I wish I were one of those people who wanted a baby and knew it.
Not what you were expecting to hear, right? Coming from the person who once tweeted that the sound of a child’s scream makes my uterus shrivel?
Well, I didn’t say I wanted a baby, I said that I wish I was the type of person that knew that they did. Calm down.
I do not want a child. Even a little. Sure, they can be a lot of fun, the love of a child is a beautiful thing, someone to take care of you when you’re old, blah blah blah. I don’t hate them. But a child does not fit into our life. It doesn’t fit into 16 hour work days. It doesn’t fit into working mostly nights and weekends. It doesn’t fit coming home from work and going to the grocery store at 10:30pm on a Tuesday because we’ve been out of food for three days. It doesn’t fit into impromptu ski trips and spontaneous decisions to go to the bowling alley for 25 cent wings and a pitcher at 8pm on a Sunday night. It doesn’t fit into going out on a Saturday night and not coming home until 4am, then sleeping off a hangover the next day.
And I know what you’re all thinking, you that have kids. You’re thinking, “Oh, you won’t miss going out and drinking with your friends, and the love of your child is more precious than even the most perfect day of skiing!” You’re thinking that one day, when I’m older, I’ll realize that it’s time to stop being selfish and thinking about caring for someone else by myself.
Nice try, but it’s not all about that.
Okay, it’s maybe a little bit about that. I like our life the way it is. I like the freedom, the flexibility, the sleep. I like being about to work ridiculous hours and enjoy my work without aching for the time I’m not spending at home. I like being able to spend what little extra money we have on things we enjoy, like skiing and beer. I like being able to have a kegerator in our kitchen. I like that I only have to worry about Kyle and myself, that there are only two people to juggle. I like that we can live ridiculous lives, make poor choices, and live squarely in the center of chaos. Maybe I would like being a parent more, I can’t say, but I can say that I really like the way things are. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
But it’s more than that, even.
The reality is, the entertainment industry isn’t conducive to family. It’s just not. The work and the hours are erratic and inconsistent. Sometimes my days are only five or six hours long, sometimes they’re 14 or 16. Sometimes I only work a few days in a week, sometimes I can go three or four weeks with only two or three days off in the run. We work mostly nights and weekends, time most people set aside for their kids. It can require a good amount of travel, depending on the gig. And god forbid you go on tour, as Kyle and I are hoping to do at some point; you can be out for anywhere from six weeks to six months at a stretch. Some people hop from tour to tour, and it can be years before they’re home again for any significant length of time.
Is it possible to work in this industry with a family? Oh sure, it’s possible! My boss and a few of my co-workers have kids. But much greater than the number of coworkers that have kids is the number of former coworkers who’ve left the industry so that they could raise their kids. Those who are still working with kids have spouses who work normal jobs and don’t mind being a part-time single parent; I don’t know a single family with kids where both parents work in the production side of the entertainment industry. (Not saying there aren’t any, but I haven’t met them yet.) It’s really, really hard to have kids and work in this industry. Shit, for some people it’s even difficult to have a marriage; as a veteran of the industry once said, “There are a lot of divorced techs out there.”
So yeah, it’s possible, but you have to want it really, really bad. And we don’t want it really, really bad. We don’t even want it regular bad.
As we reach an age where many of our friends are starting to have kids, (some are even on their second or third!) I feel confident with our decision not to start a family and comfortable with the idea that we will probably never have children. It’s just not really possible with our careers, and I don’t envision a future where one of us decided to leave the industry in the name of a family. And none of that makes me sad.
But I still wish that I wanted a baby.
Because that is a big motherfucking decision to make within a finite window of time that will dictate the course of my entire fucking life.
Right now, I’m confident that I don’t want kids at all. But will I always feel that way? I don’t know, and I won’t know until I’m near the end of my life looking back. But by then, it’s too fucking late to do anything about it; I’ll be stuck with whatever decision I made 30 years ago. On the other side of that metaphorical coin, it’s 20 or so years before you’re truly done with the commitment of a child, (assuming that you only have one,) and that’s a long motherfucking time to regret leaving behind a career and a life that you truly loved in the name of having someone to pay for your retirement home.
Right now, and over the next 10-15 years, is when we’re supposed to be making this decision. It’s a decision that we’ll have to live with for the rest of our lives, and no other decision in life has more permanent consequences. Choosing a career is a lot of pressure,sure, but the world is inundated with stories of people who realized that they couldn’t stand their jobs and pursued an entirely different career path. (Don’t believe me? Watch any cooking show for two hours, at least one of them will be a former cubical jockey who decided to go to culinary school.) It’s never too late to decide that you want to be something else or that you want to live in another part of the world or that you want to be another kind of person or learn to do different things or be around different people or have different beliefs. Nothing’s final in life, and everything’s up for discussion…except the decision to be a parent or not.
That one’s pretty fucking final.
Which is why I wish that I wanted a child. At least then I would be certain in my decision and confident of my path moving forward. People who know that they want children are sure that they’ll have children (barring medical complications) and that it’s a decision that they’ll be happy with for the rest of their lives. (Because no one who wants to have kids ever regrets the decision after the fact; I’m pretty sure it’s a biological impossibility.) But as long as I stand by our decision to not have children, there will always be the worry in the smallest, furthest back, deepest buried part of my brain that we made the wrong decision.
All I’m saying is that either way, it’s a pretty big fucking gamble.
Recently, I spilled all these worries to one of our aunts. She also has an incredibly demanding career, (Assistant US Attorney, anyone?) and into her 50’s has no children. I asked her how that came to be, if it was an intentional decision or just the way life played out, and if she regretted any of it in any way. I wanted to hear from someone who’d been there, done that, and already knew the answers to my most serious questions.
You know what she said?
Well, I’m not going to tell you most of what she said, because that’s some really fucking personal shit. But what meant the most to me was how she concluded her response. She finished by telling me not to worry about it. She told me that we have many years still before biological issues will force us to address this decision seriously, and to just enjoy those years fully. She told me that she can see that Kyle and I have a strong relationship, that she can clearly see that we love and respect each other, and that whatever we decide, we’ll be awesome at it. We’d be great parents, but we’d also be great non-parents, and both choices are valid. And even though this was kind-of the response that I’d expected, it was very comforting to hear, especially from someone whom I love and respect so deeply.
So I’m not really worrying about it right now. I still don’t want kids, but getting wrapped up in the “what if”s of 30 years from now will do nothing but exhaust me. Truth be told, me of five years ago never could have predicted where I would be now, so any attempt at trying to guess at our life five years from now is an equally ridiculous exercise.
In the meantime, it’s 9:00 pm on a Tuesday and Kyle just called to see if I wanted to go for drinks with some friends. Seeing as I’m in flannel pants, I’ve got to get changed and ready to go so he can pick me up in half an hour and hit the bar.
Because we can do that.