When they are defying you and just threw food over the kitchen, you'll get grey hairs trying to fight the urge to blow your top. You'll say things you promised yourself you would never say, because you're all out of ideas how to handle a tiny creature who is intent on riling you, just to see what it's like.
Then they'll get sick and you'll need to carry them to a doctor and entrust them to medical staff you've never met, and you'll be so anxious you won't eat or sleep.
Then the next day you'll have the most wonderful conversation where your little charge asks you about the universe and you try and explain it to them, not knowing where to start or how much understanding they really have.
One thing though, you'll learn compassion, forgiveness and patience like you never thought possible.
Now friends with older children keep telling me "little kids -- little problems, big kids -- big problems". I hear the words, but it doesn't really mean anything to me now, just a nice saying. But something tells me though, one day I will say to them too "Yeah, I know what you meant..."
He's over it, he's doing great in general, he looks his age both physically and mentally and to us he's the best kid in the world (and I'm sure we aren't exaggerating much), but ever since he was born we have been freaking out, being extra careful not to catch cold, doing all kinds of tests for hearing, eye-sight, immunity, allergic reactions, bacterial infections and so on and so forth.
Imagine that in the case of this Lyell syndrome, the doctor warned us that he may lose all his skin, and that this is extremely dangerous because it will behave like being burned. Fortunately it didn't happen that way, but imagine the stress.
Now, I don't know what kind of problems I'll have later down the road, but I'm pretty sure health-related problems, especially when the child is between 0 and 2 years, are the worst ;)
I meant my comment to be more along the lines -- 'if you think crying and diaper changing is difficult, wait till you have to start worrying about them crashing your car, getting a call from the police when they are out with friends at night, or getting someone pregnant'.
Unfortunately even HN has its trolls....
I don't recall ever hearing my parents using it against me or even mentioning it. You suddenly realize that ever parent has just taken it on the chin and selflessly put themselves second to their children.
As a father I completely understand why, as a child I just had no idea (until now).
Your parents didn't mention it because they probably forgot how difficult that part was. It passes quickly-- even though it may not seem like it at the time-- and is mostly a blur when you look back. Take lots of pictures. Think about keeping a journal.
And when your son turns 18 and joins the Army. You'll wonder "where'd it all go".
It all goes by in a blink. Enjoy the moments you have now. You'll miss then soon enough.
The hours of sleep change from time to time. But there is nothing quite like seeing your child look at you with a grin from ear to ear when you come home and they come running up to you saying "DADDY!" (or "MOMMY" -- but I'm not a mother ;) ).
When Jeff talks about the 51% to the 49%, my personal opinion is why even bother devoting 18+ years of effort for a measly 2% payoff? Because, if it WAS worth it, wouldnt it be more than 2%?
I know this is perhaps a controversial opinion but please keep in mind I dont advocate my own views for anyone else. I have friends who i wholeheartedly believe weren't complete until they had kids, they're great parents and its what makes them whole and i think thats brilliant. But kids are like bungee jumping or religion, great for other people, but certainly not for me.
However, around six months, when he started to be able to actually do things for himself, like hold his own bottle, I started to feel a shift. Now he's 15 months old and I completely understand what everyone means when they say "you'll never love anything more." Being with him is the most heart-breakingly beautiful part of my life and I wouldn't have it any other way.
All that said, I firmly believe that kids aren't the only, or even best, path to fulfillment for everyone. In fact, I still don't really get the same sense of accomplishment from raising him that I do from my work. And I'm sure if we didn't have him, I would be able to do some other amazingly beautiful thing that helped other people or just made me happy.
This is all to say, don't write anything off, even if it feels like a mistake for far longer than you think it should. Sometimes doing something just because someone you love wants it so much more than you can turn out better than you expect. On the other hand, finding someone who wants the same things as you can turn out just as good. Be open, that's all I'm trying to say.
If you can never picture yourself with children of your own, or more importantly, don't want to, then don't have them.
You're not "incomplete". Having children changes you, but it is not a measure of completeness. This statement comes from any major learning period, which I think is what having a child essentially is. However, it's meaningless to say that "learning to play piano completed me", outside of your own context. Not everyone wants to play piano, and some of us don't even like music.
I think some people are geared for it. Some people are not. Unfortunately, a lot of people that aren't geared for it still end up having children anyway and that becomes a huge mess, obviously.
I personally just don't like children. My family begs my wife and I to have children and it annoys us to no extent. We understand the complexities of having a child and we also understand how selfish we currently are. We would probably end up despising the child if we ever had one.
