Your life is over when you have kids

I remember when we told people that my wife was pregnant with twins.

There were plenty of handshakes, hugs, and congratulations. But I also heard this line quite a bit:

“Oh man, your life is over!”

A common refrain, and one which all parents have heard expressed, in some variation or another, many times.

Of course it’s usually said with a smile and a laugh, but there’s a message beneath the surface.

Your life is over when you have kids.

I’ve been thinking about that statement a lot these past few days. Anyone who follows me on Facebook (find me here, by the way) has been treated (subjected) to the stories of our trials and tribulations as we have attempted to move from Kentucky to Maryland with our two kids, two cats (unfortunately), all of our belongings, and all during the holidays, in between family reunions, baptisms, and weddings.

Despite a serious flood in the living room from a cracked pipe, this week we finally thought we could settle down, put the finishing touches on the house, and carve out a new routine in our new home.

But the twins made other arrangements.

Luke came down with a bad stomach virus. He’s spent the last few days expelling fluids from various orifices, usually all over my wife or myself. Meanwhile, Julia developed a respiratory infection, which she kindly shared with poor, sickly Luke.

When it pukes, it pours — especially if you have small children in the house.

We took them to the doctor, despite the fact that I am newly self employed, and getting insurance on the individual market is now virtually impossible, thanks to the compassionate Mr. Obama and his wonderful “healthcare for everyone.” We’ve decided to go with a Christian sharing plan, but, naturally, the kids became ill before we could finalize our new insurance coverage.

It was an adventure in and of itself finding a place to take the kids. When we did, the doctor informed us that there’s nothing she can really do. These things will have to just run their course. That’ll be 400 dollars. Have a nice day!

Oh, but we did find out about Julia’s ear infection, so the trip wasn’t a total bust! (Hooray?)

I went to put Luke down to bed after we made it home from our productive trip to the doctor’s office. I feel sorry for the little guy. He’s in rough shape, and it’s not like he understands what’s going on, why he feels this way, or why that doctor was shoving things into his mouth and ears. I leaned over to kiss him on the forehead as I placed him in his crib. It was a sweet moment. Right up until he coughed phlegm right on my face. It even went up my nose. UP MY NOSE. I’ve never had somebody else’s mucus inside my nostrils, and I wish to God that particular streak was never broken.

That night, the kids woke themselves up coughing every 45 minutes. I think I slept at some point, but I’m not sure. Today, I sat down in my office intending to write a post about the Chris Christie scandal, but I was too tired to put my thoughts together. I started to send some emails instead, and I fell asleep mid-type. I was having those weird awake-dreams you have when you’re sleep deprived. I think Bill Paxton showed up in one of them, or maybe Twister was on TV.

In any case, if we’re swapping parenting horror stories, I’m sure many of you could easily outdo this little tale of sickness, exhaustion, and Bill Paxton. It’s run-of-the-mill. Totally unremarkable.

And so is this revelation:

Your life is over when you have kids.

It’s true. They were right. It’s over.

My life is over now that I have kids.

My life is over.

That thing that I called MY life. That portion of existence — that long, lonely chapter — when I lived for me, and me alone. That delusion known as my life, where I exerted, or thought I exerted, ownership over my whole self. Where I separated my life from all other lives, and lived to satisfy my whims and desires.

That’s over. That’s all over.

It’s not automatic, of course. I’m a fool, so I thought there would be a sudden transformation from Selfish Matt to Generous, Selfless Matt. I thought the moment my kids emerged from my wife’s body, I’d instantly morph into a mystical creature known as “Dad,” and my old habits and old self-obsessions would magically evaporate. I thought that the first time our kids woke us up crying in the middle of the night, I’d leap out of bed with a smile, prance over to them, and sing a song of comfort and reassurance. “Everything is OK children: Dad is here! I shall tend to your needs with happiness in my heart and joy radiating from my inner being!”

But the kids cried that first night after they were born. And I was tired, frustrated, and irritated that first night after they were born. And then I felt guilty for being tired, frustrated, and irritated. I don’t think I pranced or sang at all, in fact.

So I’m learning this lesson. I’m learning it slowly. There’s no other way to do it. I don’t get to cut to a whimsical montage full of slapstick parental mishaps, ending with a pithy slogan where I say what I’ve learned, and then we all live happily ever after. It doesn’t work that way. I’ve got to earn it, one sleepless, vomit-soaked night at a time.

I’m not living for me anymore. I never should have lived just for me, but now I can’t. Either I become less selfish, or I fail in my duty as a parent. There is no middle ground.

