I quickly realized I could either repeat the patterns of the past or I could decide how I wanted to be as a parent. I chose the latter and am now constantly engaged in self-discovery and growth. Whenever I interact with my kids, I can fall into old patterns of yelling or I can grow by making different choices. So I try for growth. I choose patience when my daughter insists she can't put her own shoes on (even though she did it an hour ago), persistence when my son refuses to do his math homework and compassion when they fall or have their feelings hurt.
This constant growth may or may not make me live longer but I know it is making me live better.
3. I have everlasting love. For decades researchers have studied populations with extra-long life expectancy. Some of the longest living people on the planet come from Symi, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; and Campodimele, Italy. What is it that makes people in these places consistently live into their 90s? While diet plays a part, researchers have found that social connection is the key to long life. And what do kids give us if not connection?
Just before I graduated from college, I had a decision to make. I could get married and move to Rochester, NY where my husband was doing his residency or take a consulting job and travel all over the United States.
We had been dating for two years and it was either marry or move on. I closed my eyes and thought about it — when I was 90 years old, sitting in my rocking chair, would I be thinking about all my amazing consulting clients? Or would I be enjoying the sound of great-grandchildren and my family gathered around me? Now, I know the two are not exclusive — we can of course have a career and a family. But I decided in that moment I wanted connection.
Having kids has helped create tangible and deep connections in an age when more and more of our connections are virtual. Because I have kids I have a stronger relationship with my in-laws. I visit my siblings more so my kids can get to know their aunts, uncles and cousins. I socialize more with parents of my kids' friends. I have more parties. Again, having kids doesn't make one social — plenty of childless people have amazing social lives. But having children has made it easier for me to create meaningful connections that lead to a long life and happiness.
So the next time you think you are going to die from the stress of having kids, remember all the things your children have added to your life — love, laughter, tickling and perhaps a couple of years!