I’ve often spoken in this blog about finding the right balance in life to excel in travel yet maintain a sense of home and family. Although I am currently on the road with no responsibilities, I could have imagined a time when I would consider travel secondary to a stable job, mortgage help and advice from people who know money, marriage, and maybe even kids. Really.
As a way of exploring this possible future, I decided to visit my cousin out in Alexandria the week before I catch the MegaBus to Toronto. Our timing over the last two years has been rather poor: I was in Korea when her kid was born; neither of us traveled for Christmas; and we missed each other by one day during my last visit from San Francisco. He’s still a baby, but quickly approaching two years old. On top of that, they got a new house. I’m very curious to see how someone like my cousin – she and I are similar in many ways – would handle raising a kid and working a part time job in DC. Would I arrive to see two parents basking in the joy of something they’d created, or just two people tired and lacking fulfillment?
Having kids is never as black and white as that. The first thing I saw was my cousin taking her son by the hand and showing him around these art projects during a neighborhood street faire. He was smiling. She was doting and keeping a watchful eye. He took my hand and directed me to the sheet of stickers he had put together moments earlier.
In that moment, not one hour into my trip, I thought I had seen everything I needed to see. Yes, parenting requires one to be vigilant, but the rewards are immeasurable.
Over the next few days, this view would be tempered somewhat by the realities of having a baby around. One has to work. Why? To pay for the house. Why do you need a house? So the kid has some sense of home, some stability. A regular schedule. He’s going to need medical insurance. Food. Clothes. Books. Entertainment. Education. And your undivided attention for years.
I wouldn’t say this week has turned me off the idea of meeting someone and starting a family, but seeing a fragment of the consequence of that choice scared me. From being woken up in the middle of the night by unrelenting crying to seeing my cousin exhausted after working a job she seemingly doesn’t like to obtain income and benefits, I questioned my future when it comes to exploring this path. How can any person consider it after living with such freedom?
Again, black and white. Bits and pieces. There’s sure to be a part of the puzzle I can’t piece together in my 30-year-old travel-minded brain.
Maybe the key is not thinking. Not worrying about yourself and what kind of future you can provide to a mini you. Just meeting the right person and embracing the result of expressing your love.
If there’s a way to do that and still maintain a level of independence and a life that includes travel, I’d love to know about it.