Maybe it could be said that parenting requires you to be the sort of person you always should have been. After all, my life was never really my life, anyway. I never owned it. It never belonged to me. There are only two things you can do to proclaim final ownership of yourself: commit suicide, or go to hell. That’s the horrifying irony of hell: countless souls, tormented in the Nothingness, shouting “MINE” into the abyss, forever.

Parenting is the precise opposite of both decisions. Parenting requires you to live, and to live for something greater than yourself. In fact, it requires you to redefine and repurpose your concept of self.

Surely, that doesn’t mean that I have no identity, or that I shouldn’t take time to unwind, or that I shouldn’t be sure to step away from the kids sometimes and take my wife out on a date. I learned the importance of these things from my parents. Mom and Dad were, and still are, famous for their rigorous adherence to date night. It could have been flooding during a hurricane during an asteroid strike during a zombie attack during an alien invasion — if it happened on a Friday, you better believe that Mom and Dad were still going out to Bertucci’s and coming home with a movie to watch together. They put each other first, and then the kids. One day, during my teenage years, when I was trying to play my Mom against my Dad to get something that I wanted, or to get out of some trouble I was in, my Mom finally even told me as much: “Matt, you’ll never get me to turn against your dad. He’s my first priority. Not you.”

That was a tough pill to swallow, but my parents were willing to give out the harsh medicine when the situation called for it.

So I get it. My kids aren’t my life. But I’m not my life, either. I was at one time, or I thought I was, but not anymore. And their lives are eternally tied to mine, and mine to their, and every decision that I make will have an impact on them, for better or for worse. This is a responsibility that I must always keep in mind, all of the time, no matter what.

It’s not my life. It’s hers, it’s his, it’s theirs, it’s ours. Ultimately, it’s His, and He has given it to them. So my life — MY life — is over.

This is true. This is beautiful. This is why parenting is a high calling.

And this is exactly why our society hates children.

No matter what anyone else says, THIS is why we’re experiencing historically low birth rates. It’s got nothing to do with an economic crisis, and everything to do with a selfishness crisis. This is why we dehumanize children, kill them, exterminate them. This is why we have less of them, and why we call birth control a “preventative medication.” It’s why couples who choose (note: I said CHOOSE) not to have kids will often refer to themselves as “child-free” — much like a recovering patient might call himself cancer-free.

We run around putting “my” in front of things that cannot be ours. It’s MY time, MY life, MY body. And then we conceive a child and we simply can not let go of the “MY.” Barney and Mr. Rogers failed in their mission to teach us about sharing. We kill a million babies a year just because we don’t want to share.

These are the truths I’m still learning, and still sometimes struggling to accept. It’s a long process. My kids are just starting to learn how to crawl. I guess you could say the same about me.

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261 Responses to Your life is over when you have kids

  1. Shane Comeaux says:

    Just found your blog today, so not sure where you stand on antibiotics If you would rather avoid them for your kids and use natural remedies, when our little one had an ear infection, we crushed a garlic clove and mixed in olive oil then put a few drops in his ear…cleared it up very nicely without the negative side effects of antibiotics.

    • Daniel says:

      I think he is pro-medicine. ANti-biotics dont have nasty side effects usually

      • Jamie says:

        Antibiotics kill bacteria – bad and good bacteria. Many people are more susceptible to catch viruses going around because their immune system is compromised without the healthy/good bacteria to fight against viruses. Antibiotics have proved correlations with negative reactions.

        • Bryce says:

          Really? Bacteria kills viruses? Maybe you need to do a little more research before making such comments.

      • Shane Comeaux says:

        Antibiotics kills bacteria in your body, including good bacteria that our body needs to properly function. It is way over-prescribed and causing antibiotic resistant mutations that will soon outpace the antibiotics.

        • Karen says:

          Yeah, but I think if the kids have a respiritory infection, they probably need antibiotics, or they’ll die. I’d say antibiotics are the better option.

        • Josh says:

          Yeah? Then let nature run it’s course. Don’t go to a doctor and waste money imbecile. Of course it’s over prescribed. Most people want RESULTS from going to a Doc, so said Doctor is going to try and make you feel better by prescribing something so YOU feel better about the situation. I’m sure you and the other 80% of the dumbasses that flood my ER with shit that could take care of itself would be completely pissed off if they just let you go with NOTHING.

