Baby, You Stole the Life I Wanted

A society built around the individual, rather than the family, will petrify into unspeakable emptiness.

By Jennifer Hartline Published on October 5, 2016

Marie Claire magazine recently published one of the saddest things I’ve ever read. It’s one of those pieces where all the names have been changed because nobody wants to admit to what they’ve just admitted: child-regret. Mothers, feeling doomed by motherhood and wishing they’d never had kids.

The article opens with Laura’s story:

“The regret hit me when the grandmas went home and my husband went back to the office and I was on my own with him,” she says. “I realized that this was my life now — and it was unbearable.” As more time passed, Laura felt convinced that she had made a life-altering mistake. “I hated, hated, hated the situation I found myself in,” she says. “I think the word for what I felt is ‘trapped.’ After I had a kid, I realized I hated being the mother to an infant, but by then it was too late. I couldn’t walk away and still live with myself, but I also couldn’t stand it. I felt like my life was basically a middle-class prison.”

According to the article, the number of mothers who feel this way is increasing:

It’s a huge taboo, admitting this kind of thing, but there’s a growing and largely ignored group of mothers all over the world who are confessing their regret over having children. Day after day, as they change diapers, drive to soccer practice, and help with college applications, they fantasize about a life unburdened by dependents and free from the needs of others. A do-over.

“What might have been” beckons loudly to these women, and they mourn the life they feel was taken from them, and all the freedom and achievement it would have held:

“I wonder if my accomplishments would be more spectacular,” says Ananya, a 38-year-old freelance writer and editor who divides her time between the United States and Singapore. “Would I have written my second or third book? Would I be able to travel to chase that elusive story? I feel motherhood has slowed me down so much. She envies friends not for their spontaneous vacations and naps, but for the time and space they have to think.

“I hold a lot of data in my head,” Ananya says of constantly keeping on top of all the details that go with small children: doctor’s appointments, weight, height, most recent allergies, toys they want, foods they will eat. “I long for a life without this mental clutter,” she explains.

It’s too easy to say, “Well, these women clearly just aren’t cut out for motherhood. Some people aren’t.” Perhaps they really feel that way; nevertheless, that’s a cop-out answer. The trouble here goes much deeper and is far more revealing. This is evidence of a culture that has shrunk into a real smallness of being. So small that there is only room for one: I.

It is an atrophy of the deepest heart. It is a caving in of our selves, into a cage of mirrors where all we can see is our sad reflection.

We do not look on children as a gift anymore. If they are not an accessory we special-ordered, then they’re a ball and chain around us. We resent their presence and their dependence. We feel we should be allowed to erase them and have a do-over. This is what the “choice” of abortion is all about, after all.

I pity these women, not for any dreams they may have set aside, or worldly accomplishments unrealized, but because they are closed off to what God has given them, and to the gift of sacrificial love. They do not welcome love in the flesh of their child, and so they are empty and resentful.

Millennials are Deferring Parenthood

On a similar note, this illuminating (if crude and immature) piece details the reasons why millennials are supposedly refusing to have kids. (If this is representative of the way millennials truly speak and think, then folks, we are in phenomenally serious trouble.) They cite finances, student loan debt, lack of good jobs, and the terrible state of the world right now among their reasons for deciding to remain childless. They also say the same thing their 40 year-old counterparts are saying: we want great careers, and we’d be lousy parents anyway.

The self-absorption is staggering. Are you thinking we should be thanking the stars above that these over-sized children don’t want to have children themselves? Perhaps. But they need to grow up soon, and the truth is, no one has shown them how or what that even means. They are completely bereft of love. They are hollowed-out little tyrants, obsessed with trying to fill themselves up, and all they can stuff into the cavity of their souls is sex, drink and drugs, and greed.

They look around and see adults like the women featured in Marie Claire, or worse, their own parents, and see a cautionary tale. And why wouldn’t they? Sex hasn’t been about babies for decades, and this is one of the rotten fruits — generations of adults (I use the term generously here) who expect to live without being burdened by dependents or the needs of others. Life now is centered around the individual, and all his or her wants and wishes.

Pounded into their brains is the lie that happiness means total control over every aspect of their lives at all times, and they should never have to suffer anything they didn’t choose. Meanwhile, Love stands on a hill and shows them another way, but it is splintered wood, spattered with blood … so who wants that?

Made for Love

Love is a cross. It always has been, and always will be. The mystery of love is that it demands death — the death of self. Myself. Yourself. Love is only about the other. And when we love, we are released from the prison of resentment and the tyranny of insatiable wants. Love is the only freedom.

A society built around the individual, rather than the family, will petrify into unspeakable emptiness.

Ponder this heartbreaking story about an elderly couple in Italy who were so hungry for company and human warmth that they literally wailed out loud in loneliness until someone heard them and called the police.

We are not made to be a collection of individuals running around chasing our own cravings. We are made for family, and for fellowship; for sacrifice and generosity; for love.

Love doesn’t come from that third book you wanted to write, or the award you wanted to win, or the partnership you sought. None of that will come visit you when you are old and lonely, or sick and dying. All the stuff you chased down and hoarded into your little box will turn to dust before your eyes, and you’ll have only the souls you loved and gave your life for … or you won’t.

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