I’ve been working with kids for more than half of my life (since I was 12) and have gotten the same statement, in varying forms, at every one of them. “Working with kids is the best form of birth control.” And every time someone said that to me, or asked if I felt the same, I always paused for a moment before responding. I never understood how people could feel that way, especially if the person saying it was also working with kids. This comment leads me to two thoughts: how can you feel that way and I wholeheartedly disagree.
Interestingly enough, the first time I was presented with this idea it was from a parent of a child I was working with (or maybe my own mother? I can’t remember exactly, it was a long time ago). I was probably 12 or 13 and working with 4 and 5 year olds, teaching them the basics of swimming. And even at that age I knew that seemed weird. I loved working with them, teaching them what I knew and watching them accomplish the things they were practicing. It never did make sense to me that a parent, no less, would feel that working with their children would lead anyone to believe they didn’t want to have children of their own down the road.
Similarly, working at Boys and Girls Club I frequently was told by a coworker close in age to myself (20 and 21 at the time) that they definitely didn’t want to have kids if “that’s” what they would turn out like. And every single time I thought, then why do you work with kids? What kind of joy do you get out of this job when you keep thinking you would never want any of your own?
The other thought that would come to mind when someone told me they didn’t want to have kids who acted like “them” I would think, “Not me. I want kids.” I always felt that the traits and behaviors you disliked in the kids you worked with would be the ones you would try to discourage in your own kids. That boy interrupts you every time you start talking? Teach your son that’s not ok. The girl you’re trying to teach has a snarky remark after every direction? Teach your daughter an appropriate way to speak to an adult.
All of my experiences over the years with kids have only solidified my belief that I wanted to be a mother. A couple months ago one of BJ’s coworkers asked me if there was one thing that led me to that decision. What was it that made me decide to jump in with both feet? I told her that over the years it’s been great spending all that time with kids. Teaching them new things and seeing them spark on something interesting or when they finally achieve a goal. With some of the more rambunctious kids, I was happy to send them home with their parents. But the one thing I was always envious of was watching their reactions when they saw mom or dad at the end of the day. The kids were so excited to see their parents. They would run up to them with a big smile on their face and give them a huge hug.
I wanted that. I have, for the most part, been well-loved (they told me so, I promise) by a majority of the kids I worked with. They wanted to tell me about something going on in their lives, the cool thing they got or the assignment they did well on. But I wanted more. I wanted to have that love you can only get from your own child. The look in their eyes when they see you after a long day. The smile that only you will get when they have something they can’t wait to tell you. The hug only you will get for being mom or dad. I wanted everything you could only get by being a parent.
So to all those people who said, “I think working with kids is such great birth control,” I have only this to say: