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October 20, 2009

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Jane

I have 3 kids and a spouse who travels for work constantly. If I didn't have fantasies about alternate lives, I'd go crazy. Right now, I can't think of anything better than being a professional beach bum somewhere in Bali.

Helena P.

I'm single and childless and it bothers me that I'm not living the life I want to right now. I think about it constantly but am paralyzed by fear of change. Silly, isn't it?

Thanks for this post. I think it might just be the kick in the pants I needed right now.

Paul

I think you're right about sleeping more and reading less.

It's better if your energy is focused on serving others. Your blog is great because it's an incredible service to other parents. Your fathering is great because it's an incredible service to your daughter. Your introspection is not great because it's of no use to others.

One of the things I like about being a parent is that the time I spend thinking about myself has been reduced and the time I spend thinking about others (my kids, work to benefit my family, volunteer to help the families at my kids school) has increased.

Avoid a mid-life crisis by finding a way to better serve other people. The way for you must be through writing because you have a gift.

Regina

It's interesting because mothers have these conversations with one another all the time but I've never head a father express them.

AK Murakami

I sometimes think about the things I didn't accomplish before having children. It sometimes seems unfair that my life is on hold while DH forges ahead. But I do remind myself that nothing is more important at the present than raising my children myself and seeing that they are happy and healthy in all aspects.

Funny that you should mention Batman because DH is always telling DD that he is Batman. DD doesn't buy it, but DH keeps insisting. It's a little unhealthy that it's gone on this long. kkkk

Nell

Absolutely!! I always feel little like it isn't just day dreaming but something I can do after MY Peanut is off to school. I have a job I love but also very much defines who I am. This is something I would like to get rid of after awhile but at this point, obviously, there are financial responsiblities I need to uphold! Keep day/night dreaming.

Finn
Quite honestly, there are moments when the thought enters my mind that caring for her has removed options in my life that would possibly otherwise make my life more personally fulfilling.

Oh goodness, yes. Add to the tenth power the fact that my sweet boy has a physical disability which requires weekly therapy and causes a whole laundry list of other medical issues that must be tended to in addition to regular doctor appointments, all which render me incapable of holding down a traditional full-time job.

I want to take travel, take pictures and write about what I see and do. I can do these things in limited capacity, but I cannot make a living doing them under my current circumstances.

Sarah

You know what? I do have an inner fantasy life. I dream about living in New York and being a writer for a great TV show (talk about work with a short shelf life!). I also imagine living in the middle of the Canadian wilderness in a cabin, living off the land. Here's the rub--I like the fantasy but at this point in my life I realize that I hate the city and I'm way too social to handle complete isolation.

I guess this is why we have vacations. We can make visits to these worlds we imagine without giving up what it is in this life that fulfills us like our personal relationships. As far as work goes, for most people it's merely a way to keep body and soul together, if we're honest. It's not what makes our life meaningful, even if the work is satisfying.

Maddy

I'm young, childless, and single. I'm aware of how different my life will be in a decade (or two...), so, I'm taking lots of fun risks, living without needless worries, and enjoying life.

Sarah

Also, Gauguin was an asshole.

Neil

As a guy without kids, let me tell you that you are correct. Life is my oyster. I am so lucky to NOT be someone like you. Kids weigh you down like a heavy weight.

If I am not in Paris with Yvonne, making passionate love to Christiane Amanpour in Cairo, or creating a new type of signature sushi roll at Hama, the hottest sushi restaurant in the Meatpacking District, which I own, I am out partying all night.

I'm not much into skiing, so I passed on Colorado.

However, at the moment, I am reading blog posts in my t-shirt while Dancing With the Stars plays on my Tivo. Life rocks!

June

I'm married and childless (not by choice, by circumstance) and I often worry that I'm not doing as much as I should, especially since I have the time, energy, and money that wouldn't be available to me if we had children.

alice, uptown

Whoever suggested "avoiding a mid-life crisis" clearly doesn't have the cognitive ability to recognize one.