We go through periods at times where we'll see a baby and be like "aw, how cute", but that quickly changes when that child starts screaming and crying.
I can't even stand my nieces and nephews. I'm serious... I hate holidays because I know I'll have to put up with them. This sounds harsh, sure... but it's the truth. All I see out of them is a mass quantity of pure concentrated annoyance. While I love them because they are family, I simply don't want to be around them. If they ever needed help, I'd help them. If they ever needed a home, I'd house them... I'd be there for them because they're family and that's what family is there for... however, nobody said I had to like them!
Our views may change, obviously. As you get older, your priorities change and we both may have different opinions. However, we're both in our mid thirties and time is not on our side anymore and we still, to this day, feel that not having children was a great idea.
As far as the 51/49 split, I'd personally say I feel that way with my dog. :) However, when I want to get away from my dog, I crate her and go out to dinner!
Have you spent much time around them? I have a 16 month old, and before he was born, I felt exactly the same as you. In fact, I went out of my way to avoid having to interact with children of most any age. Once I spent some time around my son, I began to find other babies cute and fun and now I really enjoy hanging out with kids (well, most of them). Maybe it's an acquired taste?
I imagine there is all this code in your brain that doesn't run because 'if (kid)' resolves to false. It can freak people out when that code starts being run. I've never met anyone who thought it was like they had imagined it would be. Kind of like sex in that regard.
I resonated with a lot of what Jeff wrote. And the funny thing was after my first kid I became an expert. I studied her and figured out all the responses to various stimuli, created models and developed strategies. Then when I had my second I discovered I knew nothing. I didn't give up trying to make models but I've spent time discovering the unique value that each of my children brought with them to this world.
Sometimes, it doesn't feel like I had children, it feels like they were simply waiting for me to be ready to meet them.
And you know what, my son is almost 8 weeks old now, and sometimes I still hold him at 4AM while he's screaming and I can't imagine what I got myself into. But you know what? It's truly the most amazing, "fucking terrifying" thing you'll ever do. Emphasis on the amazing. And terrifying.
I couldn't imagine doing it, and now I can't imagine my life without him. I don't think it can be explained.
I never found babies cute, objectively. Newborns are, frankly, ugly. And I'm sure mine was no different - objectively. But I didn't see it. He was heartbrakingly beautiful. And even when he screams and I want to tear my hair out and I just want him to sleep - sleep damnit, it's 4AM and I have work tomorrow! - he's amazing and beautiful and he's pure, unbridled LIFE.
I think, ultimately, that's what it is. You hold your child - your wrinkled, red-faced newborn - and you realize you're holding on to pulsating, breathing, unadulterated vitality.
And that can't be replaced by anything in the world.
Kids are one area where you do have to go all-in... The last thing the world needs is kids who are screwed up because their parents "sorta" wanted kids (the way I sorta want an rc helicopter) and discover their personal pain/gain is over 1.0, and check out and let the tv raise them.
Between 49 and 51 I count a difference of two percents?
> Turns out, we're having two babies, due in mid-February 2012.
Aha. Let's talk again in a year or two, see who you'd throw under a bus.
I have three of those myself. I don't really subscribe to this whole "kids are wonderful" cliché.
The first kid, it's wonderful, yes (but this has been said before, no?) The other kids? Let's say I would agree more with Louis CK:
Edit: downvoters should try to take care of my kids for a few days ;-)
Apart from being exceptional time-sinks, children can be infuriating "just because". It's not that you have to explain everything (that's expected), it's that you have to do it 15 times, and you know they got it after the very first one but still refuse to do what necessary "just because" -- because they want to see your reaction, or because they want to exercise their power on you, or because they don't really want to go see Grandpa Smelly, or because they feel kinda lazy, or because there's a lovely shiny thing somewhere, or because... by the end of the argument, they probably can't even remember.
And obviously they'll try to crush your laptop under the heaviest object, or crawl on you when you're typing The-Most-Important-Email-Ever, and by the time they're 10 they'r probably going to send porn links to your entire addressbook just because it's funny. Etc etc etc.
Obviously I love my daughter and I'll love her brother, but if it was for my brain alone, that 51-49 split would be more like a 10-90 no-contest one-party landslide.
I think it's really unfortunate. It gives people unrealistic expectations and makes it that much harder to deal with the bad bits.
Each of our kids was different and their personalities were by no means easy to deal with, but molding them into who they should have been was our job as their parents. A few days with your kids might be hard but once they understood our boundaries I think you'd see a big difference in them. A few months with your kids and I'll bet that we'd love them too.
Here's a thought: one can be a model parent with model kids and still feel that life without kids would have been better. You can even enjoy your life and your kids while still feeling that way.
I've got two boys, 4 and 2. As you said the first one is pretty good, but the second one is a terror. If I lose it on him and yell with all my might at his misdeeds he will just sit there and laugh - he thinks it's funny. He can be - and is - exhausting to just be around, let alone parent.
But I love him to death. He's a reflection of certain sides of me. He is WONDERFUL. And yes, if I had to give my life for him I'd do it in a heartbeat.
Kids, at the end of the day, are just a reflection of their parents, both good and bad. Sure they can be unique in their own right, but how they handle stress, their gut reactions, their deepest feelings, their expression of opinion - all very similar to the parent.
Do you really think that this is true often enough to present it as a blanket rule like that? It seems like a fantastic oversimplification to me.
Let me clarify: I'm not saying that kids are similar to their parents in the outcomes (a parent may like going on bike rides while a child doesn't, for instance), rather I find that the way they process information can be very similar: if a parent tends to react emotionally, then logically to certain cues, the child will emulate, although not to the same particular cues.
This gets stronger as the parent molds the child, in that I've found this is more likely the case in "older" children than babies.
It's been my experience that once you've identified the key drivers pushing this response, the response between adult and child is almost identical. I'm somewhat ashamed to also confirm that this works even when the parent is yourself.
Of all the children and parents I know well enough, yes. They all match this mold. Even my own children. They match expectedly and precisely.
This, of course, is merely my own observations, and limited in it's scope.
(I have one.)
Failed parent. Since kids can only be as wonderful as you (parent) mold and let them to be. (at least in the early years)
As it stands you're adding nothing to this conversation.
But the manner in which you publicly talk about your own family is just disgusting.
I have only higher words even about my dog even with the headaches she causes sometimes.
For all it's worth, I love my kids. Of course. And I would throw myself under a bus for any of them. Of course. And I almost have, twice (under my motorbike, which is not a bus, but weights over 400 pounds).
My point is: who doesn't love his kids??!? (And who cares?)
- - -
Edit: this may bring more downvotes, but it's worth it if it helps me understand myself.
I profoundly disliked Jeff's post. I should have said so instead of trying to be funny about it, but then I would have had to explain. Well, I have to explain anyway. So there.
If parenting should teach you anything, it's that your kids are not you. They are not part of you, either. They're them; they're persons. Jeff says so near the end, but I'm afraid he doesn't understand what it means.
Contrary to what most people apparently believe, praising your own kids in public, or your love for them, isn't helping them. It's helping you. It's using them to project a better image of you. It objectifies them: in fact, it's a kind of abuse.
Really? It's abuse to praise your kids in public? Do you really feel that praising your child in public is the same as abusing them?
Regardless of whether that praise is warranted or not, you're calling it abuse?
I honestly think you are disconnected. I understand you are trying to make a point, and while I didn't necessarily agree, I could respect that opinion. But when you started to define praise in public as abuse (that whole line of thinking), I really think you lost it.
The worst part is, I could see what you were thinking. I just think it's so disconnected from reality. This explains why you think and feel the way you do. This could be a cultural thing (you are from France). Might also just be who you are. But I honestly think you are disconnected, and that can only hurt your opinion.
Praising your kid in front of your kid, in public, when he deserves it, for example at the end of a game where he played well: that's good, that's just... normal.
Talking about your kid, when he's not here, and presenting him, or your relation to him, in such a way that you benefit from the exposition: I don't think that's ok. Abuse is certainly too strong a word, but it's related.
That being said:
"Talking about your kid, when he's not here, and presenting him, or your relation to him, in such a way that you benefit from the exposition"
Is this abuse?
"For all it's worth, I love my kids. Of course. And I would throw myself under a bus for any of them. Of course. And I almost have, twice (under my motorbike, which is not a bus, but weights over 400 pounds)."
Because, in this context, you are using your child and your relation to them, as well as your love, as a way to bolster your own argument. It's a way to lend credibility and weight to what you have to say. It could be said that you felt your arguments couldn't stand on their own without making it clear that you're a parent.
No, I dont' think it's abuse. I understand what I think you are trying to say: using those that would treat their children as mere accessories rather than children. But honestly, I don't think that's something you can see from one single post. Jeff made a post on a blog. It had some commentary, some interesting thoughts. It was something he had on his mind, and wanted to share it. He also used it as a segue into announcing the future birth of twins.
