Parenthood Is Servanthood, Not Slavery

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

I have a confession to make. I have two children, but I never wanted to be a mother.

I married at 24 and I told my husband pretty early on that I was pretty sure I would never want children. They seemed like a hindrance to me. I had plans. Big, big plans. I had desires. I had needs. In my family, everyone, almost to a person, seemed “burdened” with the task of child-rearing. I hardly knew a single soul in my world who had planned on becoming a parent, not beyond my grandparents. And nearly everyone was divorced. Yes, even my grandparents.

I can’t remember a single time anyone in my circle became pregnant where we actually celebrated the news. I’m sure there must have been some, but I honestly can’t remember any. Every time a pregnancy was announced, there was some circumstance that would frame that pregnancy as the worst possible thing that could happen at that moment.

The adults in my life inadvertently added to the sense of parenthood being a burden by always offering me the “friendly” advice to hold off on having a family as long as possible.

Don’t get married before you’re 30.

Don’t have more than one child, so you can really enjoy your lives together. 

Make sure you don’t have kids until you are established in your career and financially stable.

Travel before you have kids. Have all your adventure before they come. It’s over once you’re a parent.

All of it added up to one message: Kids make your life harder. If you want a good life, avoid becoming a mother.

Children are little takers. They’re bloodsuckers. They bleed all your fun, joy, adventure, and prosperity. And what do they give you in return? Bills and stress.

That’s the message I grew up with, whether or not anyone meant for it to be that way.

So I wasn’t completely surprised to see this tweet come across my timeline recently. Besides the typical left-wing view of the nuclear family, I know that many people these days are raised with this underlying sense that they were somehow in the way of the happiness of the adults in their lives.

Like the dear doctor here, I only saw children as roadblocks. Why on earth would I voluntarily welcome them into my body and my life? I had so much to do.

My husband, being the kind and patient man that he is, supported my decision. I think he sensed I might change my mind, but saw no need to push me. He came from a loving nuclear family. It was naive of me to believe he wouldn’t want one of his own, but he never pushed me.

After a few years, it felt like our marriage was not the end-all, be-all of our family. I knew we were meant to be more than that, and I finally relented. I gave birth to our son almost five years after we took our vows. I have never been the same since.

Thank God.

Only a fool would try to say being a parent isn’t hard. Only a naive fool would try to say marriage is never challenging.

But slavery?

My goodness. No.

As someone who never wanted to be a mother, let me tell you what Ms.Doctor and your favorite tv shows and your favorite coastal bubble bloggers will never tell you about motherhood.

It is difficult. It is not for the weak of heart. But it is by far the most noble and meaningful thing you will ever do with your life.

Perhaps people like Patterson misconstrue the complaints of some parents as complaints about the institution of parenthood, rather than just complaints about work.

Parenting is work, and everyone hates their job from time to time. But parenting is not slavery. It is freedom.

Think of all the things you’ve ever said about the kind of person you’d rather be. Have you ever wished you were less selfish, more kind, more giving? Do you hope to be more patient? More understanding? More motivated? More creative? Less negative?

Becoming a parent leads you in that direction. It frees you from the bondage of “self” and forces you to view the world through the lens of someone else. It automatically makes you the servant instead of the served. Servanthood is not slavery, but I can understand how some who have never intentionally taken on the attitude of a servant could get them mixed up. Slavery is a trap that destroys the human spirit, but servanthood is a choice that comes with great rewards.

Parenting gives you a whole new perspective on love and sacrifice. If you want to be more sensitive, more passionate, more intuitive to the needs of others, become a parent.

Will you be tired? Yes. Will you be cranky? Yes. Will you sometimes bitch to your friends about your lack of personal space or your frustrations? Absolutely.

Will you be forever changed for the better?

Without a doubt.

I have no qualms with helping parents, especially mothers, be open and honest about the trials and tribulations of parenting. We shouldn’t feel shame for our frustrations, but it is terrifically dishonest and narrow-minded to define parenting (and marriage, a consensual action) as slavery.

I believe that attitude is the outcropping of a culture that has steadily devalued life — both in its creation and nurturing. It is an outcropping of a culture that tells us the “self” is sacred. Self-love, self-esteem, self-care…self, self, self. We are not built to worship ourselves, and when we do, it perverts our very worldview.

Parenthood is the one surefire way to get knocked out of your navel-gazing lifestyle and see the bigger picture.

That is not slavery, it is freedom.