Monday, March 24, 2014

What If Things Were Different?

Sometimes I wonder whether, if I married someone else, or if my husband and I followed a different paths, if I would have ended up having kids. I should note from the start that I'm not seeing this through the lens of regret. Quite the contrary. "What if" isn't always a sad, regretful scenario. I am extraordinarily lucky to have had the opportunities I've had, and there is no regret here.

It's a weird thing to wonder, though, especially since, in theory, someone determined to be a father would be incompatible with me, but it's something I'm thinking about while I'm feeling kind of nostalgic tonight.

My husband wanted kids when we got together. It was a really big issue early on in the relationship. I knew what I wanted, and it didn't involve kids. It's part of why I lost my best friend at the time, because she wouldn't stop insisting that I was being stupid by making it a deal-breaker issue.

But it was a deal-breaker. I wouldn't get engaged until I knew he understood that this would be a childless marriage. I needed to know he could live with that.

As the years went on, I wondered whether he'd have regrets. We've built a pretty amazing life for ourselves, which I think it part of why he hasn't wavered, and we talk about it a lot to make sure we're still on the same page. Thankfully, though, we remain solid and together, especially on this issue.

Sometimes, though, I wonder if we ended up on a different path, if we'd have looked at the idea of children differently. If we didn't have the money to travel, or the house we really love, would we have made different choices? What if we lacked the rich social life and the amazing groups of friends who keep us so busy?

What if he never went back to school and was still working customer service? This is, perhaps, the biggest what if of all. I never would have left my corporate job to become a freelancer. The risk would have been too great. We wouldn't have this house, certainly, and we wouldn't have traveled to the conventions we visit every year, and certainly we wouldn't have experienced other countries and cultures as we have, which means our world would be much, much smaller. We'd have less free time, and would be far less involved in the geek community where we've met so many friends.

If he never went back to school, our household income would be less than half of what it is right now, and that matters. One of us would likely have experienced a long stretch of unemployment during the last decade. This house would only exist in our dreams. We would still probably have only one cat and would likely be in the same apartment. Maybe we'd have bought a small house, but money would be a much bigger issue than it is today.

The question I ask myself is, without the travel, the cultural experiences, the amazing friendships that we've developed because we have been so fortunate, would we have looked differently on having kids?

In a lot of ways we'd have a lot less to lose, even though from a purely numbers standpoint we're much more equipped to raise a hypothetical family than we ever would have been. Would we have succumbed to the short burst of baby rabies I had a couple years ago?

Now, mind you, I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I would be a different person if those were the choices life led me to make. But it's interesting to think about how vastly different our life would be if my husband never finished college. He earns well over twice what he earned when he left his job to go back to school, which has afforded me the luxury of working for myself.

I don't think our life would be worse if we followed another path, one where fulfilment came from family rather than cultural and travel experiences with each other. But it would be so very different. And I can see us ending up in a position where we the sacrifices involved with raising a kid weren't so bad.

It's interesting to think about, but I'm so glad we have the life we have, the friends and kids in our life that we have. As far as lives go, I ended up with a pretty great one.