To equate his post on his personal site announcing the pregnancy to abuse is, if I may be so bold, absurd.
> downvoters should try to take care of my kids for a few days
And it could be equally said upvoters should take care of my kids for a few days.
Kids are different, and some can be an absolute joy, and others a nightmare. And you see both sides. People complaining, and people happy.
Throughout my life, I've heard people say "Just wait until..." and at that moment, I'll understand what they've said.
Sometimes this is the case. Sometimes it isn't.
Just wait until you're me. You'll understand.
First, I find it annoying that you're being downvoted here. You're being honest and sincere and that should be commended even if I don't agree with you.
To the point however: From reading your comments, it seems to me that there is something about your children (well, two of them at least) that you really, really don't like. My guess would be that this isn't because they are so different from you, but rather that they are exhibiting qualities that are very similar to qualities about yourself that you detest. I could be way off, but you might do well to explore this aspect on your own, if only to discount it.
You seem to think that what you're feeling is positive to them. I can assure you that it isn't. I can also assure you that they feel it too.
Again, I love all my children the same way. Really. I just meant to say something really trivial: having three (very young) kids is a lot different than having just one.
With the first kid, everything is amazing, and eventually kind of funny / charming. With three kids, you're just tired.
Tired makes you upset, and it doesn't have anything to do with any of them. The cure? Sending them to their grandparents. After only one day I miss them so much I have to go back to check on them; and then it starts all over again.
Its almost like he's talking about someone else's kids that he's baby sitting.
Small children are a blank canvas. Good and bad. Mine is sitting down quietly paging through a book whilst I tap this in on the iPad. Moments ago, she was blundering about with a blanket over her head. A day ago, she was tired, and apparently determined to crack her head open by falling onto a metal bed frame.
It's life, the most precious thing in the world. Love it while you can.
Acting like anything short of complete and unconditional love with absolutely no complaints or downside somehow means that there's something wrong with a person just suppresses completely legitimate feelings and makes it difficult for people to figure out how to deal with the inevitable problems and bad parts that will occur.
People that mostly like their kids and kids in the abstract, but nonetheless want to complain about some aspect of kids (understandably!), may not wish to create the impression that they're not into their kids. So they make sure to include a disclaimer in their complaint that their kids are wonderful, etc.
It's different among close friends -- there you find people complaining that their kids kept them up all night or whatever without feeling the need to include a "my kids are wonderful" every third sentence. Because their close friends know this implicitly.
You're not getting the entire point of Jeff's post if you are saying something like this. If you aren't a parent, fair enough, you simply don't understand. No disrespect intended but this is the truth.
If you are a parent, we should clarify that "unconditional love" doesn't mean no complaints or downsides. Nobody here is suggesting that.
My point is just that it's apparently unacceptable to complain unless it's also tempered with something like, "but it's awesome and great and they're wonderful and it totally outweighs the downsides!" The moment you talk about your children as troublesome without explicitly bringing up all the wonderment and joy and love, you get accused of having mental problems. Bambax presented a view of parenting where the children aren't absolutely wonderful all of the time. He fails to add on the socially mandated "but they're the best thing ever", and as a consequence people start wondering about his mental health, just because he presents a realistic picture of parenting. This, to me, is sick.
However, you (generally, not specifically you) would never say in front of your kids "well I love the first, but the others?" unless you're out of your mind. Imagine they'll dig down in the HN archives.
It can have such a long-term harmful effect on their self-images. The difference might be that this kind of abuse is a bit more explicit compared to the public praise.
I have to confess: from the outside looking in, parents resemble nothing so much as cult victims gushing with conversion stories, complete with the requisite, "It'll be so much better once you join!" It's even creepier than that, though: cults may have leaders, but parents merely have genes flipping switches. It's like we all have a brainwashing trigger implanted at birth, waiting for the right circumstance to arise. This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint, though: if raising kids is extremely hard, something would have to get tweaked in the parents' minds to convince them to stick around.
(Sometimes I wonder if some aspects of my genetic "kid trigger" were co-opted by my cat. She reduces me to a babbling puddle of mush, and I'm enormously protective of her. When she nearly died, I was reduced to tears, and I made large sacrifices in time and money to save her life — and I'd cheerfully sell a kidney if that's what it took to do so again. I plan on having her cryogenically preserved if the worst happens someday. But throw myself under a bus? No — although I'd throw someone else under a bus for her.)
The hardest part of being childfree, I've found, is the realization that I don't even live on the same planet as people who are, or will be, parents. Each side looks crazy from the other. I've found it impossible to maintain a close friendship with someone once they've had kids; schedules and priorities diverge, and you become increasingly convinced that it's best to "stick to your own kind" in the first place.
I would go the other way and claim that the main benefit of raising a child is that it's the most effective way to banish the seductive illusion that you yourself are the most important thing in the universe.
The pros and cons of being a parent change with time. If you've built a good relationship with your children and they are not very unlucky in life, then by the time they are 30 they are a huge asset to you. I haven't met many happy 60-ish childless couples.
I'm admittedly generalizing here from what I've seen and experienced, but I suspect that you haven't met them because the childfree (i.e., those who are childless by choice) tend not to inhabit the same social circles as parents. Those who are instead childless by circumstance may well be the very image of unhappiness.
OK, it is terrifying, but not because the kid is a terrorist. It is terrifying because life suddenly has you by the guts. I guess I cared a little about my own survival before, but now I really want to survive to be able to be there for my kid, and I definitely want my kid to survive. Suddenly life has gained a whole new dimension.
It depends on your partner a lot. If your partner stays home, doesn't mind if you travel 50% of the time, or allows you to arrive home late from work (after 6) every night, it's just a completely different ball game.
Having NOT lived in that situation and splitting child care responsibility 50-50, I've found the adage "you can't serve two masters," is true for me. Either my business or my kids will suffer, even with 50-50.
So I've decided to allow the business to suffer, which means I don't create situations where I'll let down 3rd parties (investors, customers) due to my limited, erratic schedule (9a-5p and 8p-11p M-F, with random days off when day care shuts down or early departures from the office for 3:30p day care pickup).
But I only have the luxury of doing this because I sold my last company before we had kids. My advice to entrepreneurs who plan to have kids: find a partner who wants to take primary responsibility for child care (or hire an awesome full-time nanny) so you can put as much as you need to into your business. OR save enough money to be able to bootstrap and be available to your kids as much as they need you.
Also grandparents help, money helps. If you have money, I suppose you could also hire a babysitter.
If you had an easy one, don't expect that all are equal if you ever decide to have another one. ;)
My son will be 7 in a few months. This age is way easier than the first few weeks . . . not hard at all really and filled with lots of fun times.
Also totally agree about "caring for your own survival". Not that I didn't before, but it's suddenly so much clearer.
After kids, I suddenly became much more conscious of my mortality than I ever had been. Intellectually, we all know we die. But seeing my kids, I suddenly internalized this fact much more. Perhaps it's the thought of the things I won't be around to see or help with once I'm gone.
Exactly how I feel.
Nicely written, although I have to say I don't find having a baby quite as horrible as most other parents seem to find it. Exhausting at times, yes, but nothing that gets me angry.
Wait, it'll come!
Granted, it will probably come. But I wonder if it will really make me angry. I fully expect that at some point my child will try to test my limits - it's basically his job. But knowing it is what he has to do, maybe it won't really make me angry. We'll see.
On the other hand, I wonder if the time aspect won't become better over time. Right now we have to watch the baby all the time to make sure he doesn't hurt himself. But there will be the time when he can play by himself of with friends. Of course by then there are also a lot more things we could do with him, which might induce us to spend more time with him in turn.
I am a VERY laid-back person. I don't believe that kids exist purely to manipulate us, and I do believe that a lot of what some people think is "misbehaving" is just a kid's learning journey (exploring emotions, boundaries etc) but even so... wow. I've found patience I never knew I had.
So Jeff is implying that those who choose to never have children will never experience love, life, and the universe with the intensity and awe that parents do. Somehow I'm "missing out". Sorry, but no.
But Jeff threw around condescending terms like "roughly mapped" and "tentative cartography" to describe the worldview of people who don't have kids. That's where I begged to differ.
All I'm saying is live your life and love it regardless of the path you go down. But please don't talk down to people who choose not to follow you there.
FTR, I didn't downvote.
We all make choices about what we want. I'm sure an avid skydiver could talk your ear off about how amazing that experience is and how you don't truly understand X until you've done it.
The birth of my first baby was pretty difficult for my wife, because of injuries that happened because of incompetent midwives. My wife was very crippled for the first week, our daughter had a hard start to life outside the womb, and our family was almost completely useless so I had to do nearly everything (the new midwife was great, though); oh, and just to make it perfect, our dog sliced her paw deeply open on some glass four hours after we returned from the hospital who had kicked out my injured wife at 5am because they didn't have space. That week was the happiest of my life. If I ever am in need of cheering up, I just need to think back to changing my first blood-stained nappy.