Am I living the life I imagined? Since my psychopharm pals and I didn't exactly anticipate having a second act in our lives, I'm having to make things up as I go along.

The older I get, the less introspective I am, probably because I don't want to focus on what dreams I might have had on a ship that's already well into the Atlantic.

Jack

I sometimes wonder about what I'd do and where I'd go if I were single and childless, but ultimately the answer seems to be that whatever I'd be doing would trying to fill the hole that their absence would create.

Right now we're tied down from extensive travel etc due to age and money, but it won't always be this way. Eventually I'll be able to go the places I'd like to go and as a bonus I can bring them along to experience it with me.

jen

I daydream every single day about alternate lives. An organic farm/ranch/pet rescue in Oregon. A mod flat in Chicago. A job at a university that allows me to take more art classes. A chance encounter with (insert hot new celeb crush here) leading to a whirlwind, passionate relationship. Some of my daydreams might still be in my future, but so many are just dreams, interesting to ponder and a great way to relax my way into sleep at the end of a boring, stressful day.

J. Calder

All my life I wanted to be a writer but I never had the guts to leave the security of an office job. As the child of an accountant and a secretary who both grew up in poor households, I always knew where the fears originated. I just couldn't do anything about them.

Last year (at the age of 43,) I quit my job, cashed in my retirement savings, moved to California and began pursuing a career as a writer.

My wife and I divorced several years ago. We had no children. So I realized that there was nothing holding me back from pursuing my fantasy aside from my own fear. It's still scary (work and pay are scarce) but I'm happier than I've ever been in my life.

V~

I think that as busy as most parents are (myself included) that it's important to carve out a little something that has nothing to do with anyone but yourself. I feel that it's important that my kids see that I have a personal passion for something, in my case music. While my band is never going to be famous, my kids see that I practice and go to practice plus they get to see me play any daylight gigs. I don't need to pull a Gauguin and dump them entirely. Sarah's right, that's an a-hole move.

SciFi Dad

While I don't necessarily "fantasize" about it (I have always wanted kids, and so I'm content with my life), I have thought about changes that would have happened were I unattached. By now I would have left my field of work (engineering) for something else. My first attempt would probably have been something more creative like web or graphic design, while trying to make a go at playing music (saxophone) with an eye to becoming a full time musician.

chiquita

I agree, V, it's important to carve out time for yourself and for your child to see you doing that.
Right now, I am having a blast with family but just wish for a few uninterrupted hours to read. (I like to sleep too much.) I fantasize about travel but I think in a few years it will be easier once we are out of toddler-land.

Geek in Heels

Growing up in a fairly sheltered childhood, I devoured books and vowed that I would live a life that would rival those of the great storybook heroes.

I attended a top-rated university and felt certain that I was on the road to success. Then real life knocked me on my ass as the bank of mom & dad refused to make more loans. I realized my first jobs out of college were mundane and boring to a point where I was sure I could send a trained monkey to work and no one would notice, and while I earned a respectable salary, I still had trouble saving up for a future among all the financial responsibilities that accompanies adult life, let alone envisioning one where I can be truly content.

I married at the age of 27 and managed to live a fairly boring life since then. I realized I LIKED living this boring life and hated myself for it. I experienced an unplanned pregnancy. I was surprisingly overjoyed at the news...only to miscarry at 3 months. Now we are determined than ever to have a baby.

Sorry for the verbal diarrhea. I guess what I'm trying to say — in a long-winded, who-gives-a-crap way — is that my current life couldn't be further from what I had in mind while growing up...or even what I fantasize about while droning away behind my computer. I realize that some may call me a coward, because I would rather live a safe, boring life than one that is exciting and unpredictable. And I know that having a child would only tighten the leash on a lifestyle built on the philosophy of carpe diem. But at the time being, I know that this is what I want.

