You have to understand that if someone has a kid, let alone two, and they make the time and effort to see you even every couple of months, that's huge.
The saying "days are slow but weeks are fast" is never more applicable than when you have small children. Months go by in a flash. Just keeping them cared for is a non-stop grind that takes most of your energy, and you start jealously guarding those few spare moments that you get to yourself. Leaving the house and socializing is the last thing you want to do.
You certainly cannot count on them to be up for impromptu mid-week shenanigans, but that doesn't mean you're not important to them. They just no longer have as much to give. Think of it as if they're working for some crappy client who demands non-stop crunch time and lives at their house.
I've always wanted children, but this entire thread scares me a little bit with comments like this all over the place. Everyone says "Oh, but it feels so worth it!" That's great, but does it feel that way for everyone? I crave alone time and working on my own little research projects and hobbies. The idea of driving multiple little people back and forth to soccer practice just... doesn't seem like my version of a good time (which is why I really hope self-driving cars become a thing in the next few years).
It sounds like young children would cause an introverted tech person who is more interested in ideas than sensory experiences to fall apart after a while. I really hope that when I have children I get the magical "this is amazing; I never could have imagined how meaningful life could feel!" moment that everyone else talks about, but if that doesn't happen, I might be screwed...
It's socially unacceptable to do so.
Then you have a kid or three.
Over half your total free time is now gone—~24hrs devoted to them on the weekend if your kids do 12 awake 12 asleep each day, which is typical for young kids past the newborn phase and will remain stable for several years, plus ~3hrs each weekday, for a working parent. Consider too that there will be more cleaning, more cooking, more everything to keep your house in order, but let's put that aside for now (some of that can overlap with times your kids are awake, but far from all of it).
Remember that 25% of your (original, larger amount of) time you spent keeping your relationship with your SO healthy? A little of that can come from family time while the kids are awake, but not all of it. True, you can (and to stay sane must) fudge your free time a little by having one parent do all the parenting parts of some days while the other one does non-parenting stuff, but that only gets you so far. Point is, if you don't want to end up divorced/separated/whatever, much of your now-smaller pool of free time isn't gonna be entirely free.
If it's starting to look like you've only got somewhere in the neighborhood 10-15hrs a week to do things you want to, including travel time to any activities, well... yeah, that's not far off. That's media and arts (books, movies, video games, the opera, whatever), playing an instrument, taking online courses, going to the pub, game nights with friends, sports, crafts, biking, kayaking, hiking, gardening, exercise et c. If it's starting to look like you'll only be able to keep up 2-3 of those things on the regular—yep, exactly right. You can kinda do some of those things with your kids, but it won't much resemble doing those things without kids (count on getting 10% as much done in a given stretch of time, IOW, and it won't be nearly as relaxing). You will have to abandon most of them, at least as any kind of regular activity.
I hear this gets (a lot) better when they're older, and can be left to fend for themselves a bit, but you're still looking at most of a decade lived like this, and more if your kids are spaced out.
Other things that suck: having to move to a nice suburb ($) into a house with enough bedrooms ($) in a good school district ($) OR a house closer to the city with enough space ($$, if you can even find such) and private schools because those public schools will suck ($$), OR having a parent stay home and homeschool ($$$). Medical bills can add up even for minor stuff, and insurance costs more. Having kids is basically financial suicide, and clothes/food are the least of the costs—housing, medical, and school/child care are the killers.
Travel is like 20x harder and more stressful, plus more expensive, plus you'll lose a lot of potentially fun travel time to taking care of kids, which is if anything less fun to do in Barcelona or Tokyo or a little country town in France or a campsite in the Rockies than it is at home. You probably won't want to do it much and will feel like you need another vacation afterward when you do. For that matter: staycation-type vacations will be less relaxing than they would without kids, too.
There are some cool things about it, certainly, but make no mistake that it'll be fucking incredibly expensive in pretty much every way. It is a life decision in the sense that lots of stuff you might otherwise do in your life will 100% for sure not be done if you have kids. You can't have everything, and you only have so much time and money, and kids are likely by far the biggest sink for both of those things you could (reasonably) choose to do.
Source: have three kids.
[EDIT] oh and by the way, every time you have a kid you're buying a ticket in a reverse-lottery that could end in their having chronic illnesses, brain developmental issues, et c. Imagine all of the above, especially the part about it eventually getting better, if that happens. Yeah. Ouch.
Really, once you have 2, more aren't that much worse.
Why? I didn't know until I started responding. But I believe it's worth it. Let me throw some words out there. They may or may not resonate with you.
- Maybe it's because they are full and complete human beings, eventually capable of everything you are capable of and possibly much more.
- You will know everything about them and be responsible for molding them and teaching them and keeping them safe. Taking them from incapable blobs to a person who can think and make decisions and love and hurt.
- You will develop deep relationships and strong feelings for them, more than even for your spouse (which you never thought was possible), and deeper than any other project you'll ever take on.
- This thread is about deep friendships. This is deep. You will laugh with them and cry with them and argue with them. You will create and build things with them. You will discuss and debate things with them. You will challenge each other and make each other better.
