Raising Kids is a Total Pain in the Ass. Why I Love It Anyway.
When I tell people I have 5 kids, they often gasp in amazement. “Whoa,” they say, “that’s a lot.” To which I usually reply “Well, you know, after I had one kid my life was completely ruined anyway, so I figured I might as well go ‘All In’.”
Of course I mean it as a joke, but there’s an important truth in there as well. Kids do “ruin” your life in a certain way, and I suppose that’s the reason so many people nowadays are deciding not to have children at all. Or at least to postpone it until it’s kind of too late anyway.
I laugh when one of my child-less friends tell me how “busy” they are this week. What a joke, I think to myself. Yeah, you’re busy with going to work, which everyone does, running errands, then working out at the gym, doing exercise classes, meeting up with friends for various and sundry socializing, going to movies, going shopping, binge-watching your favorite series on TV and any number of other personal pleasures and indulgences. So busy. Swamped. How do you even keep your head above water, I wonder?
I remember back to the time when my wife and I had no kids, we had just moved to Los Angeles, and we had all the time in the world to do whatever. We went on 2 or 3 hour hikes with the dog, just about every day. We spent huge amounts of time daily food shopping complete with analyzing and evaluating whether or not we should buy our apples from Trader Joes or Whole Foods. I mean, which store has the best quality to price ratio, we urgently needed to know.
I was taking yoga classes every day (The Nooner at Urth Yoga is only $5!), my wife was taking classes on becoming a wine “Sommelier.” I had a tennis buddy and we would play several times a week. I was even taking flying lessons for awhile, which I finally gave up when I realized there is absolutely no reason I need to be taking flying lessons. You get the picture.
Fundamentally, we were two separate people each pursuing our interests and passions, on a daily basis. Whatever moved her that day, whatever moved me that day, that’s what we would focus on. We would come together to pursue common pleasures, like going to the movies perhaps, or eating out, and with those things our Venn diagrams would overlap.
Our first daughter arrived in our lives during February of 2012 and the effect she had on our lives was absolutely transformational. Literally, everything changed right away.
Our lives instantly became about taking care of her instead of just ourselves. We now had to work together to schedule the day. At least one of us had to be with her at all times. This is no joke and is worth emphasizing. Someone has to be with her all day and all night. This is a huge responsibility that fundamentally changes everything about your life. Your life is now about this other person, who is totally dependent on you for her every need.
Talk about a paradigm shift. When I observe my childless friends and relatives, the thing I notice right away is that they have structured their lives completely around themselves. I do this and I do that, I want this and I want that. There is nothing wrong with that way of living, I’m not criticizing it. I’m simply noticing how different that is from structuring your life around your children and the family unit. It’s a completely different approach to living.
It might be no exaggeration to say that there are fundamentally two types of people in the world: those with and those without children.
Having children is not for everyone. It means giving up a lot of freedom. It means giving up a lot of flexibility. It means staying close to home most of the time. It changes the types of things you do in your free, non-working time.
You see it in the faces of parents taking their kids to the zoo on the weekends, and you know with certainty that if they didn’t have kids, there’s no way they would ever be there. It’s like a secret society. I’m standing there with my daughter sitting on my shoulders and I pass another guy with his kid on his shoulders, and we’re going to the gorilla cage and he’s headed over to the giraffe section. We give each other a silent, knowing glance. We get it. We’re both here for them and not for us. There are a million other places we would rather be that day, and yet, here we are.
And then there are the countless hours I’ve spent with my kids at the neighborhood playground. They love it. For me, it’s pretty low on the Excite-O-Meter. And yet, I have a fundamental choice: I can either be on my phone the whole time distracted and reading the news, or I can leave my damned phone in the car and be truly present to my kids, with all their ups and downs, scraped knees and playground drama.
Do I miss going out to new restaurants all the time? Drinking and getting giddy with my wife on our several-times-a-week dates? Socializing with new and random people on a weekly basis? Jumping on a plane for a long weekend to check out places we’ve never been? Adventurous vacations to foreign capitals where we would spend days roaming the streets?
Of course I do.
But what I’ve gotten in return is like a quantum leap into a whole other universe, more fulfilling, more exciting and more fun than anything I could have imagined before I had kids.
It’s funner than fun.