the following post is not intended to discourage people about having kids. I love my life as it is, I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I do feel more people should understand where we, parent/gamers, are standing.
Let me talk to you about a certain subject that’s dear to my heart and is quite the clash in a gamer’s life.
I emphasize on the word, bolded and italicized, because once you’ve got them, they are the centre of your whole world. Unless you want to be part of a bad parenting society, then be my guest. I, for one, will always chose my kid over everything else. Even my own life.
But let’s talk about what having kids as a gamer really means. The point of this blog post is not to tell you what to do, you’re free to follow your own judgement, or course. The point of this post, is to educate those without kids on just how much they underestimate what “being a parent” really means. And maybe to even get some slack from childless people who are expecting too much from me. (I might be asking too much, there.)
I would also like to point out that while I may ‘sound’ like I am lecturing others, it is not my intention. Take this as an exaggerated (yet accurate) rant about my actual thoughts and actions lived through my own experiences.
Begin educational rant!
So your life is great. You wake up at the time you want, unless you’re working or going to school, of course. You have obligations, such as cleaning your house, emptying your cat’s litter box, walking your dogs, paying your bills and/or washing your car, feeding yourself (although very optional on any given days) and engaging in social activities, because no one likes a hermit. Then, at night, or even on weekends when your friends are over, you do what you like most; gaming. Platform, PC, board, whatever. There’s just something about escaping reality, about being a hero, that attracts you and this is what you’ve known to love most, or at least love a little bit more than other activities.
Your daily obstacles involve, but are not limited to, the following; Late credit card payment. Plumbing leak. Chosing the right colour for your new walls. Forgetting to buy milk. Flat tire. You broke a nail. Your dog broke a vase. Your boyfriend/girlfriend is in a bad mood. Your cell phone’s battery dies. It’s raining. There’s a spider hiding in an unreachable spot. Bad hair day. You hate your boss/teacher. Etc.
Aside from these problems, you enjoy every single day. You sometimes get up on the wrong side of the bed, but you shake it off by going to an unscheduled morning jog, or you even decide to call it quits and slump down on the couch to watch some TV. If it’s a weekday, you decide to drive by the local coffee shop and order some coffee, no sugar this time because you’re watching your weight. A coffee, some good music, you drive off to work where your boss might not be your best friend, but at least some of your co workers are awesome. High five Jeff, nod to Priscilla, wink to Drew, begin work. During this time, you check your phone a few times, answer some texts, exchange a few e-mails, catch up on things. Twitter, Facebook and 9gag are your best friends.
Coming back from work, you decide to grab some diner from your favourite local restaurant and bring it home. It’s much more faster this way and you’ll get more play time during the night. It’s 6PM, you’re ready to do some gaming.
If you’re lucky, your sweetheart also games with you, so you don’t have to walk away from the computer, because you’re a warrior who’s damsel is in distress but somehow she manages to fight off villains with her mighty flames of doom. She casts spells, you fend off evil, next thing you know you’re in bed, sound asleep, dreaming of an epic dungeon run. You get maybe 7 hours of sleep. Less if you were doing a dungeon raid. But that’s all good. Maybe you can sleep in tomorrow.
But then, things get redundant, your biological clock is ticking, and you decide to procreate. How cool would it be to have a mini you become your best friend and enjoy everything you do? Right? Besides, your damsel in distress is in need of procreation and you just can’t say no to the act, especially when it’s almost every single day of the week.
9 months (Or well, 10 if you know how to count. It IS 40 weeks after all.) in the making, you dream of your little buddy tugging at your leg to go out and play. Or even better! Maybe this little buddy is going to be just like mommy and daddy and will want to play MMOs just like you! And while you dream about what you’ll do with your kids and how they’re going to behave (certainly not like the neighbour’s kids, yours are going to be much more calm!) you buy a few geek onesies because they are just so damn cute. And so will your kid be.
You prepare your well planned schedule; you took a year off from work, paternity/maternity leave, so you figure this is all you needed to get that epic set of armor! Between feedings (because that’s what a baby’s all about the first few weeks) you’ll set your bundle of joy down in his crib and plan for the next 2 hours to grind monsters and get some gold. You’ll hopefully be able to even surpass those who’ve beat you in the past and you’ll even love pointing and laughing at them. You’ve got a year off from work! All the time for yourself! (Well, that’s what you’ve been telling yourself, anyways.)