- They will trust you like no one has ever trusted you. They will look up to you like no one has ever looked up to you. They will need you like no one has ever needed you. I mean it. No one. Your spouse has lived life before you. Your kids have not. Life without you isn't even conceivable.
- You will be imbued with purpose whether or not you already had purpose.
I state the above as if it were a certainty. It's not. Maybe I'm lucky. Some of the things above are choices you can make.
- Start with zero expectations of time. I took the first years of life with kids very badly because I felt like I lost my life and my time. Eventually I realized that this is my life now. Once I accepted that and stopped looking back and stopped looking forward everything got better. You will start to get more time back and that became a pleasant surprise rather than something I unhappily yearned for. There will be regressions (where you lose time you previously gained back). Expect them and learn how to drop things you were doing until the regression is over.
- Be present. Your kids don't have to have the best anything in order to turn out great. They just need you. When you are with them drop everything else even your thoughts. Be there for them. Play with them.
- Take care of yourself and your needs. Make sure you get enough sleep. Your baby is crying and you are desperate for sleep? Check if they are safe, if they have poop, if they've eaten and if they are warm. Done? Get some earplugs and go to bed. Seriously. Take care of yourself!
- Any time you are feeling at your wits end reset your assumptions and take care of yourself. Start with what's absolutely necessary and work from there. Feeling stretched financially? Kids don't have to be expensive. You need to feed them. You don't really need anything else, not even diapers. A nearby park maybe.
> - You will know everything about them and be responsible for molding them and teaching them and keeping them safe. Taking them from incapable blobs to a person who can think and make decisions and love and hurt.
Helping kids discover the world is really, really cool.
> - You will develop deep relationships and strong feelings for them, more than even for your spouse (which you never thought was possible), and deeper than any other project you'll ever take on.
My Saturday morning outings with my kids (I get coffee, we share breakfast pastry, then we walk around the farmer's market for a while) are my very favorite part of my week. I highlighted that your free time gets sliced to a tiny fraction of what it was when you have kids--far less than half what it once was--but that time with your kids isn't wasted (unless you just hate being around kids and can't get over that, or you can't figure out how to enjoy yourself with kids, I guess). To put it bluntly: you're stuck with 'em, you can mope or you can enjoy yourself, and if you choose the latter it can be a lot of fun. They'll go through rough patches (so, so many) and man will they frustrate you off sometimes even if you have a pretty mellow disposition, but the good times are really great.
> - You will be imbued with purpose whether or not you already had purpose.
I'm definitely more mentally stable with kids than I ever was before. Go figure. YMMV.
> - Start with zero expectations of time. [....] Expect them and learn how to drop things you were doing until the regression is over.
It is vital that you don't try to keep up all the stuff you did pre-kids, or you'll have no time to do any of it well. Some of it you can shift around and squeeze into the cracks or during kid-time, maybe in a different form from pre-kids (PC gamer? Maybe switch to a Gameboy you can suspend at any time and carry anywhere. Runner? Jogging stroller. And so on.), but other things you just gotta let go or you'll be constantly annoyed that you can't seem to get anything done properly, because you're trying to keep up too many things at once. This advice is solid.
> - Be present. Your kids don't have to have the best anything in order to turn out great. They just need you. When you are with them drop everything else even your thoughts. Be there for them. Play with them.
I've gotten in the habit of thinking, in idle times when my kids are awake, "if 80-year-old me were transported back to this moment, what would he do?" Nine times out of ten this drives me to go play with my kids rather than doing whatever time-wasting crap I might have done for that five minutes instead.
> - Take care of yourself and your needs. Make sure you get enough sleep. Your baby is crying and you are desperate for sleep? Check if they are safe, if they have poop, if they've eaten and if they are warm. Done? Get some earplugs and go to bed. Seriously. Take care of yourself!
> - Any time you are feeling at your wits end reset your assumptions and take care of yourself. Start with what's absolutely necessary and work from there. Feeling stretched financially? Kids don't have to be expensive. You need to feed them. You don't really need anything else, not even diapers. A nearby park maybe.
I highlighted all the ways kids cost tons of money, and oh man do they ever (if you have to you can definitely spend less on e.g. getting into a good school district, but if you've got the means you'll find it hard not to spend that money) but you can easily spend way more than you need to on them. Buy used clothes (Craigslist and swap shop are great for this, so are garage sales), buy used toys--the kids won't mind used things unless you teach them to mind. As mentioned, kids love parks and they're free. Half the crap in the baby section of the store is of little actual use. You don't need to pack like you're making an expedition to an unknown continent when you go out with a baby, with a huge cargo-stroller and/or a huge $300 baby bag (these are real things and many people buy them)--one prepped bottle, 2-3 diapers, and some wipes are all you need 99+% of the time, and often you can get away with leaving some or all of that in the car (if you drive).
(addressing the parent question directly)
> Well, that's all a bit depressing. What would your advice be for me? I'm 26 and my SO wants three children as soon as I'm willing to have them.
