Not quite a Rory Rant...
Most of our readers certainly don’t need to hear this from me, but for the 13% of you under the age twenty-six, hopefully this will connect.
I just spent seven days living in paradise with my Fijian family. The couple actually returned to the islands the same day as me, as they’d recently traveled back to the US to deliver and care for their firstborn. Eleven weeks later they brought their baby home to beautiful Viti Levu.
When reading this it’s good to keep in mind that I’m an only child (draw any assumptions you’d like from that) and have never co-existed with an infant, so this experience was all new to me. But the way the baby affected my friends’ daily routine was incredible.
Last year our days in Fiji were spent like this: we’d all go out on the boat, pre-dad would swim and shoot water photos while pre-mom would film from the boat. After they’d successfully nailed a few shots of the paying customers, the couple would grab their boards and surf alongside me. An enviable lifestyle indeed.
Now it’s more this: Wake up somewhere between 2-4 AM to feed the baby, go back to sleep for a couple hours, wake up at six to start the day, take turns handling the baby while the other uses the bathroom, makes breakfast, etc., decide which one of them will go on the boat today — if the dad, sweet, if the mom, pump enough milk for a five-hour absence – shoot photos of paying customers for twice as long, because you’ve lost your partner and therefore need to pick up the slack, plus you’ve gotta make extra money now to support the baby, jump in for a quick surf before we head back to the mainland, rush home because you feel guilty you were gone for so long, take the baby off your partner’s hands despite the fact you’re tired and sunburnt from being out on the boat all day, then settle in for the afternoon/evening and hit the sack at nine o’clock sharp.
My point is that having a baby changes everything. That’s no novel concept, but it’s hard to truly appreciate it until you’ve coexisted with a newborn and seen all the little things done throughout the day to maintain the kid’s health and happiness.
The simplest tasks are made difficult, the most basic pleasures induce painful amounts of guilt, and surfing — especially for people with nine-to-fives — is almost entirely out of the equation. Being a parent truly is a full-time job, and through this trip I’ve gained newfound respect for any child-rearing couple. I don’t know how single parents even survive, to be honest.
I wouldn’t say this experience has deterred me from wanting to reproduce; it just set my timeline back three-to-fifteen years. If I’m gonna surf and travel and experience this world in any sort of reckless fashion, it’s now or never. Once you have a kid, the world becomes a whole lot smaller and infinitely more dangerous.
Maybe Chas or Derek or some of our child-bearing readers will disagree, but this is my youthful, secondhand understanding of the child/surfer conundrum.