    • Chelsie Hardy says:

      I vouch for this remedy! Garlic is a cure-all, and has healed MANY an earache/infection for my kids and myself. 🙂

  2. George says:

    Seriously, a common theme was your friends saying your life was over because you were having kids? Really? I think the theme should be more about getting more supportive friends if that was really the case. We just had our first about a year ago, and I cannot think of even one person who intimated our life was over. Changed? Sure. Over? lol. It’s almost comical.

    • sarcasticmuch says:

      I have a kid right now and another on the way. In my experience I have had tons of people exclaim in one way or another “say goodbye to personal free time” or in other words “your life is over”. When you announce your pregnancy, that entails everyone finding out including relatives, co-workers and the whole list of social media friends. One does not generally get to choose who they are related to or have the time to figure out which of their 700 facebook friends will have a lame reaction to your pregnancy. So yes, family members have said this to us, and even some close friends, often times as he said in the post in a comical manner. But you can still tell that there is a common theme going on that only people who are “partly crazy” would actually have kids because of how much sacrifice it requires. I think the thoughts Matt expresses in this post are very much needed in society right now.

    • Perhaps it’s a multiples thing? Because when we found out we were having twins (kids #3 and #4 incidentally) we heard quite often that we should have stuck with just the two and that twins were going to be hell.

      Did you know the divorce rate jumps dramatically in parents of multiples? My guess is there’s too much “me/my” and not enough “we”. It’s hard enough when you have a single child, but having multiple children puts an even higher strain on yourself, and your significant other.

    • Have a couple more and see the reactions you get- not from friends, but complete strangers.

  3. Richard says:

    I would agree that your life has some new parameters – but not over, just new challenges

  4. How sad that some people believe this. Yes, having children isn’t always convenient and easy but the best things in life usually aren’t.

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  6. Diana says:

    I agree with this! I could especially agree with the not immediate switch to becoming a unselfish person. I thought once we got our son I would stop caring about my wants but nope…it’s gradual. Makes me feel better to know that’s normal.

    And my husband’s name is Matt and our son is Luke. Woah.

  7. Heather says:

    Could you expound on the insurance you purchased?

  8. sauvblancmom says:

    I may disagree with you on some of the small things…but on the big picture? That was amazing. And a privilege to read. Thanks.

  9. Pingback: Your life is over when you have kids | Live Action News

  10. marty howell says:

    Matt. I love your blog. You take the words right out of my mouth. I stand with you arm in arm!!!!!

  11. Karen says:

    This. I wrote a blog about marriage and one of the bullet points was how important it is to put your spouse before your kids. Hoo boy! Nothing prepared me for that backlash. I know it’s not a popular sentiment, but dang. It’s nice to hear from an adult whose parents put that principle into practice – and lived to tell about how normal they are. 🙂

  12. theperkster says:

    The truth is that having kids is tough. Most things worth doing are tough. But, kids bring energy and raising them helps us to grow. That has been my reality. http://choosetotrust.com/2013/10/my-daughters-good-eye-and-the-pig

  13. skilitchi says:

    Beautiful as usual. : )

  14. You are right in that if you are to be a good parent – you’re children must be your top priority. That is not always easy to accept or act upon. It takes a certain selflessness to be a good parent.
    However, to completely lose yourself is not the answer either. This would not be good for you, your spouse or your kids.

  15. Rebecca Slaughter says:

    I don’t think people are having less children because they are selfish, or that people who choose not to have children are selfish. Interestingly enough, Jesus chose not to have children (how his poor Jewish mother must’ve sighed!), and yet he turned out to be pretty unselfish. The thing is, when I had kids, my life REVOLVED around my parenting and there wasn’t much time for anything else. How GRATEFUL I am for those who have chosen not to have kids and who are really working at making a difference in the world. It is more expensive than ever to raise children. It doesn’t sound like your twins are quite old enough yet, but groceries ALONE to feed a family of 4 really rack up! I’m lucky that I can afford this choice, but for plenty of people, it will be a serious crises. Many people work and work and can’t make enough to feed their families, nor do they want to take hand-outs. So let’s not make assumptions that those who chose to limit their children or to not have any at all. Sure, “child-free” might sound like they rejoice over the lack of children but “childless” implies they are lacking in something crucial, but all are needed in this world and all have a purpose!

    • Rhonda says:

      I agree with Matt. Of course there are exceptions, but I believe he’s right overall. When the focus in life becomes more about comfort, ease, career, and/or pleasure, having children drops way down the priorities list. Ironically, the more prosperous a nation is, the lower the birthrate drops. Whatever people’s financial situation is now, I can just about guarantee that they are better off financially than their great-grandparents were, who also had twelve kids and a tiny house.