As Jeff sort of said, becoming a parent is weird.
These times are a real challenge. You HAVE to deal with it, you just cannot give up, and most of the time there isn't really anyone else that can cover for you.
It is, by far, the most difficult thing I've ever done.
And quitting your job to try a startup is fraught with a whole new peril -- you've got a family to feed!
I can imagine starting a part-time lifestyle business and taking it full-time if it ever became successful enough, but never a full-on work-til-you-can't-work-anymore startup. People who can do this after they have kids have my utmost respect, but I genuinely don't know how they can do it.
And how quickly - I can vividly remember being handed my son by the midwife and having the immediate reaction of "my overriding concern in life is now to protect and love this wee thing".
Yes, it is a burden when I am trying to fix a cup of coffee and he's standing there holding my leg making it difficult to walk from the counter to the sink, but the joyous expression he gets when I instead bend down on my knees and tickle him or blow on his stomach is pure happiness worth all the work we've put in so far :)
Then at four months she teething started early and she couldn't even sooth herself by biting toys, so it was a real burden for everyone.
It was only after that period that things really started to look better, with her interacting more and developing a more visible personality.
I heard somewhere that babies should actually spend three more months in gestation, but can't since we started to walk upright and now have a narrower birth canal. I think it's a very elucidative theory, because in that period I really don't think that babies are ready to face the world.
The first year with my first born was hard but still magical (plus my wife stayed home with him so it helped a lot). After that, time to be used for myself was coming back, restful nights... Piece of cake.
Then I pushed for a second child (I always loathed the idea of raising an only child for some reason). My wife had resumed working by then and it was understood that she would go back after a couple of months of staying home with the baby.
That's when it became insanely painful for me, trying to protect my newly returned freedom (after my first born became more independent) while carrying 50% of the child rearing load with a newborn and a toddler.
I had to surrender (my self lost) for my own sanity and the well-being of my children. The lesson I think I've learnt is that to be as "successful" as possible at raising kids (whatever that means) you have to let go. A lot at times. And hope for the best.
The whole theme of "People told me about it but I never really understood. Then I tried." and "Feelings/emotions I'd never been able to imagine.", this is exactly the kind of language people use when trying to explain to me why I should try psychedelics. I haven't so far. I don't find it compelling. Wonder if the chemical effects are similar though.
(That's the best infinity symbol I can make.)
Yes, except it never ends.
My elderly father's last conversations were filled with concerns about my siblings. The more limited his mobility, the more exhausted he seemed, the more he worried about how they would get along.
I tell people that there are switches in the brain - that when you first hold your child (or any child should you hold it long enough), those switches turn on. You have no control of the switches; they are genetically-controlled hardware passed down from your parents. They have lain dormant for the several decades of your life, awaiting this moment. Once they turn on, they will not turn off.
The "switches" change your behavior radically: you will now react to the child's cry to sooth it, you will protect the child at all costs, you will grieve if it is harmed, etc.
Here's an example. One friend, an animal lover, upon entering her home with her first newborn instinctively commanded "Get the animals outside, all of them, outside, NOW!!" and to the bewilderment of all present, four previously beloved and sheltered pets were cast out into the frozen dark backyard (we did improvise shelter). To this day she remains amazed at what she did. The pets were allowed indoors 18 months later.
When I was young I didn't understand this. I was taught that we were tabulae rasae. Once I started to understand evolution, I saw that it only makes sense from an evolutionary perspective: what could be more important to a gene than producing another copy of related genes? What better way to do this than to program the organism to protect its young at all costs?
But there's another level of understanding: standing there, holding a child as the switches turn on. The experience itself.
You're not a slave to your instincts unless you want to be.
You're not a slave to your instincts unless you want to be."
That's old tabula rasa thinking - it's false. Tell that to someone who has fallen in love (another example of this type of genetically-programmed behavior) or who has bonded normally with their child. They'll laugh you out of the room. They would, in a heartbeat, throw you and themselves under a bus to save their loved one(s). They are slaves to their instincts.
Until the "switches" turn on, few (in modern society at least) realize/believe the switches are there! It isn't easy to counteract something internal that you have no belief in and have not experienced before. And it may be best (for the other, certainly) not to try.
