Human beings are prone to self-doubt. We question our choices at nearly ever step along our life’s journey.
This doesn’t change when you become a parent. You just experience more guilt when that doubt about your lifestyle creeps up in the back of your mind and forces you to acknowledge it.
Everything’s going along just fine, you are caught up with the bills, the cars are functioning properly and the kids are doing well in school. You feel like you have everything under control.
Then, unexpectedly, a kid comes home with an F. You see an ad for a vacation special to that European city you always wanted to visit but won’t be able to afford in the foreseeable future (meaning your lifetime). You go out to dinner with those friends of yours who chose not to have kids and can't help but notice how happy, stylish and carefree they seem to be. You notice that douche bag you went to college with has published his third book while you never got a chance to finish your first.
And that’s when it hits you. The self-doubt. The guilt. The overwhelming feeling that you got it all wrong, that you aren’t the one who is in control at all. You don’t even know who is, but you begin to devise a plan to sneak out in the night and get a few hundred miles head start before they notice you’re missing. Now’s the time to buy that Rita Hayworth poster and start tunneling behind it.
But the choices were yours to make, weren’t they? You knew you could have done things differently. You could have committed more time to your job and increased your chances of getting a promotion sooner. You could have chosen not to have kids and that room in the basement dedicated to something other than Lego bricks, Nerf guns and video games could have been a downtown loft. You could have spent more time writing instead of going to baseball games and school events and maybe you would have written that science fiction series about the daring adventurer who tracks down intergalactic fugitives, helps the innocent and seduces alien womenfolk. You would have probably been on book six by now.
But then you wouldn’t hate your job and enjoy being away from it and around your family so much. You wouldn’t have an excuse to build Lego starships, wage Nerf wars or hold epic video game marathons in that basement of yours. You might have ended up hanging around in the same social circle as that douche bag you went to college with which would in turn lead you to question your own level of douche-baggery. And who wants that?
As I prepare to return to work after an extended vacation, I realize that I must have done something right because I would give just about anything to stay home with my wife and kids than return. I’m going to miss them while I’m at work. I’ll spend time at work wishing I were enjoying a glass of wine or beer and a movie, building a Lego set with my sons or just looking at them while they sleep and playfully arguing with my wife about which one of us is responsible for those eyebrows.
It’s times like these when you face it. That being a parent, being a spouse, is who you are. It might drive you crazy sometimes, might even make you want to run away screaming but in the end, you stop whining and admit that you love it. You love it more than anything.
The things you love the most will drive you the craziest from time to time. That’s how you know your family is special.