Lesbian and Gay Parenting book coverIn a Family Way

A column by Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

Does Having Kids Change Your Life?

Posted By on July 1, 2009

Does Having Kids Change Your Life?
By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

I’m on an email list for queer parents. The other day a gay man wrote, “I feel ready to have children, but does it really change your life that much?” It was one of those moments for me, a moment of pure wisdom — knowing that there are things in this world that I knew that he could not yet know.

When my son was a few weeks old, I hired a babysitter so that I could go to a conference. I was committed at the time to not having my life change too much as a single parent, so I was still trying to attend professional events. I met a woman there, an ex-student, who had heard about my wonderful surprise adoption, and she said to me, “This will change your whole life.”

I remember saying to her, “Well, you know, I’ve lived a whole bunch of different lives already. This will just be one more change.” Oh the arrogance that was me.

Having children changes your life in ways you can’t imagine. This is different from any other life I’ve ever lived. It changes the meaning of life itself. I wish I remembered that student’s name because I owe her a huge apology.

It was as if my whole life as I knew it, the entire screen of all my existence, had a huge whole cut out of the middle that was then filled with my son’s needs and the edges of that circle were left to me. Mostly I sleep on those edges today.

There is sitting on the side of a hospital bed, while your infant is in an oxygen tent. There is wondering, but being too fearful to ask out loud, about HIV. There is being so tired that you fall asleep while bottle-feeding, and waking up to find the nipple leaking into his ear. There is paying as much for the best schools, as you do for the mortgage. There is laughing and laughing while he pretends the ketchup bottle is a phone, repeating, “Go ahead momma, say who’s thereā€¦ It’s me Shaiyah Ketchup.”

There is, of course, no way to prepare yourself for it. There is nothing to do to “get ready.” There is hardly any way to bolster yourself while it is happening. Mostly it is a heady wind that blows through your life, changing the face of the territory you call home, and then you hardly remember what the view from your window was before the storm.