Don’t worry, it won’t be philosophical. About 15 years ago, I was asked what the meaning of life was for me. Without thinking long and hard, the answer was: procreation. To bring children into the world, to leave something of oneself to posterity. I still hold this opinion. To have children that you raise in a way that, hopefully, will not damage the planet even more, but on the contrary… That’s it, for me.
And yet, now that I have three children, I don’t want them to be the only purpose of my life. I don’t want their happiness and bliss to determine how I am. I don’t want to lose myself in a relationship or in motherhood. I don’t want to define myself by whether my children are balanced and how they relate to me. I want to find my happiness within myself, and radiate it outward just the same. I want to be there for the kids, always reassuring them that I love them, whatever happens, whatever they do. But equally be able to leave them in good hands and spend time without them. With me, with other people, fulfilling time.
I am certainly not alone in this opinion. But I am equally aware that many mothers feel differently. That they have put their lives on the back burner for the sake of their children (which, by the way, I also did for years). That they no longer take their personal happiness seriously because the children’s happiness is paramount. A dangerous terrain, in my eyes. Children grow up. They experience puberty. They stand up to the parents, the mother, the rules. And one day they leave. They go their own way with their own ideas about the meaning of life. The mother is left behind (alone), and in the worst case, she can’t do anything with herself because she has oriented her entire life around her children. For me, this is no longer an option. Because I am now considered a single parent. And because I want to live according to my whims, and not those of my children.
Because, for those who didn’t know, love for children is asymmetrical, and to some extent, one-sided. Yes, something comes back, again and again. But by no means in the way you would imagine. Because children don’t owe their parents anything. They don’t have to, they do it voluntarily.
Maybe I too should reconsider the meaning of my life. To love and be loved is what will make me happiest in the long run. This includes the children, family, friends and above all: myself.