And then, reality checks in.
This is not what you signed up for.
Sleeping like a baby? Who the hell invented that phrase? As far as it goes for your loving buddy and your family, your household lives, or rather survives, on a 2 hours at a time nap, followed by a 1 hour feeding and occasional cries which you’ve never heard like before. It sounds like nails on a chalkboard mixed with your own whining from when you stubbed your own toe on your kitchen table. This screaming lasts for hours because your bundle of joy-ish has only one way to exclaim himself and let you know he’s hungry. High pitched, banshee-worthy screams that can pierce ear drums and crit your hearing 1337 style.
Your neighbours hate you.
Your lack of sleep is making you angry and very impatient and you wished you could play your game, but every time you try to log in, your spawn starts to yell because it is hungry and needs to be in your arms. “Why won’t you sleep?!” you ask yourself. Because at this point, you thought you knew what it was like to be a parent, but really, you knew Jack Shit. And Mr. Jack Shit is pretty clueless about everything in that department. So little by little, you begin to disappear from the gaming community, in hopes to return at least next month, when your child decides it’s time to sleep for at least 6 hours straight at night.
But it never comes.
Your child decides that it’s time for a new milestone called Separation Anxiety. So you ask your family, friends, and even read books about the subject. You try your best to calm your child and to be there for him or her whenever you can help. You still can’t sleep at night, and you’re still grumpy, because who can run on lack of sleep months at a time and remain calm and focused on every aspects of their lives? No one. And if you try to convince me, you’ll fail and will be deemed a liar.
Several months go by, little by little you forget about your avatar because you realized something was more important than yourself. The one you created, of course. You accept the fact that you’re a parent, you forget about your own well being and spend every single second getting to know your baby better. Each and every day you discover something new, a smile, a tooth, a laugh, and suddenly you know who you’re supposed to be. Not an avatar, but someone’s hero. A real hero.
Your spawn is 12 months old. YAY! time to celebrate your little buddy and all the achievements he’s done so far! In all honesty, you’ve gotten used to all the new responsibilities that comes with being a parent. And those include, but are not limited to; Caretaker, maid, kiss-it-better expert, teacher (On all basic skills such as eating, walking, talking, discovering) cook, provider, story teller, rocking chair, monster chaser, time manager, the list goes on.
You’ve also learned, in the past 12 months, how to; go grocery shopping with a baby, cook 3 healthy meals a day, clean the house twice a week, creating a tighter budget, napping during afternoon naps (You’ve noted this one as very important to be well rested), you’ve rediscovered finger painting, peek-a-booing and your favourite place to hang out at is the local playground. You’ve discovered life as you never knew it before. You’ve realized that even if you broke a nail, there are far worse things than this. You’ve discovered that even though people tell you “You’ll never know what it’s like to have kids unless you have them!” it is oh-so-true but you had never listened. You’ve taught yourself how to do things according to schedule, but that a kid can easily break that schedule and so you need to learn how to plan, re-plan and re-re-plan.
Your favourite friends are still Facebook, Twitter and 9gag, but the first two social medias are now spammed with photos of your kid instead of your usual in-the-bathroom-duck-face-in-the-mirror-idiotic–picture.
You stop for a moment. You realize something. Something is missing.
You used to be a gamer. You used to know everything there was about a game. You miss your friends and the quests and missions. And now that your baby is much more independent, sleeps 8 hours a night and has nice naps during the afternoons, you start playing again.
You re-learn things because you’ve been gone for a year and so many things changed within the game. And you really get into it, but you also have to stop playing early, because your new boss will wake up at 6AM and demand to get out to be fed Captain Crunch with a side of milk.
Having been gone for 12 months, you don’t really care as much about the game. You have new priorities, but your friends don’t. They are still the same friends you used to have, old and new. Most, not parents. They still want to go for that 5 hours raid. They don’t necessarily want to wait for you every time you tell them “brb” because your baby woke up and screams for your attention. They start to lose interest and go on without you. A few will stay, some already parents, some understanding, some just have good manners. But unless you get a babysitter, or unless your partner helps you in this, you can’t focus and you shrug it off. It’s not as important as it used to be.
