I sat with a dear male friend last night and whilst he was keen not too - I pushed him on an area of his life that is a little tricky. He loves his other half. She love him. He doesn't want children, she does.
I took the hard arse route, as is my way and partly from a weariness of mens inability to understand that women fill in the gaps with words they want to hear. As a collective group, we need to understand if there is a gap, it's because there is nothing in it.
Women think "If I love him long enough that he will eventually come around". Most men avoid thinking on the basis that if they are not thinking about it, the whole thing will go away (even if he knows it won't).
So as hard arse militant female, I point out (and no, he didn't ask me to) that if he doesn't want to have children then he needs to end the relationship and allow her the chance to find someone that does want children. Hard to do when you love someone, but in the end it will be a relationship filled with resentment or with children that weren't really wanted. I have vivid recollections of the night 'It' shared that he had never wanted the twins, but thought it might make our marriage better. Since it ended in divorce, I guess he was right.
It became clear that the real crux of the matter was dear male chum did not know if he wanted children and there were perhaps some deep routed reasons for his reluctance. And that's the crux, he was looking for answers to questions most of us don't ask until it's too late.
So to the male friend that doesn't know if he wants children - it's a healthy start. Maybe you do, maybe you don't, but there are no answers to anything, certainly no guarantees. You may hate parenthood, you may love it. It is hard, heartbreaking and tiring with periods of mirth scattered amongst many years of tiresome slog. It's not about you, it's about them and they will serve no real purpose in the short term.
As one famous for voicing thoughts, I have spent several years of my life loading washing machines, finding cereal bowls under wall hung loos and picking cornflakes out of my underwear drawer and asking myself 'What exactly is the benefit of having children? and never really coming up with a conclusive answer.
So tonight I revisit a website forum from the early days of being a mother of multiples, and discover that the 10 year old son of one of the regular posters has just lost his fight for life. Then I finally understood the day to day purpose in having children. The benefit is intangible, it is unseen. It is the kind of love that you do not know how deep it runs until you have something go terribly wrong or if you have the most painful experience in life of losing a child.
Having children is a pre-programmed need to keep the human race going, little more. For those that think that they bring some sense of meaning to your life, prepare to be disappointed because on a day to day level - they can make your life pretty meaningless. You need to be looking at the wider picture. Look not at what you seek to gain but at what you will gain from giving.
Children will drive you insane, they will leave you exhausted, frustrated and feeling like a total failure. Yet they can only do this if you were hoping to gain something from having them. An unwise expectation.
Yet if there was one role that children have that they do well - it is that they make you less selfish. Parenting is about giving and those that fail to do so, fail to gain anything from the experience of having children.
Children are parasites by nature, they take everything from you in order to survive. Once they have mastered the art of feeding themselves and stealing chocolate from every known stash in the house, they take your possessions and your money and once thats over, they take your sanity. Only at the point that you expect nothing from them, is when you see what you gain.
And it's this: when you learn to truly give, you gain a level of pleasure only attained when not seeking in return. If you were not loved as a child, you won't fill the gap when you are an adult - you will just spend a lifetime trying to be a better parent than yours were. When you were marginalised as a child through lack of opportunity and you push your child to achieve, don't be surprised if your child sticks two fingers in the air and refuse to gain employment in anything more than the local kitchen. When you buy your child gifts instead of time, do not raise an eyebrow that they do not want to spend Christmas with you. Their purpose is not to make you feel fabulous and validate the choice to have them, their purpose is to grow into a loved individual who carries on the human race.
And giving to that degree is what good parents do because children do not ask to be born, we choose to have them. They are not here to serve you a purpose, they are here to continue the human race and whilst we all think of ourselves as having given up so much of our lives in having them -we don't realise just how much they gave us, until they leave. Or die.
And only those that have suffered the unimaginable pain of losing a child will understand just how deep routed that love is, just how much their lives were changed as a result of that child being born and just how much they really gained from that short period.
As for my dear male friend. You would make a great Dad.