I believe parenthood is the most important and most difficult job in life. Parents have the power to instill a deep sense in children that they are loved and safe, and I believe this can create adults who have no need for violence, hate, or greed. I believe every parent wants to provide this for their children.
Because of the importance of mothers and fathers, I believe we as a society should do everything we can to help people to become the best parents they can be when they feel ready to be parents, and to not become parents when they do not feel ready. That is why, as a family physician, I believe that contraception, abortion, and family planning counseling are the most important services I provide.
I am not myself a parent, although I hope someday to be. Right now, though, I am the aunt of a beautiful, expressive two-year-old niece and a sweet two-month-old nephew. It is partly through my patients, but mostly through my sister and her husband, that I have learned: parenting is hard! The greatest resource I have seen my sister and her husband call upon is their steadfast love for one another. Beyond that, they are fortunate to have two professional jobs, the support of family, and their own and their children’s good health. And with all of that, they are still more sleep deprived than I was during my residency! They still worry about finances. They still sometimes get grumpy – occasionally at each other, rarely at the kids. Watching them, I think: My God, my niece and nephew and blessed to have such dedicated, loving, smart, secure parents. But wow is parenting hard!
And that sometimes makes me worry for the parents and children I take care of in clinic. If parenting is tough for my sister and her husband, I try to imagine what it must be like for the mothers without any of the resources my sister has.
I think of my patient whose own mother died of AIDS and whose partner is in prison while she raises three children on her own. Her kids are sweet, smart, and well cared-for. I imagine that every day for her must be like running the iron-man.
At the clinic where I work, we try to provide extra support for families, especially those expecting new babies: we help with transportation and nutrition services, give away car seats when we can, offer prenatal and parenting classes – little things that do not change how hard parenting is, but hopefully make it just a bit easier for parents to raise their children healthy and safe.
So when a patient tells me she does not feel ready to have a child right now, I believe her. I trust her to know what is best for her life and her family. I support her, and I help her carry out her decision.
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