Besides, tomorrow’s finger painting day. And you can’t wait until this moment because it will be just another thing your kid amazes you with. You’ve created someone who is intelligent. Who amazes you with the simplest of things. Who learns on his own and impresses you with every steps he makes.
But you’ve also created someone who has his or her own personality. Whatever happened to “My child is going to be an angel ’cause I was when I was a kid!“? No. It doesn’t matter if you were an angel, if your partner was, if your cousin’s cousin was playing piano by the age of 2. Your child is your child. A unique snowflake who will scream and kick despite how many times you’ve put him in timeout. He or she will develop his or her own personality.
Because that is what raising a kid is like.
It’s about teaching them. Not hopping for the best. You can’t build a sandcastle and expect it to stand one way because the container says so. Each grains are going to go where they want to go. You just need to hold it together, using your own methods.
Complicated and bad analogy. I know. But that’s another side effect to being a parent. Your brain gets squishy quickly because sleeping is what you would want to be doing.
So, you’ve got a kid. Life is great!
You’re teaching someone how to be someone.
Your responsibilities include, but are not limited to; late credit card payment. Plumbing leak. Diaper rash. Teething fever. Chosing the right colour for your new walls. Vaccines appointments. Forgetting to buy milk. Forgetting to buy formula. Flat tire. Buying the right car seat. You broke a nail. Thank the gods you didn’t break your kid. You’re being criticized as a parent. Your dog broke a vase. Your kid took his diaper off and proceeded to Picasso the hell out of your walls. Your boyfriend/girlfriend is in a bad mood. It’s throw a tantrum day. Your cell phone’s battery dies. It’s raining. There’s a spider hiding in an unreachable spot. Bad hair day. You hate your boss. Etc.
So you’re playing games at night again and you decide you’re up for a challenge. You’re going to start a guild and manage a website, forums, PR and as your community grows bigger, you gain more responsibilities. People want to talk to you about multiple things and have plans for you you didn’t even see coming. You’re now part of something that requires your full attention at a full time pace.
Like work. But unpaid.
But what they seem to forget is that you already have a full time job. You’re a parent. From the moment you open your eyes in the wee hours of the morning until your little one goes to bed (and actually falls asleep), you’re a mean machine running on parental energy. Grocery shopping with a yelling toddler? No biggie. Going for prescription renewals while your kid runs up and down the alleys because he somehow managed to learn how to untie himself from his stroller? Bring it on! Prepare breakfast, lunch and diner on top of two snacks a day while you know half of it is going to end up on the floor? Used to it! Give your kid a bath at night, expecting a tsunami in your bathroom followed by kicks and screams because he wants to stay naked and not be dressed? Like a glove!
You put your kid in bed around 8PM, you make yourself a coffee, grab your cell phone and head downstairs to the computer room because you’ve received at least 15 e-mails today from different people asking you about your website, the community, letting you know about their new ideas and you also get the occasional drama seeker’s e-mail taunting to raise your blood pressure. You sit down at the computer. You want to play your game tonight, but you don’t have time. You answer some of those e-mails and proceed to make sure everyone is acting nice in your community because you want it to remain a friendly one. One everyone would love to join and feel welcome.
Next thing you know, it’s almost midnight and you haven’t stepped even for a second in the game. Oh well. There’s always tomorrow!
And then tomorrow, it’s rinse, lather, repeat.
Every single day, you try to level up. You’re asked to go in game, to help out, but really, you can’t, because on top of all the work you’ve been doing, some people are saying you don’t work fast enough for their own taste.
“Clearly they don’t have kids” you tell yourself. 99% of the time, you’re right. The other 1%, they were joking.
Being a parent is a full time job. I don’t care if you don’t believe me, if you think you could do better or if you think I’m just an over-achiever and I should focus on one thing at a time. But until my kid goes to daycare (Which is soon!) I think people should expect a little less from me and other full time parents out there. We were gamers at one point. We still are. We just have other priorities.
So excuse me if I don’t post my story as soon as I can. Pardon me if I can’t spare 100k in-game gold because I haven’t been playing like I used to.
I’m not grinding exp. anymore. I’m trying to build a world for myself, both offline and online.
And I’m so mighty proud of what I’ve built in both worlds. Don’t come sucking the energy out of me.
Have kids? Want kids?
Comment, feedback, hate-mail.
Bring it on.