I had a cross-cultural experience of sorts a few weeks ago during a theology conference. We had about 45 minutes to kill, so I suggested we walk over to my favorite brew pub that happened to be right across the street from the convention center hosting our conference.
The brewpub was wall to wall people, so we slipped a few doors down to a legit, gritty bar.
I think I’ve been to a legit, gritty bar once before. Maybe. Unlike the brew pub where folks order a flavorful, fresh beer on tap and enjoy it over a rich appetizer, many of the gritty bar folks hauled fists full of Bud Lights in wave after wave. I have no idea how many people walked past our table with 3 Bud Lights in each hand.
I’m sure people drank other things at the gritty bar. I’m sure some of the Bud Light drinkers even branched out. Perhaps they tossed in a Coors Light too.
Whatever they added to their epic beer consumption, I soon caught on to the goal. This was not about “enjoying” the beer. The beer was a mood enhancer, a mechanism for partying. You didn’t need the beer to taste good. You just needed to get drunk enough to lose your inhibitions without vomiting or passing out.
I presume bar fights sometimes enter into the picture as well.
This was a fun night out for many folks.
Needless to say, I couldn’t relate. Call me a killjoy if you must, but I’d rather think of my own jokes rather than relying on the booze to do the heavy lifting.
Later that evening I walked out of our final plenary session for the conference, longing for the quiet of my bedroom, snuggled up next to my wife. However, many people in downtown Columbus were just starting their evening. Some may have still been at the bar.
If I pulled over and told the people waiting in line at the night club about my ideal evening that involves reading a book on the couch next to my wife, many of them would probably give me a thumbs down or sneer, shouting, “Boring!”
I didn’t think for one moment that I was missing out. Booze and booming music? No thanks!
That brings me to parenting and “fun.” There’s a book out about parenting called All Joy and No Fun that addresses the demands and limitations of parenting.
I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve read articles about it and have heard some lengthy interviews about it. I have participated in conversations about how parenting changes your life and the limitations it places on you.
I’m not an expert by any means. We only have one kid with another on the way this July. So perhaps take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt.
However, I think the all joy to “no fun” ratio for parenting will be REALLY different for everyone. It’s really tough to come up with a hard and fast rule about what kinds of joy and fun you’ll have as a parent because we all have different needs and expectations about what is “fun.” In addition, our conceptions of fun may change when kids are in the picture.
On the one hand, my wife and I relish a quiet evening at home. Having a kid asleep upstairs isn’t a major burden. We’re not fans of the times that he wakes up screaming, but for the most part, we’re not missing bars, clubbing late at night, or cruising the city after midnight because that wasn’t our lifestyle to begin with.
It would be nice to go out more often for artisan NY style pizza, but for the most part, having a kid hasn’t been the kill joy that it may be for those who want to party all night—Whether that’s clubbing, lengthy bar outings filled with cheap beer, or leisurely sipping a Saison at a brew pub.
There’s no doubt that one must reign in the bar hopping and beer guzzling in order to be a responsible parent. You need to be present. And if you hire a baby sitter, you can’t ask the baby sitter to come scrape you off the pavement outside the bar after last call.
Look, parenting is tough. You will be super sleep deprived for the first 6 months, if not longer.
You will have your patience tested by toddlers who would rather die than put on shoes.
You will be pooped on, peed on, and spat up upon over, and over, and over.
You will repeatedly ask, “What’s THAT smell?”
It’s not convenient. It’s almost always messy. We all have to make sacrifices. We all face limitations because of kids. Life changes.
And yes, there are many joyful, wonderful moments.
I watched my son take his first steps. We play together with his stuffed animals each day, and he’s kicking his imagination into high gear. Peter Rabbit has attempted to eat just about every object in our living room at this point.
My son loves digging in the dirt of our garden, and he can haul his wagon down the sidewalk on his own. He can wiggle to music, and there’s nothing better than sweeping the floor with his very own broom.
There are daily interruptions and tests of my patience. There are incredible joys and accomplishments. Every parent knows that. Every expectant parent can at least imagine that as well.
However, when it comes to the all joy/no fun balance, remember that every person has different needs.
The extroverted mother will hate being stuck inside all winter with her kids. The introverted dad will wince at the thought of going to story time with ALL THOSE PEOPLE.
The beer-guzzling champion who wants to settle down will have to give up on a particular version of “fun,” while the quiet bookworms will eventually figure out time to read and drink tea as is their habit, but they’ll never have enough time to read all of the books.
All parents need to make sacrifices for the sakes of their children, but those sacrifices will be different for each of us.
Some will sacrifice more fun than others. Some will find more joy in the daily ins and outs of parenting than others.
In my own case, I’ve found different fun and different joy in being a parent compared to when we were childless. It’s not like the fun stopped with kids or the joy only reached epic levels when we brought our son home from the hospital.
Yes, we don’t hang out with friends as often as we used to. Yes, our lives look quite different than before parenthood. There are times when the all joy/no fun mantra feels accurate.
At the same time, our son has redefined joy and fun for us. However, I can say without judgment that other parents have found that transition to be far more difficult.
I spent most of my adult life fearing parenthood. Seriously. Straight up anxiety attacks and all. Now, I can’t imagine a greater joy than parenting alongside my wife. Our family is evolving and changing, and for the most part, it’s changing for the better, even if we had something pretty awesome to begin with.
My wife is my favorite person in the world, and having a child together has added more than it has subtracted.
