Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The falacy of freedom

Why do we believe so strongly in individual freedom? If you think about it, no-one is really "free". We all have responsibilities and people whose feelings and needs we consider before doing whatever we like. So why when I became a Mum were so many people and books so keen for me to have my "freedom" back? I have noticed the same things with weddings. A couple of ceremonies I have been guest at had vows which emphasised our fear of having to sacrifice our wants for someone else. The vows went something like this - "I love you, but... you must not stand in the way of anything I want to do and you must support me in anything I choose to pursue". Seems that it might not be worth getting married if it seems such a risk and there is so much to lose. And maybe the same is true for having children.

Because children need us to put them first. And in reality it is for such a short time. Last night I went out without Ella for the first time since she was born. I went to a friend's place for dinner and left Ella asleep at home with her Daddy. It was really nice spending time with friends and just hanging out. But after a couple of hours my cell rang. Ella was awake and I could hear her sobs in the background. When I got home she was do upset she was gagging and once she finally went to sleep she sobbed as she slept for another hour. I lay in bed and wondered whether my night out had really been worth it.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think Ella was permanently traumatised by the experience but in her short life and in her world me not being there when she woke was a disaster and felt horrific. She doesn't know I am just out with the girls. As far as she is concerned it is dark, she woke up and Mum is gone. If I were her I would freak out too. And to be perfectly honest, it was a nice night but sleeping next to a sobbing baby is no fun.

Even before Ella was born people would give me advice about how to leave her, how to get her used to a bottle so I could be free to go out and have some time out. Some people even said it was unhealthy not to. Can you imagine any other mammal planning to leave their baby before they are even born?

She will be young for such a short time and before I know it I will feel like I don't see her enough and will be willing her to spend time with her doddery parents. And it certainly saves money to not be out painting the town red. Maybe instead of seeing our children as impinging on our freedom we could see there dependence on us as a privilege and a season to be embraced as we learn how generous it is possible to be with our time and our bodies as we do such an important job in helping our children to grow.

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