Sunday, June 24, 2012

It will be alright

Another one on parenting from reddit. munificent thinks you won't regret having kids. It seems people are wired that way. 
OK, extremely long honest answer time:
About two years ago, I started dating a very nice girl. At the time, I was in my late twenties, making decent money, and very much enjoying my lifestyle. I was in a band playing shows regularly. I went downtown and ate out all the time, and still had plenty of money left over. I had a ton of free time to relax, read, and code.
My family, oddly, isn't very family-oriented. I love my immediate family, but we rarely see each other. I don't like kids, and never planned to have any. So that's me.
A little over a month after we started dating, we had a little mistake and got pregnant. Before we started having sex, we'd discussed what would happen, so I knew we would be keeping it. Right at the same time, the economy went tits up. I would be bringing a child into the world just as my finances were going to hell.
I was utterly devastated and scared shitless. Having a family was never on my radar: I never had fantasies of teaching the little tyke to play baseball or any shit like that. I certainly didn't get excited about the prospect of cleaning up feces, vomit or other bodily fluids. And now I was going to be a Dad.
Equally scary, we'd just started dating. She seemed awesome, but we barely knew each other, and now our dating life had gone to hell: she couldn't drink, and threw up everything she ate. Fun.
The next nine months were a complete whirlwind of craziness. She moved in, which meant combining all of our stuff. All of the sudden, I was crammed in a 915' house with a pregnant girl, a dog, and three cats.
We took a couple of parenting classes the hospital suggested. (During the 'get to know each other' part of the class, the teacher asked us all what the best part of being pregnant was. It was hard to resist the urge to say, "Having a guaranteed designated driver.")
Meanwhile, I was crunching on a project at work. So, instead of getting the nursery ready and stuff, I'm working late every evening. The way the schedule is set up, the game should be shipped before the baby is born, so I'll have plenty of time to get things ready before the due date.
Five weeks before the due date, our daughter decided to show up early. Being born that early meant she spent the first few days in the NICU. That was good: that gave us a couple of days to turn my beloved office/manspace into a pastel nursery between trips to the hospital for feedings.
She turned out fine and came home five days later. Having a baby was crazy. I didn't fall in love with her instantly, or any romantic nonsense like that. A newborn is more like a machine than a person you can have an emotional relationship with: it cries, it eats, it poops, it sleeps.
Now we had no space, and no time, and we weren't getting any sleep. It was crazy stressful. Fortunately, my girlfriend's (now fiancée's) mother is in town and would babysit once a week so we could get a full night's sleep.
We stopped going out, and started trying to save money so we can move into a bigger place (which is hard when your mortgage is now underwater). My life became work/feed baby/sleep/feed baby/repeat.
And, yet, strangely, it started to grow on me. At first, honestly, I kind of felt like I was playing the expected role of the doting Dad. But after a while, I realized I really do like this little monkey.
As she got older, she became more and more personlike. Eventually, I realized, not only do I like her, she likes me. I'm the one and only father in this little person's life and she trusts me completely. That feeling is frightening (so much responsibility!) but kind of amazing. All of the sudden, I started to realize what it meant to actually be a man, and be an adult.
She just turned one now, and she's starting to transition from baby to toddler. She can crawl and pull up and get around on her own. Now that she has mobility, she has more distinct likes and dislikes. She's becoming a person that I can know as an individual with her own personality. And watching that personality develop is so fucking awesome. I see me in her, and my wife in her. She's the living physical manifestation of the bond between us.
It's still just as stressful, maybe even more so. And I miss things about my non-parent life every day. I would kill to just be able to have a casual evening, go out to a restaurant, hit a few bars, and then pass out for twelve hours. Words can't describe how much I miss a good night's sleep.
I love my daughter now, but I'm still not much of a kid person. I don't really care for other people's kids much, and I get exhausted if I'm watching her alone for a long time. I'm just not programmed for that kind of activity.
She's fantastically expensive. I never realized before that having a family basically knocks you down a level of socioeconomic status. Not having money all the time sucks, but at least I don't have time to spend it.
But even with all that, I don't regret it. I (like I think every parent) certainly entertain fantasies about getting away from it all, but I think that's just human nature. Raising a family is a huge responsibility, it's natural to daydream about having that burden lifted. I still love coming home every day to my squealiing little munchkin, even though her shrieks get on my nerves. What can I say? I love the little turd.
tl;dr: If anyone should regret it, it's me. I miss lots of stuff, but it's still worth it. Evolution does a good job of wiring us to love our own, even if you can't imagine it now.
edit: here's my little munificent 2.0.
edit 2: Thank you for all the kind words. It means more than you know.

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