Whenever I run into someone I knew from my childhood and I tell them I have kids, some of them politely respond with, "Don't take this the wrong way, but I am kind of surprised you had kids!" Regardless of what you might think, I am not offended by that statement. Because I can see why they think that. I am the youngest of three children, so I never had any younger siblings to look after. And I only babysat once in my life when I was 14 and hated it -- and swore I would never do it again.
So with that in mind, it's not surprising that people would think that I'm not a very maternal person. Because I'm not. So, why then, did I have children? I honestly can't answer that question with anything other than, "I don't know. I just always wanted them and thought I'd have them."
The baby and toddler phases were hell on me. My oldest threw marathon tantrums until he was 5. And I'm not talking for five minutes ... I'm talking more like an hour or more. I used to think there was something wrong with him! So as you can imagine, I did have my doubts about my ability to be a good mother through those years. They were emotionally exhausting.
I remember when he was a newborn (screaming his head off constantly), I would say to myself, "Oh my gosh... how much longer do I need to do this before he goes off to kindergarten and I get a daily break?!" I know that makes me sound like a terrible mother. But you know what? I'm not a terrible mom -- I'm just an honest one. I do not know one mother who could HONESTLY say that there haven't been times when you just wanted to run away to regain your sanity.
But I'm not complaining (too much). While I can't say that I haven't enjoyed every single moment of motherhood, I can definitely say that I have not had any regrets. Sure, maybe in the moment when you feel like resorting to child abuse because your teenager is mouthing off (but you don't), but overall... no regrets.
Okay never mind. I lied. I do have a couple of regrets. The first may be a silly one, but it's still one that I have nonetheless: not taking more pictures and videos of my kids through the years. When they were babies and toddlers I was so religious about it. Those were the days before I used a digital camera -- I still had the disposable ones that had to have the film developed. And I even put them all nicely into a photo album.
Then I started using a digital camera/phone and I regressed. I don't know why. I guess because it wasn't as easy to get them developed (although it kind of is). But I still didn't.
Honestly, after they were about 3 and 5, I didn't even take any family pictures or ones of just the two of them (formally). What is wrong with me?! They are now 13 and 15, and I have virtually no family or sibling photos to document their childhood. I go to other people's houses and I see tons of family portraits everywhere documenting every moment of their children's lives.
And then there's me.
Another thing I'm will probably regret is not making them do more chores around the house. Part of the reason for that is pure laziness on my part. Sometimes it's just easier to do the vacuuming or put away the clean dishes myself than it is to yell at them constantly to do it.
I'm not proud of it. But it's the truth.
But here's where I hope that maybe, just maybe, they still won't grow up to be lazy husbands who think their wives will do all the work. I constantly tell them that if they are lazy as an adult (with a wife or even a roommate), then they're going to have serious relationship problems. Instead, I tell them they need to be a partner and look around at what needs to be done - and do it without having to be told! I see this strategy starting to work on my 13 year old, and a little on my 15 year old, too. But I do have more work to do. They're still works in progress.
I'm sure I can come up with more regrets, but those two are definitely at the top of my list. But you know what? I don't beat myself up about it. Because what good would that do? I always to try to practice self-compassion ... and so should you.