The young couple jokes and laughs over their entrees. She forks him some steak. He spoons her some soup. I imagine delicately slamming their faces into their mashed potatoes. But when our 1-year-old chucks his milk, splattering it everywhere, and our three year-old-starts to cry about us not letting her sit upside down on the table with an elephant (or something), I look at them and apologize.
Maybe they looked at us while we juggled toy cell phones, sippy cups, and outrageous demands, and they thought, “We are SO glad we don’t have any kids,” or maybe they thought our kids were charming in their own unique way and a discussion on becoming parents began.
Maybe they didn’t think of us at all. But we thought of them.
We’ve only been parents for 3.5 years, which doesn’t seem like an amount of time you could forget what it’s like to only feed yourself at a restaurant or only wipe your HANDS. But we have.
We envy the couple. They have more than 30 seconds to themselves each day. They can read books that don’t rhyme and aren’t about using the potty. They can have a hobby other than stacking rubber blocks and Legos.
“Remember when we were awesome,” a friend with four kids told me. I wrote a post about our conversation. We could be romantic on a whim. We could pull all nighters working. We could pursue an array of projects, interests, and passions.
But now we’re parents.
“I would write/read/exercise/volunteer more if I didn’t have kids.” I don’t verbalize this, but I think it a lot. I’m guessing other parents do too. At times I look at couples with no kids and hold their childlessness against them because I’m jealous.
There. I said it. I’m jealous of couples with no kids. I’m jealous of their time. I know other parents who’ve hinted at the same thing.
I’m not sure it’s correct to think that I would write more or accomplish more if we didn’t have kids. Maybe I would just watch a lot more movies and play more video games. I would love to play more videogames. I don’t play any, but I SO could. Kids need to eat and they need diapers and they need college educations and stuff like that, which are all things that push me to do my work more for two reasons:
1) I’m responsible for providing all of these things;
2) I believe my work makes the world a better place.
(Maybe you think #2 is a little boastful, but everyone should be doing something that they feel makes the world a better place for the next generation. If you don’t feel that your job is making the world a better place, you aren’t doing the thing you are meant to be doing.)
Regardless of the reason (choice, biology, etc) a couple is childless, envying them isn’t fair. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that when you mentioned your quick weekend vacation that was 10 times longer than any vacation we’ve had in 3.5 years that I rolled my eyes. I’m sorry I imagined slamming your face into mashed potatoes. I’m sorry I imagined setting my son’s biohazard diapers on your front porch, setting it on fire, and ringing the door bell.
I adore my kids. If you’ve read about my homesickness you know that. I have a month-long trip coming up and I’m already almost in tears about it.
As much as I envy them, I also feel sorry for them. Again, this isn’t fair. Sorry.
When couples who don’t have kids have a bad day, they don’t get to come home to funny little people who call them mom or dad, who make them forget about all their troubles. Some days I’m not a good writer, I’m not productive, I get bad news, but when I go home and little arms wrap around my knees and little smiles are smiled in my direction, nothing else matters. No matter how bad of a writer I am, I can always be a good dad.
If you are reading this and don’t have kids, let me explain this to you: You know how a dog can make you forget that you sucked at work or that your boss yelled at you? Well, being a parent is like 10 times the feel good a dog can give you, unless of course your kid is being a brat and then you wish you could throw them in a cage. But that’s a whole other blog post.