The Trade Off Is Worth It

These kids have changed your life. There are so many things you used to do that you no longer can. Traveling with no notice. Staying out all night. Sleeping on an airplane…sleeping in at all. 

You used to have so much more energy for your job, for your friends. You used to have time to do lots of things. And now it’s a real crapshoot whether you will get a shower in today…let alone keep up with the ambitious upstarts coming behind you. 

So let’s not be sanguine about the sacrifices this decision has required you to make. But these days, society does a pretty good job discussing all the costs—financial, physical, social—of having kids. You see it in every article about the celebrity or artist who chooses not to have a family. You see it in the arguments of every activist or politician who pleads for sympathy for working parents. 

What seems to get mentioned much less often is what you’ve been given as a result of becoming a father, the wondrous happiness you feel despite all the disruption. “One doesn’t tend to associate kids with peace,” the venture capitalist Paul Graham observed recently in his fantastic essay about being a parent, “but that’s what you feel. You don’t need to look any further than where you are right now.

All those ordinary moments: Playing in the yard. Getting pummeled when they jump in your bed in the morning. Watching TV on the couch. Being a family. It’s just so amazing. Even the garbage time together is great—and well worth what you’ve traded away to get it. 

Most of the freedom I had before kids,” Paul Graham wrote, “I never used. I paid for it in loneliness, but I never used it.” It’s true for you too. It’s true for all of us. We’ve paid a high price for these kids, but we have gotten—we will keep getting—so much. 

Sometimes it’s helpful to tell ourselves that. 

P.S. This was originally sent on March 13, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Dad’s email and get our popular 11 page eBook, “20 Things Great Dads Do Everyday.”