One Sunday afternoon a month or two ago, we had some friends over for lunch. They began asking us about life lately which, inevitably for me, ended at children and motherhood. Our friends are married but don't have any kids.
The wife admitted to me that the way she had heard mothers complain about their kids didn't exactly make her want to go out and get pregnant. Her comment got my wheels turning.
Then a few weeks ago I saw
circulating on Facebook. While it is humorous, it encourages couples to consider not having children in order to avoid anxiety and stress in their lives.
I'll be the first to tell you that caring for children can sometimes entail quite a bit of anxiety and stress. Motherhood is not for the squeamish.
I deal with body fluids, tantrums, midnight demands, and sickness on a very regular basis. It's just not glamorous. Motherhood is a discipline.
But somewhere in the midst of all the things you force yourself to do as a parent, this beautiful trust and camaraderie forms between you and your child. They come to realize that there is no storm you will not weather with them
. Your arms and your shoulders become their place of safety and rest. The end of the discipline is delight. I wouldn't trade a lifetime of amazing sleep for that.
All of these things have been making me think quite a bit about the aim of adulthood in our society. It seems like the current anthem of our culture is, "follow your heart," "do what you love", and "follow your arrow".
I think there's something wonderful and liberating about doing what you love, but only an affluent and relatively peaceful people have that kind of luxury.
Being an adult is not about finally being able to do exactly what you want to do all the time. Sometimes you've got to get over yourself and do the things that you need to do but don't want to do.
Your heart will not lead you to clean puke off of your child's carpet and sheets. Your arrow won't point you in the direction of toddler's out of control temper tantrum.
Living a life that avoids all discomfort will make you a shallow and immature human being.
I think part of maturity is knowing when to put aside personal ambition, pride, and even your own likes and dislikes because someone needs you. I've experienced this a great deal in motherhood because my babies are always here and always making their needs known.
I'm not saying parenthood equals maturity. Plenty of immature people ignore their children and choose to focus the bulk of their energy and passion on their careers, or their looks, or in pursuit of power or status of some kind. And I know plenty of childless folk who are very mature.
I would argue that the pinnacle of adult maturity does not lie in achieving our dreams. Our dreams, motives, and ambitions need to be critically examined because most of our deepest desires concern only ourselves.
We're good at networking: at using other people to get what we want. We're good at controlling the perceptions of those around us. We end up using each other as twisted mirrors to examine and measure ourselves.
"To the immature, other people are not real"- Harry Overstreet
We are terrible at just being interested and open to other people without giving a thought about what they are thinking about us.
Friendship is an arena where I definitely struggle to love this way. It's easier to keep people at an arms length, to share only the good, or at least just the minor and already resolved struggles (the ones that don't make me look completely insane).
I think this is one reason why I experience loneliness. Needy people are awkward and they make other people uncomfortable.
They can be seen and experienced as a burden: except by those who truly love them. This is why I find myself so often fighting to appear capable and strong, but I'm learning that keeping up appearances is what keeps me isolated.
Maybe maturity is more than just meeting needs but also being willing to identify myself as one in need: to be a comrade and a brother to all who walk the earth, standing in solidarity as a humanity riddled with weakness.