Some say, for example, that romantic love isn't real. But romantic love is automatic and non-participatory: that is, your conscious self doesn't do the decision-making. And when you fall in love, every conscious system in your brain will be suborned to justify your automatic genetically-programmed behavior. So much for "free will!"
There are many instances where a parent does not bond with a child - they will not be protective or nurturing. In extreme instances they may kill the child. But none of this is normal or common.
Not all switches in the human brain are for stuff that's as nice as caring for children or falling in love, so you might still want to think twice before unquestioningly endorsing their superior wisdom over conscious thought.
How does he know that we can override genetic behaviors? Sure, we can try, but that doesn't mean that we can override them.
- "you might still want to think twice before unquestioningly endorsing their superior wisdom over conscious thought."
Don't put words in my mouth. I said: "it may be best (for the other, certainly) not to try."
Given that you could view large parts of human culture as semi-successful overrides of instinctual behaviors, I'm not entirely sure what kind of thing your thinking of that might not be possible even in principle. Not feeling the instinctual impulses to begin with as opposed to not acting upon them?
Actually, I'd imagine that that bit is pretty easy because the subsequent parts (as described in the article) cannot be imagined before they happen. Thus choosing to become a parent probably looks pretty easy.
Q: So why do people have more than one child?
A: Because they are so sleep deprived they don't remember how difficult it was handling the child after they are born ;-)
This was my favorite line:
"Children give the first four years of your life back to you."
It's true! They teach you in those 4 years so much about life and I think the true loving nature of humans before we all get shaped through our environments.
I had twins born just over 10 years ago, and can clearly remember the doctor pulling up the ultrasound and circling a little dot and calling it a baby. There was another dot just like it on the other side of the screen, and I thought "this guy has no idea what he's doing", because he was missing the other dot.
Then he said, "here's another one". I said "another what?" He looked at me, and calmly replied, "there are two babies in here. You're having twins."
At that point, everything changed. Nobody believes me, but I bet you do. And everyone else on this thread who has kids gets it, too.
I had a boy and girl; the boy is named Henry. Small world, brother.
Keeping with the hacker theme, my kids are easily the best products I have ever shipped. :-)
Anyone writing in the 21st century however could just ignore the original meaning of the word and go with the meaning it's picked up over time - that is implying a sense of scale without the negative implications. This definition would be supported by a majority of modern dictionaries.
See also: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/enormity
Now you have a kid. That 108 hours just turned into 80 or less - much less in the early stages for just about any parent, still less for at least the next decade even if you're a selfish parent. What's left is no longer movable from earlier until later, or from one day or to the next, because your child's schedule is not as flexible as an adult's. You practically never get to sleep in past 8am. When you do it's because you owe your spouse a favor - and with everything else in the paragraph it's a big one. It's impossible to do anything requiring intense concentration, because your child is a high-priority interrupt and that interrupt triggers frequently. My daughter (seven) is far better than most at staying occupied by herself, and even she interrupts me all the time. You know that look you give your coworkers while they interrupt you just when you finally got into the coding groove? You can't do that to your kid, so you don't even start anything that intense. You code less, you read less, you exercise less, you game less, you get online less. Your only real opportunity to have a significant block of free time is after the kid's in bed. To take advantage of that you'll be dipping into that 56 hours per week of sleep time and using caffeine the next day to (sort of) make up for it. By the way, I hear all of these factors are compounded when you have more than one kid, and I just can't even imagine what it's like for single parents.
I'm not complaining. There are other things that more than make up for the loss of time and control over time, but it's still draining. Still, I just have to laugh at the childless people who just assume all that time is available and flexible, who don't realize that being able to ride their bikes three hours a day or spontaneously head out for a three-day binge in Vegas is a luxury. Enjoy it while you can. Enjoy it your whole life if that's your choice. Just understand that every parent in the world is going to have a different perspective on free time than you do. Even though the result is worth it, losing two thirds of your usable free time is hard.
When our kid was still sucking his mother's milk we went on 5 days trip in Dali, Yunnan, rented a 4*4, went to cheap backpackers hotels, no problem at all. The only diff was to wake up earlier than we would without him.
For the interruptions, why do you allow them? When my dad was working at home, we wouldn't enter his place without a reason.
I think a big issue is about a new kind of culpabilization of the parents. Mothers need to be perfect mothers. Fathers need to be perfect fathers. Kids are supposed to be perfect kids. That's ok, but can be dangerous if taken to the letter and too seriously.