Lilly

Do I fantasize about this?! Hell yeah. My husband and I call it the "Zihuatanejo" fantasy- from Shawshenk Redemption, except without the whole fugitive thing. Where we don't have our kid, we abandon our city lives, and we bum around on a Mexican beach repairing old boats like Andy and Red. Except, I don't know anything about boats, so a more accurate representation would involve beer.

If I was single as well as childless, my fantasies would be less fantastical. I'd probably go back to school and widen my school choices to out of state. Currently, the kid and the husband keep me pretty locked in in terms of school choices.

Karen

I haven't got to the point where I fantasize about never having had kids; I'm still thinking about having more.

However, I do know that I have mommy-tracked myself at work (I'm a highschool teacher) and that's okay by me. I think people have always expected "more" from me professionally but I'm entirely unambitious. And actually, I really LIKE being a classroom teacher. It's its own reward. I don't think it'd be any different if I had no kids.

I might have more glamorous or intensive recreational pursuits, though. I do think we're living a little tamely.

exile

I am happily married and child free. I love it. I love not having kids. I know I would not enjoy being a mom. Hate the forever lasting work with no pay! I am living my dream life with my husband who also doesn't want the responsibilities come with fatherhood. We took early retirement and spend everyday doing exactly what we like to do. People who enjoy children, bless them. I am just saying that you can have an INTERESTING LIFE without children as well. Who doesn't have mid-life crisis? The ones who claim they don't are just lying.

HCG

I left my very well remunerated but intellectually unsatisfying job for the sake of staying at home with my then newborn. Today I stay at home with my son and though I don't regret the actual decision I DO regret so much more, as in every other decision leading up to this point in time.

For instance, one of the things I've realized is that as much as I love my husband, I kind of dislike him a little bit since we've have a child. And I don't think I would have felt this way if we never had our son in the first place. Unfortunately, the nature of human relationships is imperfection.

If I were childless I would have never discovered and accepted it. And now that I know how much I'm truly capable of, I have to manage the fate of a small child in addition to my own, so that makes for choices I hate.

june

Heck yeah. Nothing so grand as you though. (Batman. Heh.) We talk about it all the time. Travelling the world in our own plane, trying a new restaurant every couple of days while driving in our Porsche, living it up. I do think sometimes if I had known then what I know now, I would not have had kids. Those are fleeting thoughts though, because I also know how crazy I had it with the baby fever and I would never have just accepted not having any.

Nikki T.

It's fascinating to "hear" your thoughts on this subject. Like another reader said, I think it's something that you often hear mothers discuss but rarely hear fathers talk about. The fact that you're divorced (sadly) makes hearing your views that much more interesting to hear. Keep up the great writing!

FW

I love the honesty and emotional openness in your writing.

As a professional therapist, I think fantasizing about alternate lifestyles is very healthy. I encourage my patients to do this all the time. Obviously one can't go too far and lose touch with reality but it's a good tool to envision life you want so you can enact the changes to make it happen.

Amira @ DefineMature.com

Good God, yes!

Initially I felt guilty for having such thoughts because I was so desperate to have a baby. Now that I have my son (I'm not planning to make him an only child either, but no more than 3 total), I realize more than ever just how "leashed" I am.

My ultimate dream is to travel the globe, or better yet, be paid to travel, like what Samantha Brown does on the Travel channel.

Anyhow we've (the hubs and I) resolved that, all things willing, be done with child bearing by my late 20's and with child rearing by our late 40's/early 50's.

Then we'll free as hell to live up our lives to our heart's content.

teufelkindsvater

If I had no attachments, I'd go;

1) be a professional dive bum on the Red Sea. I'd pass the time sleeping with hot, single, euro-trash girls. In the down season, I'd travel and photograph the ruins of the ancient world.

2) hang everything and chase my aborted dream of being an interior designer in NYC (modern / minimal only please).

