Not having met the man of my dreams isn’t the real reason I don’t have kids yet. Even if I did find Mr. OMG-Please-Let-Me-Have-Your-Babies, kids might just have to wait until I am a better surfer, however long that may take. Pregnancy, birth-giving, post-partum recovery, all equates to over a year out of the surf! I can’t afford to take that time out of my all-consuming efforts to become a somewhat decent surfer!
Plus, even after the whole pregnancy, giving birth, early-infant phase (or adoption process if that’s the chosen route), there’s the whole child-rearing thing. It’s a huge responsibility. You know, ensuring the fruit of your loins doesn’t turn into… Donald Trump?
Even my kid-less self can see the hard work that goes into raising young’uns. When flying, have you ever paid attention when the airlines call up families with young children to board the plane first? How do those parents look to you?
I see moms wearing this uniform: baggy sweats, sneakers, oversized jumper haphazardly tied around their waist, 3 diaper bags, oversized and stained T-shirt askew with one breastfeeding bra strap exposed, greasy hair full of premature greys. The new dads aren’t in much better shape, with their partly bewildered, partly terrified, completely exhausted expressions peering out above their permanent eye bags and 5 o’clock shadows also full of premature greys.
I’m obviously kidding.
I honestly have the utmost respect for parents and the dedication and sacrifice it requires to raise healthy, conscientious, kind, and motivated children.
And I’m pretty sure I do want kids, but I really do not want to have to choose between kids and surfing. I definitely don’t want to try to do both at the same time and end up being a crappy parent – or worse, a shitty surfer. (Kidding again, maybe?).
I also can’t ignore the reality that, in hetero relationships, women typically bear the brunt of household and childcare responsibilities. I do think things are changing on this front, and there’s more awareness of the physical, mental, emotional, and time burden that is disproportionately allocated to women. But it’s not changing fast enough for my taste, and this means that women give up a lot more of themselves when they have kids than most men. As Ali Wong recently noted; successful women are always asked “how do you balance family and career” but men are never asked that question. And if they were, the answer would be that they don’t! It’s perfectly acceptable for men to spend <10% of their time with their children. So, in the surf world, the status quo has been that if a man cuts short his surf session to spend an extra 15 minutes with his kid, he’s a great dad. However, if a woman leaves her kid (with dad or a nanny) for a few hours to go surf, she’s a bad mommy.
Again, things are slowly changing, and I’m grateful for that… but honestly, the unfairness of that status quo stings. Not only would I have to give up (to an extent) my surfing, but the thought of giving it up more than my partner/co-parent has to give up their thing? No, thank you.
My ideal is to have kids in a partnership that defies the status quo, like the more egalitarian relationships I see some of my friends creating. A number of my surfer friends and their husbands take turns going on surf trips. He will, for example, get on a boat in the Maldives for a few weeks while she watches the kids, then a few months later she will head to the Mentawais, and he takes care of the kids. A surfing couple I am friends with keep their watches on in the surf and take turns catching waves for an hour, then babysitting for an hour on the beach. I just saw a video of a friend practicing her surf moves on a skateboard with her daughters commentating on their mom’s “cool moves,” and yelling “that was SWEET!,” which melted my heart (and my ovaries) into a goopy “aww I wanna have kids” puddle.
Because having kids is not just about the stress and the massive responsibility of keeping your offspring from becoming a psychotic megalomaniac. Having a family is also about sharing the joys of life with your kids.
One of my favorite surf videos is of Cory Lopez surfing with his daughter. Both of them are having so much fun, and their shared surf experience is great, both from a family and feminist standpoint. That little girl, along with my friends’ daughters, are hopefully going to grow up expecting to maintain their interests even when they have families of their own because they watched their parents do just that.
So, maybe I won’t have to choose. Sure, I won’t be able to take my toddlers out in huge barrels… if my surf abilities ever even get me there! But I could take them to various places in Indo or Costa Rica where there are waves with miles of whitewater and gentle reforms perfect for mini frothers. I can tell you from experience that Balinese people are obsessed with kids, and the surf instructors here reserve their widest and whitest smiles for their littlest clients. World-class surf destinations in Fiji, the Maldives, and Portugal also have kid-friendly waves and resorts with day camps and kid activities so that you and your partner can spend some “quality time” in the surf – if that’s your thing.
Flashback to that family with small children boarding the airplane first. That image no longer freaks me out if I imagine that on the other side of that flight, my partner will help me carry kids and board bags, we are going to spend hours of giggly fun pushing the kids into frothy whitewater wavelets, and I will get to work on my surfing in bigger waves. Guilt-free, knowing my kids are safe and cheering me on. More than just doable, this is actually something I could look forward to.