It would be presumptuous to suggest that every family’s transition to children will be the epic win we’ve experienced. It’s going to be different for everyone, even if I can guarantee that effectively parenting will most certainly require passing on the gritty bars where people walk around with three Coors Lights in each hand.
Then again, I can’t imagine getting much joy or fun from slamming back six Coors Lights in a gritty bar to begin with, so what do I know?
12 thoughts on “If You Like to Get Hammered, Maybe Parenting Won’t Be Fun”
Ed you made my heart swell with love for my life with kids and hubby. I used to hang in the gritty bars and nightclubs. Drank enough for a lifetime! So much more fun being a good mom. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. You have warmed my heart today! (Ahhhhh)
Glad you’re having a different kind of fun these days!
I appreciate the truth of this article and your experience. As the mother of two (3 and 9 months), a confirmed homebody, and someone who read the book All Joy and No Fun from cover to cover, I think I have a different definition of fun than you suggest. I have never been a big drinker/partier or one to go out very often, so not doing those things isn’t “no fun” to me. What is “no fun” about parenting these small ones is the anxiety of trying to do right by them, the guilt of leaving them with someone else when going to work, the boredom of being home with them ALL DAY if not going to work, the difficulty of picking battles and discipline in general, and just the never ending mundane daily aspects of it. I love my daughters so much it takes my breath away, but there are many moments that are “no fun”.
Oh yes, there are the tough moments and the drudgery. And we do make sacrifices for sure.
“Call me a killjoy if you must, but I’d rather think of my own jokes rather than relying on the booze to do the heavy lifting.” YES!!! Love this post. Great to meet you at FFW.
You too Morgan!
Hammered? … been there … done that … have the tee shirt … glad that’s over.
I began telling my children when they were 3 years old that they were primarily responsible for themselves. I explained that I loved them more than enough to give my life and full focus while defending them from threats before them but at those times I couldn’t see them behind me. It would always be their responsibility first not to wander into traffic now that they could walk.
I may have first responsibility for myself but I have to say that in spite of that I’ve been divinely looked after for 70 years, well beyond my abilities as His child. I’ve very infrequently in my life been hammered totally numb and defenseless … and survived only because better judgment was looking over me.
Different from childless I’ve not had a full nights sleep since the honor of fatherhood. Immediately upon the birth of our first child I took the day and night watch to listen that my family’s environment is as okay as I can make it. Without the wise counsel of their Grand-Parent in Heaven my children would not have survived if just due to the 100% efforts from love we gave them.
I wonder if God had any anxiety attacks previous to taking on the seemingly “never ever again a relaxed moment” responsibility of us in Their image. Is omnipresence a plus or a minus to our Father in His apparently inexhaustible arsenal of parenting skills? On that first day of rest were we left unattended while our Father got hammered? What was the first six months like to God shaping Their lives to be divinely attentive to our true needs?
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I love this, Ed. And my sentiments exactly. I’ve never been hammered in my life – don’t have any desire to be, so that piece was never part of my story to begin with. The long days (and nights), the worry and schlepping, the science projects and scary illnesses – maybe not exactly fun (except those projects – I did enjoy that!) but they are real, they are life-changing for parent and child, they are worth it. Thank you! (And congrats on #2 – this is the first I’ve heard about that. Do you know gender?)
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Hi Ed…. I’ve been a fan for a while, but I don’t know if I’ll stick around. Booze in general is a stupid topic IMO, and it sounds like it doesn’t appeal to you either, so why waste time writing about it? I like theology, and I like being exposed to this new generation of emergent writers, or whatever folks like you and RHE are, for example. Lately your posts seem more about babies and sports and I miss the theology … is there a place I can still follow your wit and insights (and not miss out on fun projects like the Lost Tweets and such)?
I would have written this earlier, when I first got the note about your blog changing, but I couldn’t figure out where to post, and it’s just mad busy here lately. 😦
I’ll respond to the easier part of your comment first, Liz. The point of the post is to address the fear parents have of not having fun once kids arrive. The bit about booze is intended to be silly and over the top. It’s a rhetorical overstatement to create common ground for a conversation that at least myself and some other parents may struggle to enter into. We all want to give our kids the best, we all want to have a life, we all agree that boozing it up is wrong, but where do we go from there?
As to the direction of this blog, I think you need to look at the last few post topics. Since the switch on April 16th, the topics have been Lamott, Gospel, Gospel, Gospel, children. No sports on the blog, but perhaps on social media because… NHL playoffs. Social media for me is not about being a “theology brand.” I’m a person. So sports will get in the mix there, even if they’re not on my blogs. The big change from inamirrordimly.com has been that I want to include more about writing and prayer. Some aspect of parenting has been a part of my blogging since I started the first draft father series in August 2012. I stopped categorizing posts in that series, but some aspect of parenting just has to come up from time to time since I write, pray, study scripture, and parent. So yes, there is a shift away from theology to a certain degree, but this more official move is really just making official the shifts already taking place at my blog. Theology and Bible study is still a part of things. I have a Bible study/Christian living book coming out this summer in fact. I just want to accurately reflect all that I’m writing about, and a self-named blog is the best way forward right now for me.
You’re absolutely right, if you adjust your expectations of what fun looks like you can have plenty of it while parenting. Not ALL of it, but some of it. For me I often find myself stuck in a tug of war with what I want to do and what it best for them, I wish I was more fluidly selfless in this way but even after nearly five years it’s a struggle.
But the other day I watched Kel play soccer in the front yard and I can certainly say I enjoyed that evening more than most I had drinking in college.
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