Would I Benefit from Having a Baby?


“While We’re Young”: One of these things is not like the others.

Sunday was the first truly warm, sunny day of the year. It was absolutely gorgeous! So, naturally, I spent the afternoon in a dark, climate-controlled theater watching “While We’re Young.”

I’m the kind of person who is drawn to movies I think I’ll be able to relate to—like “Reality Bites” and “Dude, Where’s My Car?”—and, based on the previews I had seen, I expected “While We’re Young” to be something I could relate to. The premise of the movie is this: After drifting apart from their new-parent friends, 40-somethings Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) befriend a couple in their 20s.

My husband and I don’t have any new college graduates in our social circle (20-somethings: We love watching “Jeopardy!” and playing Scrabble; text me!), but we have certainly seen our relationships with couples our own age change after they had kids.

Sure enough, there were some familiar scenes in the movie:

  • Listening to the new parents speak in clichés about what it’s like to have a baby. (You know the ones: “It’s the best thing we’ve ever done.” “I can’t remember life before the baby.” “It changes you in the best possible way.”)
  • Being ditched in favor of new friends who are parents.
  • Watching once-intelligent and once-articulate women sing along enthusiastically to children’s songs that make even their babies cry.

But there was an unfamiliar scene as well. In this scene, the new mother says to Josh and Cornelia, “We just think you should have a baby. We think you would really benefit from it.

I hadn’t heard anything like this before. The thought of someone saying it to me made me bristle, like I do when it’s time to clean the shower. (Three months always goes by so quickly!) I felt like the statement was implying that childfree folks are somehow lacking or deficient or less-evolved than parents.

And in what way would we benefit exactly? I ran down some of pluses people cite about parenthood to try to determine what I was missing.

I’ve heard some people say that because their kids try their every nerve, parenthood has made them more patient. But my mom has that area of my personal development covered.

Or sometimes parents say they never knew a love so deep and so pure until they had kids—which sounds suspiciously like the passionate affair I already have with dark chocolate.

That feeling of life being meaningless before? I know it well. That’s exactly how I feel about HGTV!

So maybe I’m not missing anything at all. Maybe I’m just getting those benefits in other ways, from multiple and varied places.

And as for parenthood changing you in the best possible way, I once had a prescription for muscle relaxers that did just that. Without infecting the household with a stomach bug first.