I can’t get no satisfaction suggested a 20-something-year-old in 1964. Subsequently, he has sold any number of records–something to be said for that surely–but what makes us think that our purpose going forward is about self actualization? Has the singer been satisfied subsequently? I would not presume to guess.
I would suggest that once you have kids, that every paragraph in every chapter is no longer about you. Your kids did not sign any forms (initial here and here) suggesting that they wished to be your kids. You invited them into existence. The least you could do is give some thought about what is in their interest, what will make them insightful, content, happy. You are the one who agreed to be a parent. (Are for those readers who plan to but do not yet have kids, tonight might be a good time to stay out late.)
Did you think you were in line for one of those seamless babies who would instantaneously sleep through the night, self soothe, be potty trained at 18 months, never get sick, and do the Doogie Howser thing, graduating from medical school while you were watching the ball game? Hullo! There are babies like that. They exist–alongside unicorns, rainbows, and winning Powerball tickets–in fiction. You wanted a baby that would not require sacrifice? Then why did you go to the honeymoon suite when you should’ve gone to the library? You could have been reading about easy kids rather than creating actual babies Oopsie.
Kids nowadays (love that phrase!) are said to be miserable in a novel way because of FOMO. They think all their friends somewhere else with someone else doing something else are having more fun. Is our generation suffering from the same brutally unfortunate misconception? Do we think that those folks down the street are having family dinner, enjoying family game night, and living a cross between “Father Knows Best” and “The Waltons”? (Note to younger readers: the aforementioned shows depicted happy if unrealistic families. Note the cultural migration to “Married With Children” and “Wednesday” as more recent exemplars of–yukky–family life.)
It has been said that a frequent unintended result of therapy is selfishness. My wife has cancer, isn’t meeting my needs, can I take up with an ingenue? queries a recent advice column. I dunno. Your call. I don’t know your wife, have no insight into your marriage. I’m just hoping that you have provided for your children while you are off having your needs met.
Given that you have zero chance of keeping your dalliance a secret from your children, keep in mind the power of modeling. The best predictor of how your kids will treat you in your impending dotage is the level of sacrifice to which you committed when they are young. Next time you “have to” work late, choose not to cuddle up with your kid who had a bad dream, find your satisfaction outside your family, be prepared to harvest a crop that you may not have intended to sow.
Having kids is indeed about joy. If there are any more exquisite words than could you read me that story again? I can not imagine what they might be although do you want to go camping next weekend? certainly comes close. Maybe there is less to be said for satisfaction without sacrifice, more to recommend short-term family-centered altruism. Because I’m pretty sure a rock singer isn’t going to be there for you when the tables are turned and you, the parent, are the one who needs care.