Define important

I keep seeing posts from the childfree crowd. Those who don’t have kids, don’t want kids, and are kind of proud of themselves for feeling that way. They are doing something important with their lives, they say. Whereas I am cleaning snot off my children’s noses with my shirtsleeves.

Let’s get something straight here. I may not be changing the world, but I wouldn’t be anyway. I did not give up a huge, important job to raise kids. I have a career so I can afford to care for my children. That’s the whole purpose of my career. I set this wheel in motion 20 years ago, when I selected a major that allowed me to pursue a career that is compatible with motherhood. I was unaware of the path I’d follow on my way here (and I certainly didn’t realize it was going to be such a long one!), but I ended up exactly where I always intended to go.

I am no less dedicated to my chosen life than you are to your career. (Or your hobbies, your travel, whatever you’ve deemed so important that you can’t possibly procreate right now.) What is important to me is family. My little tribe. People to whom I am inextricably bound, forever. These children are literally a part of me. And unlike friends and lovers, who can and do pass out of one’s life, they will always be my children. Will they always like me? Maybe not. Just as they sometimes try my nerves. But we love each other no matter what. And in this age of speed dating, quickie divorces, and Facebook friends, that’s the kind of bond you can’t sneeze at. (And if you must, please use a tissue. My shirtsleeves are already kind of crusty.)

But is what you’re doing really that important? Or are you just not that excited about having children? Don’t get me wrong – there is absolutely no shame in not having children if you do not want children. I think a lot of the world’s issues would be diminished, if not eliminated, if only people who do not want children would not have children. But don’t assume that what you do is more important than what I do simply because what I do involves the bodily fluids of people with rudimentary fine motor skills and an imperfect grasp on the language.

I am a highly educated professional. I have a master’s degree plus 15 years of experience in an exceedingly technical field. I hold a full-time job, and also operate my own business. If I so chose, I could land a well-paying, prestigious job in a variety of industries. Would that make me more important, lend more credibility to the work I do? Instead of chasing the biggest paycheck, I chose to go to work for a company that allows me to telecommute so I can be on hand if my son has a bad dream or my daughter scrapes her knee. Is my work lessened because I do it in the spare bedroom while wearing yoga pants covered in sticky hand prints?

And what about motherhood is mundane or unimportant? I am growing little people here. How I raise them directly affects who they will grow up to be. How do you know I am not raising someone who will change the world? Is that “big picture” enough for you? Because it’s a pretty heavy responsibility from where I’m sitting. More important than staff meetings and productivity reports.

It doesn’t really matter to me if you value what I do or not. Nor do I care whether or not you have children. But please, stop justifying your lack of offspring by saying that what you do is more important than having kids. It is more important to you. However, if we all deemed parenthood unimportant and stopped having kids, the world as we know it would grind to a halt. Because, sticky though they may be, children are important. Without them, there is no future for the human race. And everything you’ve worked for would come to naught.

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