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Juliet Linley Headshot

Controller in Chief: Your Child

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Not too long ago, at a dinner party, someone asked us point-blank: has your life changed since your baby was born? He was a highly-educated, highly-successful 40-something Roman.

His next line was: "You see my wife and I would like a child, but we don't want to have to change our life because of it..."

Okay, where shall I start?

From the obvious "Well, yes, you know, we now have to deal with diapers, naps and baby baths"? Or from the just as obvious "Well, yes, we are now responsible for another human being...financially, physically, emotionally and -- why not -- even spiritually."

In the end, I probably just muttered "Perhaps you really shouldn't consider children if you feel that way." But I couldn't help thinking that the height of selfishness is to desire a baby without expecting to change your life to accommodate this new human being.

Which leads to my second point: so many people have children, but are determined said kids won't "control" their lives. In other words, I will not sacrifice my freedom for this clinging, helpless creature. I cannot give up my career for a child. The child must adapt to me.

Often, in order to keep up a "normal" lifestyle, parents need to park their offspring with a) grandparents b) nannies c) childcare or d) all of the above in rotation.

But bringing up, nurturing and educating is the primary role of a parent -- nobody else can do that for you. (They can help, but little children need the main care-giver to be their mothers, or fathers.) And many parents are not doing so, because they do not want to have their lives taken over by a little being. They simply wish to continue life as if nothing has changed. As if the birth of their child were just another entry in their CV, next to the list of universities they attended.

(When I say this, I am clearly not referring to women who have to return immediately to their jobs because they are the main breadwinners, without whom their family would not be able to survive from a monetary perspective. I am talking about women who -- perhaps with a little financial sacrifice -- could stay at home while their baby is small, yet choose not to.)

I have often heard that putting my journalistic career on hold because of my daughter is a waste of my talents. This is how I see it: focusing on your child during the formative 0-3 years is not allowing him or her to take over your life and certainly not being a pushover.

Rather, it means using your education, your wisdom and your maturity to mold a member of the future generation.

So why do I hear more criticism than praise for women who prioritize kids over careers? Perhaps because not enough people understand the true meaning of "parenting cannot be outsourced."

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