Game/life balance, or: on being a raiding parent
Like several nerds of my generation, I am a parent, and have discovered myself in the strange position of not having given up my gaming hobbies. Before I had a kid, in that nebulous time when I myself was a kid and the earth’s crust was still warm, I assumed that one day I would Grow Up and have children and naturally give up every personal hobby because parents (who were not weird and strange like mine) weren’t Supposed To Do That.
This is an odd belief not only because my mother and father successfully raised three hugenormous nerds, but themselves met playing Pong at a bar. I have no idea where it came from, other than general social pressure. Nevertheless, I was pretty sure that once I had a weester of my very own, my gaming — especially my srs!raiding — days were done for and I was really, really sad about this, just like I was really, really sad about having to give up my Wednesdays at the pub.*
Then the gup arrived, and something strange happened: I actually wasn’t sad about it anymore. It was weird the way it worked out; the first little bit, where every moment was an exercise in OH GOD IS SHE STILL BREATHING PLEASE TELL ME SHE IS STILL BREATHING, I was not in fact gaming and totally did not miss it at all. But then, as my gup grew older (she is rapidly approaching her first birthday, which is in September) and started entertaining herself, immediately my game-time managed to weasel its way back into my life.
It has not been easy, and probably won’t be until she’s away at college and I’m curled up on the couch with FF XXI, but for those of you who are also new parents or who are thinking about possibly becoming parents or who just spend a great deal of time randomly checking under leaves in cabbage patches, here are the handy-dandy things I try to keep in mind when I WoW it up (because I really, really don’t want to give up ALL my gaming funtimes, but also definitely don’t want to end up as a picture on CNN.com under a CHILD DIES OF NEGLECT WHILE MOTHER SLAYS INTERNET DRAGONS headline).
If I am not comfortable taking time away from my tiny human, I don’t.
Sometimes, I have to bail in the middle of a random even after waiting forfuckingever for the DPS queue to pop. Sometimes, I don’t get to do my dailies. Sometimes, I have to suck it up and fall short of the VP cap. Sometimes, I don’t get to level an alt or PVP or do anything ‘fun.’ Sometimes, she will perch on my desk and attempt to assist in the slaying of internet dragons by helpfully pointing out things on the screen. Sometimes, there is food in her hands when she does this. Sometimes, I cry bitter tears about how I can’t have nice things and I remember fondly the time when smearing dinner on my monitor was a terrible horrible accident and not an eventuality of life with a tiny mobile dervish of destruction with fingerfood and opposable thumbs.
And that’s okay, because I made that conscious choice when I decided to try balancing Face-Melty Aro and Mom Aro.
(my poor monitor ;____;)
I have a support system.
Before I got back into raiding, I had a nice long talk with Mr. Aro about time commitments and priorities, just as I would if I were to pick up a freelance project or dive back into community theatre. We determined together whether or not it was feasible (or fair) of me to ask him for nine hours of uninterrupted guptime a week, and he doesn’t feel like I’m drop-kicking the baby at him and running away to hide and I don’t feel like I never get to do anything fun. I am so incredibly lucky both that I am not doing this on my own and also that Mr. Aro thinks raiding is rad.
(Of course, if the gup did not tend to put herself to bed half an hour before raid started and just left him on-call rather than full-scale active duty, he maybe would think very differently about these things.)
I am open about my weester-driven priorities.
Here is a thing I did not know: babies are total germ factories whose sole aim in their tiny tiny lives is to try and destroy themselves in as interestingly and horrible ways as possible. For example, if my child had the opportunity to eat staples and broken glass, she would LOVE IT. She gets violently, ragingly angry when I do not let her try and strangle herself with my keyboard cord or remove scissors from within her reach. She also gets every goddamn bug that goes around the entire city, regardless of how minor it would be for a grown person. This means that I have to tell people that I have a tiny human and that may occasionally make me flake.
Of course, this is a game where a member of my healing team once alerted me before a Kael’thas pull that “afk, the cat’s on fire.”
It’s basically the same thing raiding with a baby, except replace “on fire” with “chewing on the power strip” or “projectile vomiting” or “engendering the poopocalypse” or, with a particularly precocious infant, “on fire.”
*I still can’t make it back to the pub, though; they’re firmly 21-up, regardless of how much I assure them that she totally has my permission to learn What Good Beer Is as soon as possible.