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Parenthood Time: Chronos or Kairos?

In matters of time, this babe has me living in the moment.

This afternoon I had a good read whilst nursing my five-week-old baby … for the sixth time today. It’s something I don’t enjoy as much as I should.

Or should I? As I parent, I think a lot about happiness and joy, where the two meet and what keeps them separate. According to a favorite parenting article by Jennifer Senior in New York Magazine, happiness is a fleeting, moment-to-moment experience. The pleasure might be intense, or it might be simply keeping your head above water, but it doesn’t necessarily last.

Joy, on the other hand, is something parents build up—maybe over a lifetime. It is rewarding. It is made up of beautiful, small moments that make all the crappy ones worth it. Senior suggests it is “the necessary alchemy we need to keep the species going.”

While I nursed away, feeling guilty for not enjoying/appreciating my personal ability to keep the species going, I was interested to hear this sentiment echoed by Glennon Melton at the Huffington Post. In a nutshell, Melton says it isn’t your duty as a parent to enjoy each and every moment, as the ol’ lady at the grocery store likes to remind us. Instead, we just need a dose of “Kairos” or “God’s time,” the “magical moments where time stands still.”

Today, girlfriends on Facebook and bloggers seem to be applauding the essay (check out Carolyn’s thoughtful response), but for some reason, it doesn’t leave me feeling completely resolute. Here’s why:

I know it sounds like a lot of pressure to put on myself, but sometimes it’s the wanting to enjoy every minute that keeps me going. I waited and hoped for my first baby for a few years. When he came, I gave up most of what I had going for me, career-wise: two relatively successful blogs as well as regular freelance writing gigs. (I realize the no-more-work option isn’t an option for every parent.) Mostly, I knew these hoped-for moments would be fleeting, and I knew these were experiences I would take back or do all over again if I could: the good and the bad.

Obviously, I’m a sentimental person. But it’s the reminder that these days are numbered makes me feel most present. I get Melton’s point, and in fact, I appreciate and agree with it. It’s realistic. All I’m sayin’ is, that lady in the produce aisle is welcome to fawn over my child and remind me to try and enjoy every little piece of my day with my two children.

Being home is both a sacrifice and a privilege. Same goes for breastfeeding. And if anyone has to feed my baby and deal with the never-ending spitup, I’m glad that person is me. (But that’s another post, entirely.)

You can and should read Melton’s story here.

Yes, kids make us happier: A response to New York magazine

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