Having traveled with a one year old baby around the world and having fought bloody battles (literally) with baby ear infections for more than a year now, I believe I am qualified enough to answer a seemingly simple question:
Was it worth it? I’m talking about the question that pops up in the backs of would be parents’ minds, whether they are first time parents or whether they are thinking of siblings: Is the bringing of a child to this world a worthwhile effort, cost benefit wise?
Before I attempt to give my take on an answer I will add a disclaimer: I will not be dealing with the question of what it is that makes us want to have babies in the first place; I will deal with that in another post. The only question I am trying to answer here is whether, once you have your baby, the benefits coming from the baby are worth the costs involved with it.
Well, my answer to this question is a politician’s answer: Is anything we do in this world worth it?
Think about it: As we are all going to die eventually, and having already lived the average half life I can attest to that eventuality being not that far into our future, everything we do is fruitless. Everything we do will die, eventually. The trick is that some things are still worth doing because of the effect they have on us while and after we do them.
Take, for example, the act of climbing the Everest. There aren’t many other items in anyone’s CV that will earn more “wow!” or “cool!” calls, yet ask the mountain climber and I’m sure they would tell you that the climb itself was a rather stressful and painful experience.
Personally, I think people who need to climb high mountains to feel good about themselves are people that lack some very basic grip of what life is all about, but never mind that; my point is simply that most of the grander experiences in life involve a hefty amount of torture with them. Kid raising is just another one of those, albeit one of the more demanding ones most people encounter.
My answer, therefore, is that having a baby is worthwhile because the experience makes you a better person. Fighting all the shit that comes with raising a baby is the Everest climb's equal. A good parent can become a much less selfish entity, an entity that knows it needs to give a lot to others, an entity that is much more aware of its environment, and an entity that is much more aware of the impact of its actions on the environment. Obviously, a parent can be a selfish one at that and not care less about anything other than their very own, but then again that parent will not be reaping what I consider to be the main rewards of parenthood; that wouldn't be a particularly good parent.
So yes, despite the cost and the hardship and the lack of sleep involved with flying a baby with you around the world, our trip was more satisfying having done it with our baby.
In case you consider this post a good excuse to have yourself many kids, do note there is the question of marginal benefits. If you were to ask whether you should bring subsequent children into this world, then be aware that the benefits you will get out of baby x+1 are generally expected to be lower than the benefits out of baby x.
Why did I think of all of the above? Because earlier during this week, while I was crouching down at the bath preparing it for Dylan, he came up behind me and gave me this huge hug; the biggest he can give. His hands surrounded my back and his nose was right up against my spine. I couldn’t see him but I could feel him; it was one of those rare moments of a lifetime.