If your child is a different age, or has siblings, or is even more exceptional in terms of self-entertainment, or if you're content to plop your kids in front of a TV/computer for hours on end, or if you have other family/friends willing to take your kids often, then maybe you're able to achieve longer periods of concentration. Good for you. Please don't assume, though, that your circumstances and thus your choices are applicable to others. Among the hundreds of other parents I've talked to, this issue of limited and fragmented free time is a major challenge for every single one.
As for interruptions: I know grudgingly admit that I have to go to CoWorking spaces or an office to work. (Granted, that is also lost time for the commute).
Maybe exercise could be build into the kid time somehow?
Also it might make sense to take turns with the spouse to create more free evenings.
Where I live, most kids also seem to go to kindergarden from age one, which seems rather early to me.
My wife and I have an 8-month old, and she's a reasonably 'easy baby'. But even so, from a coding perspective, the non-maskable interrupt thing is an absolute brain killer. And it's more difficult to get in the groove because of the sleep deprivation.
From what I see above, there's a lot of encouragement here that the instant love/bonding thing will make the whole experience worthwhile. That may be true. But there's also a lot of self-censorship (or even explicit censorship : search for the word 'disgusting') about how draining the whole thing can be. And that having a baby is not a choice that suits everyone : Think long and hard about whether you really want to give up two thirds of your usable free time...
I'm glad my parents did! But the more I hear about parenting the more it seems that you lose your life. I hope that one day my DNA forces me to override my logic unit and find a nice lady to have kids with.
Also, I'm sure Jeff has already done the math on this but at at roughly seven diapers per day, 40 diapers per week, 2000 diapers per year, your average child goes through about 5000 diapers. 5K down, 10K to go :)
That graph is SOOO true. Haven't even read the entire post yet, but after 2 kids (both under 4) that graph sums up the entire experience - from my perspective anyway - more true than any words can.
Successes and Failures melt away in front of a two year old. Validations and affirmations happen by way of a smile.
That being said, I cant wait to go home and wrap my hands around my two year old son.
Can't wait to teach him to code.
PS: for the 1% female population reading this...nevermind I don't think it is even 1%...
I think it's incredibly selfish to bring new kids into the world when there are so many that nobody wants. I don't normally say that to people and I don't really hold it against anyone (I do understand the motivations for having your own children), but that's how I feel.
If really want to do something useful and not just serve your own desires, why wouldn't you just adopt?
And that's okay.
Honestly, the 4 adoptions seemed much easier to me than the biological process which I've also seen many times.
This probably sounds terrible, but you can also return the adopted ones if there are any major problems
(and I've seen that happen too.)
I can't even begin to understand how that would be possible.
My friend who has adopted from overseas spent several years and thousands of dollars (something like $45,000 if I recall correctly) making it happen.
I had sex a couple of months ago and now I'm 8 1/2 weeks pregnant.
Let's just say I know which route I found easier.
Having a child is a selfish thing to do regardless. That's not really much of an accusation.
Ridiculous. As stated elsewhere, having kids is giving a part of your self to create a new independent self. It will teach you the hard way compassion, love to the other, etc. It is exactly the opposite of selfishness.
How the hell can you hold such a paradoxical statement?
editadd: There is a very strong anti-child line of thought in the US, I felt it in many occasions (on Lifehacker, for instance), and I think it is very strange, and dangerous. Is it because of a fashionable thinking that humans are too many? Is it a consequence of utilitarian morals? Honest question here: I think it is a subject of tremendous importance. Hidden behind this apparently innocuous sentence and pushing its logic to its limits, one may find the death of humanism and the end of civilisation.
I think in this case, the paradox unravels if you realize that I precisely chose the words "having a child" instead of "raising a child."
The decision to mate is usually selfish, and the decision to spawn offspring is also selfish (except where it's careless). People don't have sex because it's their duty. People don't try to conceive a child because they feel responsible to anyone but themselves. They decide they want the experience of raising a child, and so they do it for themselves. The experience itself is, obviously, a mixture of selflessness and selfishness.
Also, the word "selfish" has slightly more negative connotations than I would prefer, but I can't think of any suitable words that wouldn't require a whole paragraph to qualify.
You are right in the sense that you should not have children, less because this is a reasonable and healthy outlook on life and more because if you believe this bullshit and live your life by it, you aren't fit to raise kids period.
Like many have said before—to others who stress a dislike over an article that made it to HN's front page—if you don't like an article then flag it, ignore it, and/or don't click on it and comment. Move on.
I'm not a parent, but as soon as I saw this article in my feed reader I came to HN to see what other hackers had to say about parenting. I am not disappointed.