3) push forward with the James Bond-ish super-villain secret fortress in the artificial iceberg I've been planning for decades. Everyone on my staff will be forced to wear Pierre Cardin 2001-esque uniforms. I WILL own a bright ginger Persian that I will stroke habitually while planning my world domination. Okay, this one is probably a bit out of reach, but it would be amusing... Hey, we can dream, can't we?

Lyla P

I don't want to have children so I don't really see the point in getting married. I enjoy the freedom of living solely for myself. I don't look down on people who have children. It's just that parenting is a lifestyle that I don't want for myself. Once I realized that, it was very liberating and enabled me to live my life pretty much how I dreamed about. I'm 34 now and sometimes wonder whether I'll regret this decision. I hope not...

honglien123

I fantasized about being single without kids. It was how I'd go back to college and then graduate, perhaps even try my hand at law school. Then maybe, just maybe travel the world and see all the places of the world where the stars either don't twinkle or fill up the entire sky. And you know, in the last few years, I did go back to school, I did graduate, I did start law school and I'm traveling more. I could have done a Gauguin and left them all behind to find myself. But, it means so much more; I mean more; because I didn't.

Sometimes I think people use family as an excuse for their own cowardice. I'd like to think I've outgrown that. Mt. Kilimanjaro, here I come.

ang

Thanks for your post MD! I fantasize about alternative lives all the time. I think to a certain degree it IS healthy (as someone said, w/o losing a grip on reality).

I wish I had traveled more, but I did grasp the opportunity to travel when I had the chance and didn't have the funds, but did it anyway! :) And I'm damn glad I did.

I'm preggers now, probably later in life than I had "planned" but I'm okay with that as I feel ready. (ha! as ready as anyone can ever feel - and I still get hit with the "AHHH, what am I doing" feeling - along with the "ahhh, I'm gonna be a mommy" feeling).

I too have a job that I have for the financial security and the fact that I NEVER take my work home with me, leaving me with a carefree life after work hours. I do wonder what it is like to have a job I LOVE, but I also love my personal life, so perhaps I should be striving harder for both, but if I had to choose, I'd choose a happy personal life over a happy work life.

I think introspection is good, I think not enough people do it. Again, w/o the self-absorption that you mentioned.

Thanks for the post - I love when you post!

Craiggers

"At the same time, I believe that too much introspection can frequently become a masturbatory exercise in self-absorption."

Might be my favorite sentence that you've written here. Describes about 50% of my family.

NG

Oh Dude, I hear ya. I think about that stuff all the time. Mostly I grieve for the life that I apparently wasted before I had kids. What did I do with my free time? Why didn't I accomplish more? Write the great American novel, travel more, save the world? I had all this time and means to do stuff and I can't really figure out what I did with it all except maybe watch an insane amount of television. So sad. Just one request: if you do open a sushi restaurant in the East Village, save me a seat in the corner. We have a lot to talk about.

A fellow book nerd

Is Hornby's book any good? I've read mixed reviews and have been debating whether to purchase it or not.

honglien123

PS Your post reminded me of Up. I hope you've seen it with the Peanut.

KJ

35 years old. Married. Three kids. Mortgage. Great school district. Safe neighborhood.

But I fucking hate my job. H-A-T-E!

The thought of being a desk jockey for the next 25-30 years terrifies and depresses me. I feel trapped like the proverbial rat in a cage. I don't know how to get out.

Yeah I got fantasies.

Jenna

For what it's worth, I think you'd be an impressive novelist. You have a great writing style and a uniquely different perspective on life (that I thank you for sharing with all of us.)

What do you say, MD? How about YOU taking a shot at the Great American Novel?

FU!

What is it with you New Yorkers and your obsession about yourselves? Get over it. You all sound like a bunch of spoiled wankers.

Xibee

What if you hadn't had the child (as I didn't, by circumstance), had pursued everything you wanted at full-windmill-tilt, and had made a decent, but ultimately not particularly fruitful stab at not just one other career, but THREE. ? HM? How about that?.

I can tell you, you'd be longing for a five-year old about now.