    • Isaac says:

      Jesus knew very well that he was going to be sacrificing himself to save humanity at age 33, and also was kinda God, so…kind of a unique case.

  16. Charlotte says:

    You sound like a great Dad. My husband has his good points but in the lifetimes of our two babies he has never got up in the night. I would love a third child but would prefer a bit more help. Do you think its wrong to feel resentful?

    • curiafamily says:

      I’m going to go ahead and respond. Your feelings are not right or wrong, they just are. And you really should talk to your husband about them, and insist that he listens to you. My husband helps me so much, but it wasn’t always this way. Like Matt said, it wasn’t easy for him to give up his selfish wants (who doesn’t like a full night’s sleep?) but by doing just that he’s growing as a person. Don’t deny your husband this blessing. Good luck!

    • Bryce says:

      In any relationship, communication is one of the keys to success. Being able to talk to your husband about what is concerning you in a calm and effective manner is incredibly important. Have you talked to your husband about wanting another child? If so then you need to start another conversation about him helping out a bit more. If not, then you could combine a discussion about another child and how you would like a bit more assistance into once talk.

      I know in my situation I work long hours (12 hour days plus an hour of travel), so when the babies would wake in the night my wife would tend to them without waking me up. On the weekends I would help out as much as I could, but I always felt like I was short changing her. Now I am able to contribute more, given that they are older, I can give wife “time off” so that she can catch up on sleep etc

      The main thing though is that it takes good communication to do it successfully

  17. Jodi c says:

    I totally get your point and so think we are by nature very selfish. Kids require a lot (all?) of our attention. However, I don’t think it means “single or childless = selfish” and “married + children = selfless” Not that straight forward. Have enjoyed your blog this year.

  18. Beth says:

    Everything you thought you knew about marriage, parenting, your spouse, yourself, all changes once you have children. It is a journey of growth and change for you and your spouse as much as it is for your children. It truly is the best job on the planet. As far as childless-by-choice couples, they are not willing to go on the journey for whatever reason, selfishness, insecurity, lack of role models to show them the way, many reasons. I am just sad for them as I do believe that later in life they will visit the nagging emptiness within them and feel the pain of ‘what if’.

    Thanks for a good post. Similar discussion (of sorts) at Crisis–I linked to your blog. Maybe you’ll get a new reader or two. BTW–I found it at LifeSiteNews. God Bless you and yours.

    • kathy says:

      You don’t know the childless by choice couples that I do. They’re not saying “what if ” but rather “thank God.”

      • Isaac says:

        How can they say “thank God” when they don’t have any understanding of the thing that they didn’t do?

        I suppose if I had the opportunity to, say, graduate college…I could decide not to. Whatever. But it’d be pretty foolish of me to then say, “thank God, think of all the tests I didn’t have to take! They looked hard.”

    • karlbonner1982 says:

      Why don’t you stop being so condescending to those whose idea of a good lifestyle doesn’t conform to yours?

  19. Southern Boy says:

    I’m enjoying the blogs so far, but I have a slightly different feeling than most other commenting about this one.

    I don’t hate children, but I am 1,000% positive that I’m not cut out to be a father.

    One of my best friends is expecting, but it’s not exactly a joyous event … there are circumstances that are “less than ideal”. I feel very sorry about the situation.

  20. Bob says:

    Wow. I got a vasectomy after our daughter was born. My wife wanted to go back to work after almost two years as a stay at homer and we wanted to build a nicer bigger house. But damn it the vasectomy failed after 8 years and we were stuck with a double pregnancy. Thank goodness for Planned Parenthood for getting us unstuck…and then we went to Spain for the summer.

    • gizelle says:

      Bob, that is disgusting!

      • No really, Spain is so cool. We might go back this summer or perhaps to Ecuador or Guatemala. You should go when you can.

      • So what you’re saying is that Bob is disgusting because despite the preventative measures he took to ensure he would not have additional children, his wife still became pregnant, and he decided that one child was enough and did not want to face an additional 18-20 commitment. Maybe Bob decided that he would be a more effective parent of one child instead of two. That seems more noble and selfless to me than disgusting.

  21. Kerry says:

    Happy to see your story on Lifesite Newsfeed! God bless your work, thank you for writing and speaking truth. So many are completely blinded and numb today, they don’t know what truth is. For those graced with eyes to see, there is a big mission to trudge on and fight evil. No matter what, evil has not conquered!

