My youngest child is six. It seems that she grows older by the moment. I find myself holding her on my lap, my head to her head, eyes closed as I try to fix that moment, to burn it into my memory forever. There are only a limited number of those moments available to us and they are the most precious commodity in the world.
G and I were talking about one of my old girlfriends who has no children, and I remarked that she was never terribly maternal. "I can't imagine," was G's comment. And I had to agree. I can't imagine my life without my kids. I guess that's not strictly true. There's nothing wrong with my imagination. What I really mean is that when I imagine my life without my kids it seems so empty, so desperately empty.
What would I do? I'd obviously have more time for myself. I could go to movies, plays, and concerts. I could go out to eat. I could travel more and it would be more relaxing. And I'd be able to afford to do those things since I wouldn't have kids hoovering up every scant penny that I hadn't yet earned.
I wonder if I would be more liberal. Would I hate George W. Bush? Would I think Islamic terrorists were moral equals of US troops fighting to create a democratic Iraq? I know that opinion doesn't break that cleanly on the demographic fault line between those with kids and those without. But ... still. It makes me wonder if there's more than a casual correlation between the declining birth rates in Europe and their rabid hatred for our President and anything he does.
It's hard to be completely selfish when you are a parent - and I'd say impossible when you are a good parent.* You have to be concerned with something other than yourself. You have to make sacrifices of time and money and attention. And you become concerned with the future in a more concrete way than previously. I think you begin to be less concerned with small endangered animals and more concerned with small human animals and the kind of world they will live in.
Life is more complicated than I'm drawing it here. But I think it's an interesting thought experiment.
Oh, one interesting tidbit - the old GF has lived in Europe since she graduated from college.
* Yes, obviously, I consider myself a good parent. I guess we'll see how good in 20 years or so.