Kelly

"The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be."-Robert Fulghum

Chris

I love that post Xibee!!!!!!!! Perfectly said. Yes fantasy is normal and healthy and leads us down new paths sometimes and yet I still believe the best gift we give ourselves is permission to be totally and completely involved in where we are, who we are with and what we are doing right now and live it to the fullest. Do it 100% whatever it is! And as a mother whose baby just moved out and is embarking on her life's journey..in the blink of an eye they are independent souls...make sure you are prepared to be you in their absence and have a life full of things you are passionate about to enjoy when that happens. I always have and as a result I see that she does as well and it is a thing of beauty to observe her growth as I am free to fully dive into my passions!!! You are right where you need to be...live it fully!

Chris

Oops! I need to properly attribute that quote to Kelly! Sorry Kelly...great quote!

Rana

My dad always used to tell me that the alternative to thinking too much is thinking too little. Always better to go with the former.

Issa

I shit you not, my brother just told me this morning that his life's ambition is to move to Colorado, be a ski bum in the winter and a river-rafting bum in the summer.

He's 27 though, isn't married and has no kids. Sorry MD.

I can't even imagine not having kids, but if I didn't, I'd love to spend a year in Italy, learning Italian and eating Gelato, then move to Bali and...oh shit, this sounds awfully familiar. The book: Eat, Pray, Love. Dam. Oh well. I'm boring, I really think I'd just travel more.

Mary

I'm married with two kids and on maternity leave right now... going back to work in about a month. I fantasize about quitting my job and starting my very own non profit jewelry business, where all the proceeds will go to Compassion International, so that a little girl, about the age of 5, won't be sold into prostitution where sicko-s from America and other wealthy countries go on vacation but have the chance to go to school, be healthy, and make something of herself.

OK. that was a bit too serious for a fantasy but yes, I do fantasize about this but right now, my boring desk job provides a roof over me and my family's head, health insurance, and some extra $$ so that we can support two little girls, one in the Philippines and one in Guatamala... and the one in the Philippines, she just started college. She may not be "my" kid, but she still matters...

m

Thanks for this post. Reading your blog saves my sanity.

The Muskrat

I've often heard the phrase "golden handcuffs" used to describe when a law partner is offered the chance to accept some prestigious but pitifully-paying government appointment. You know, like on the Supreme Court.

I think I decided I wasn't happy professionally a year or two ago, so a few months ago, I decided to quit working for others and start my own firm. It's been great. Much more fulfilling and rewarding than being a drone.

If I were still single, however, I'd give serious thought to joining the JAG Corps and taking an assignment at a base in Italy, England, or Germany. I almost did this anyway, until I got back from my first tour in Iraq and decided I didn't need more adventure.

Either that, or I'd be the next Ron Jeremy, but fitter and with less body hair.

LeeMarvin

Every.Single.Day.

What makes me the happiest is knowing that I chose to raise children and did a fairly good job at it and they give back to me every single day. I learn so much from them while trying to teach/show them how to be men.

So, all the stuff about yourself can be placed on hold because you chose to give 100% of yourself when you decided to have a baby. You.Know.This.

Divorce and separation cause insomnia, which causes us to read too much.

You'll get over it. 'Cause that's who you ARE.

Great post, by the way...

angela

There is not going back, and when the peanuts are ready to be on their own, we'll be old. So what do we do? Fantasize, but if fate hands it to your run!

Last year after 12 plus years on Wall Street - want to talk about golden handcuffs, I was axed. I started a toy company. I'm having a blast. I've never been so freed, but not quite. The hubby, the kids want the old income. It will be interesting changing the balance, changing our world, and hopefully, actually changing the world.

I wish it was easier. I wish I didn't need a drink at the end of the day. I can't wish away the kids, but I do wonder can I provide in the manner they all have come to expect, or can I change their expectations.

Fantasy helps, but my heart aches for the tranquility of less turmoil.

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