I hesitate to advise anyone to have kids or not to have kids. I'd say if you're really set on, say, traveling the world extensively before you're 40... maybe don't. Some stuff's just not happening if you have kids. You cannot have kids and also all the other things you may have wanted. Your retirement savings/debt repayment (say, mortgage) will surely suffer, probably a lot. If you'll consider it a major life failure if you don't retire early and you don't have an incredibly high income (or two), maybe don't have kids. If it's very important to you to at least try to achieve great things in pretty much any field and you don't have enough money to pay for live-in help or an SO who's willing to take on almost all the work of raising the kids (see: the biographies on Wikipedia of people famous for great accomplishments who also had kids) then maybe don't have kids.
Then again, lots of life is making choices about that kind of thing, whether you know it at the time or not. Having kids is a particularly large one with unusually far-reaching consequences, but it's not so different from the rest. If you just really want kids, or of the idea of doing some fraction of the things you might otherwise have done (plus a fair number of things you wouldn't have) but with kids rather than alone or as a couple is very appealing to you, then maybe have kids. Just know what you're choosing to put aside for that, and reach a peace with that fact sooner rather than later to save yourself some painful adjustment and maybe regret. You're doing this rather than that, because it's what you want.
My only downtime was taking an extra 5 minutes to pick up books I'd reserved at the library on the way to picking up take-away once a week.
The idea of seeing friends every couple of months seemed impossible.
No, he's right. You're no longer important to them. They make their life choices and set their priorities such that you are so unimportant to them that they don't spend any time with you at all. Ask yourself this: If something or someone is important to you, do you make choices such that you stop spending time with them? There's your answer.
And they can say "noo you are still important". They should show it or they are a hypocrite. Emotions that are not acted upon are useless.
Children require a certain amount of time, and are given some degree more by any parent who enjoys parenting and/or has higher standards for parenting than what is required. If someone can't find any time for you because of their children, it isn't that their children have been deemed more important than you, it's that every single thing that they spent an hour a month doing with their children has been deemed more important than you.
I'm not being bitter here; my friends with kids found time for me when the kids were young, and now those kids are teenagers, so there's tons of time. It's just that all importance is, is priority. If you can't prioritize something enough to maintain it at all, it's because it's not important to you. Importance isn't some inner strength of feeling; that's a rationalization of being all talk and no action. If you don't feed something, it dies.
If this were true sexual attraction would not be the primary driver for relationships.
That's why you don't see heterosexual people marrying same sex people just because they are great friends and at "the top of the list".
Relationships (romantic) are primarily sexual affairs.
The whole "top of the list" thing is a recent western "invention".
Edit: I guess you can also say they are economic affairs, but there is always a sexual/reproductive element involved way before friendship
Sex is great and valuable; it's probably necessary at certain points in the relationship; but it's certainly not sufficient or the most important thing. Love, intimacy and human bonding are far more rewarding and valuable (and all enhanced by positive sex). As another easy example, beyond a doubt anyone I know with kids would give up sex before they gave up their child; it wouldn't be a close decision - it would be offensive to suggest otherwise to them.
EDIT: I omitted a very valuable reason for long term relationships: To have someone to care for, for whom you matter. I believe research (and plenty of anecdotal examples) shows that, lacking this benefit, isolated people feel like they don't really exist.
> Another way of looking at it is that long-term relationships with prostitutes would fit your description.
There's not much data on that but I remember vividly reading an academic study that interviewed many prostitutes and cases where regular "clients" used their services for more than 2 decades while racking several divorces in that time where common.
I was really surprised at the time.
Maybe friends disappearing (like the article states) leads those men (in that study it was only male "clients") to pay to have a permanent human element in their lives.
You'd be surprised, but the qualifier "romantic" messes up with clearly addressing this (since it presupposes sexuality).
Marriage in most cultures have been more about the economic and companionship part than about sexuality up until recently. Heck, marriages were mostly arranged in most cultures until the last 1-2 centuries...
After all you can "play" around without getting married too, no need to marry for that.
i think we need to distinguish between long-term and short-term relationships. sexual attraction might be the primary reason why a man and woman initially get together, but it's not necessary the reason they stay together for years or even decades. relationships evolve, and in the end, long-term relationships are built on a lot more than sexual attraction.
Wrong. (You're blunt? I'm blunt. That's OK.)
Poster said "one of the benefits", not "the primary driver of", and it absolutely is one of the benefits of a relationship. If you're not top of your partner's list (and vice versa) then you're not partners, you're just a mutual booty call.
The key words you missed, even though you quoted, are "one of the benefits". Not "the only benefit" or "the most important benefit".
Also this leads into some pretty important marital advice that just because you're at the top of someone's list doesn't mean you should stop trying to keep yourself there. Gotta put that effort in!
This is only true for a time when you're young, before you grow and realize what's more important.
I want to have a life partner, not (just) a warm body to ejaculate into.
maybe you haven't met the right person yet?
It seems like you are dismissing the argument with some nebulous personal attack.