  22. Good post. On the other end of the spectrum is later-life caregiving for a spouse or a parent who has Alzheimer’s. They don’t get better, but children eventually do grow up.

  23. Kathleen Nowak says:

    Another great post. My favorite line is “Maybe it could be said that parenting requires you to be the sort of person you always should have been.” That’s it in a nutshell.

  24. leomcneil1 says:

    Your life isn’t over when you have kids, it simply changes. Yeah, you can’t just go out whenever you want. It has to be meticulously planned in advance. But for the most part kids ought to fit into our lives. I like going to football and hockey games, I simply take the kids with me. I was taking my now six year old to hockey games without mom when he was 20 months old. (my wife had just had #2) My son had a ball and I got to go to the hockey game. Win-win. I suppose if you’re into bars and clubs you couldn’t take kids along. In that case, perhaps such people might want to re-evaluate what’s important.

  25. My dad came to visit my husband and I last week and as we were talking about ‘options’ in all categories, I expressed my irrational love for an unnecessary number of options open to me. Countries to live in, foods to eat, adventures to have, easy access to an airport, etc. My dad’s response: “Just you wait till you have kids!” Very funny, Dad. But really, it was pretty funny.

    We’re pretty aware of the end-of-life effect that the arrival of kids has, and we’ll take it when it comes! We could use some good stretching. Great article.

  26. Kim says:

    Wow! I absolutely enjoy your blog! Having just discovered you, I’m finding myself looking forward to it every day! Thank you for your honesty, style, humor and voice…it’s most valuable in these times. Keep up the good work! Thank you!

  27. Reblogged this on From The Hen Coop and commented:
    Great reading as always. I don’t regret my decision to not have children but I’m always interested to read about others experiences.

  28. Isaac says:

    Not having kids means that you never have to grow up. You can be a perpetual frat boy!

  29. Beth says:

    And until you have them everyone asks “when are you going to have kids”… for some people and their lovely… sarcasm… opinions enough is never enough. But kids in the end are more worth it even though I don’t have any yet. But I do own an Early Childhood Center and the 34 I have there are worth it… even when the flu is going around and kids are sharing in mass quantities 🙂

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  31. Kaye Star says:

    Choosing not to have children isn’t selfish. Having children you don’t want, on the other hand, is.

    My mother had two children. She is the most bitter, resentful person I know in my life. I’d go back in time and erase the moment I was conceived if I could because putting up with her was hell on Earth.

    • Oh, Kaye, I’m sorry you had to go through that. I’m sixteen, and I know some of how you feel at times, though not nearly as bad. Just let me advise you – don’t use your mother’s mistakes as an excuse to end life before it has begun. No one can see into the future, and although in your case you wish they hadn’t carried you to term, none can tell when a baby wishes the same. Who knows – maybe their mother will have a change of heart. It’s better then ending their lives before they have a chance to speak their own decision. Again, I’m sorry for you upbringing. I hope the rest of your years are free from all that.

  32. Jada says:

    Let’s not forget those who just can’t stop asking “when are you giving her a brother or sister?” ten minutes after you’ve given birth. The answer was a) none of your business, and b) never, I’m only doing this once. All of us are always doing it wrong all the time, I guess.

  33. I respect the choices you make and the fact that you take a certain amount of pride in being a father and dedicating yourself to the craft of shaping human beings, though I can’t help but get the impression from you that it is somehow an inherently terrible thing that more people are embracing the idea of not having children. I would prefer to see much fewer children being born, and those that are born being shaped into quality human beings. This is not happening. I’m childless and getting a vasectomy this year, because I don’t want to expend the required amount of time and resources when my own time here is short and I would like to develop my skills and knowledge to the fullest extent possible. Is that selfish? Likely. But we all do a variety of things for selfish reasons, including bearing children. Just my perspective, and it’s clear to me that many of our values and views do not align. Your level of intelligence and self-reflection you display, however, tells me that you will raise fine human beings, and I mean that with the utmost of sincerity.

  34. Misty says:

    I just read this for the first time tonight and it has really gotten me to think. I am a mother of 2 boys who will soon be 5 and 3 years old. The 3 year old takes the energy from me and multiplies it by 10 and I often wonder where I’d be if I hadn’t had these boys. There are a lot of days that we struggle to exist and there are many moments I can’t even begin to picture my life without them (no matter how tired I am). Thank you for sharing your story!

  35. Pingback: Did You Become A Better Man When You Became A Father | FatherVision.com

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  40. Kathy Winkler says:

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