by Mary-Susan Danker-Dake
One Saturday in May, three good friends from college, my sister, and I were catching up at Tavern on the Green in New York’s Central Park, reminiscing about the good old days.
At one point, the topic of children came up. One of my friends mentioned how children can be so demanding and annoying and how glad she was that she didn’t have any. My sister and I were the only two in the group with children, and the three without kids all shared the sentiment. We talked further, and my sister and I shared what everyone with kids shares when these sorts of conversations come up—“Yes, kids can be annoying, but they are well worth it”—and then we moved onto to other things.
However, on the flight back to Tulsa, I thought about the conversation a great deal. Yes, my friends had a point: children really are demanding. Being a parent is a 24/7 commitment. And as much as I hate to admit it, children can be annoying. My generally sweet-tempered children can be disobedient, can throw some loud and obnoxious tantrums, and can make me shake with rage. But I can’t imagine my life without them. My kids are the greatest blessing I have.
But how could I articulate this dichotomy to not-yet-parents, that annoying as they can be, having children, being a parent, is a privilege and a high calling, something to be anticipated with joy?
Here are some real ways I changed for the better after my babies arrived on the scene.
My children have taught me that love grows exponentially. You would think that after working so hard to love and provide for the kids that there wouldn’t be any room left in your heart for anyone else. It’s not true. I learned that when you love—true, sacrificial love—your heart grows, and with it, your capacity to love and to appreciate. I am a more gracious coworker, a more patient teacher, and a more empathetic friend because I am keenly aware that each adult today was once a small child who was probably deeply loved by a mother. As a mother, I can’t bear the thought of someone being unkind or rough to either of my children. Everyone is someone’s baby! That realization has made me a softer, kinder person.
My children have made me efficient. When children come into your life, everything changes. There’s a lot more to get done in the same amount of time, and there’s a lot more stuff in the same amount of space as before. This brings into sharp focus the things that are really important and the things that are not (of course, this will be different for everyone since we all have different priorities). This realization made me pursue a different career path—and I love what I’m doing now. It has also made me reconsider the way we run our home and the commitments we keep outside the house. For instance, since we have to be mindful of storage space, I only buy things for the kitchen that I truly love and get a lot of use out of. And since we really value spending time and experiencing life together as a family, instead of enrolling the kids in swim lessons, we decided to get a family membership to a pool and teach the kids to swim ourselves. Post-children, I have learned simplicity, efficiency, and focus out of necessity, and I am a better wife, friend, and employee because of it.
My children have taught me to trust God. When you become a parent, you worry about what the world will be like in 50 or 75 years. What will it be like for the children? Will there be a major war? Will we run out of water? Will there be any good men or women in the world for my kids to marry? Will we all be speaking Spanish by then, or Chinese? And on and on it goes. We don’t know, and we have no control over any of these things. What I can do today is to pray for my children, to bring them up and guide them in the truth of God’s word. And prayer and the Word of God are the best tools I have today to fight my fears about the future.
Having a child is nothing short of life-transformational. Children bring to light the rough places of our personhood and force us to grow and become better people. I am immensely grateful to have been entrusted with my two children, and my heart is completely full because of them. To my dear friends in Central Park, I hope that if parenthood is part of God’s plan for your life, you will embrace it wholeheartedly and appreciate every single fun, annoying, demanding moment of it.
How have children changed you for the better? Share it with us in the comments.
Mary-Susan has been married for 10 years and has two adorable children, Sophia and Paul. She is an accountant and works for a large energy company in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She has lived on three continents, loves travelling, reading, hosting parties and is frighteningly passionate about all things Pioneer Woman.