In an excellent and provocative post entitled, “Wondering if you should have children or not?” Emily Willingham attempts to help prospective parents — primarily prospective mothers — answer that question by asking them a question in return.
I’ll summarize what I think is the thrust of her post: While the chances are your child will be fine, a not insignificant number of parents will have a child with a lifelong disability, and there is no way you can control that. If you’re not ready to commit every last bit of energy and time to that endeavor on the off-chance that this will be your future, don’t have children.
In her words: “Parents are an accident or a developmental milestone or a virus away from having their lives change in ways no one can predict.” She continues, “It’s not a question of ‘If I become a parent, will I still be able to work?’ It’s a question of, ‘If I become a parent, am I prepared to be nothing but a parent all day, every day, if a sudden change, infinitely unpredictable, requires it?'”
Blunt, uncompromising, perhaps unpleasant, but true.
I don’t know how I would have answered her question before becoming a parent. I think I knew it would be hard, largely because of my own experiences growing up (e.g., losing two brothers, etc.). All I know is that now that I’m in this life — like most parents in the same situation — I’m doing my level best.
That said, the fact is that the majority of this burden falls to my wife. I try to be the best, most engaged father I can. And still…her shoulders carry more of this weight.