooo stressed out about the cost, and I didn't have a job and who would hire a pregnant gal and there goes my career as a fabulous, globe trotting photo journalist and oh my gosh i have to move back in with my parents, and the absolute HEARTBREAK of knowing that his father didn't want us.

    I had a really great pregnancy and I loved reading all the books about babies and toddlers, but when they put him in my arms at the hospital I felt almost disconnected to him. Then there was nothing but trouble trying to breastfeed and so I felt even more disconnected like he knew that I was a mess and even my food sucked! I think that I definitely "falsely inflated" the experience of being a parent for the plain fact that I felt like a complete failure and I carried terrible guilt that, although I loved my son I didn't have that gooey doe-y eyed feeling, but I didn't want anyone else to know that! So I "faked" it because I thought I was supposed to.

    It's years later now, and looking back I probably had all the signs of PPD, but it never occurred to me while I was living in the hurricane.

    My son is almost 7 now, and I truly cannot even imagine a day without hearing his dorky laugh and terrible made up jokes. They're the highlight of my day. He truly is the most amazing little boy. I actually catch myself being one of "those" moms who is forever talking about how amazing and gifted their kid is (not that he's not, but seriously I get into Kathie Lee Gifford mode!).

    I guess it just took a little longer for me to get to that particular gooey feeling for my son, but it's definitely there and it's not going anywhere :-)

  8. i was just thinking about how hard it would be if i didn't enjoy the time i have with my son, who's about 15 months now. he's in part time day care, and his father and i both work low-wage, part time jobs (my parents are subsidizing the day care so i can finish my degree and get a less sucky job).

    the thing is, i can see how in a way it really IS all about money because it's all about time and attention, and when you don't have enough money, you don't have enough of either of those things, either. you need space to enjoy your child, space in your mind. you need to have a little awake and alone time, and a few cups of coffee by yourself or with a friend. with those things in hand, and the security of medical insurance and housing and food, it's a lot easier for things to be fine--and to be in love with your child.

    don't get me wrong, i'm goo-ey over my kid even though i have less cash (and more debt) than ever in my life. but if we had even less? or didn't have my parents? some of that incredible concern would definitely leak into my ability to be present for that love. i'm not above coveting material or experiential stuff we probably won't have now--travel, nice things--but if it wasn't balanced with the comfort our somewhat relaxed schedules provide, i wouldn't be able to dismiss that coveting. and those schedules are only possible because of a grand-parental subsidy, so . . . i wish money didn't have a relationship with my relationship with my kid, but in a place with so little social safety net, it definitely does. i'm glad we're on the right side of it, for now.