Should digital nomads have kids?
I’ve got time to ponder this question sat in bed on a lazy Saturday morning. I do have a child. I also have a kind mother-in-law who lets me have a lie in and brings me up a cup of tea on the odd occasion we come to stay. Such things represent a pinnacle of luxury post procreating.
Not all, but I’d say most people assume that they will have kids one day. And it certainly seems to be something that hovers in the corners of many a young digital nomad’s mind, judging by the amount of questions we get about it! But to be fair, there probably IS a lot more to ponder. For most people, having a kid will slot without too much difficulty into their largely stationary life. But how would it work if you haven’t chosen a traditional path?
Whether it’s something that you’re curious about for the far distant future or in response to an increasingly persistent biological clock, here is our personal take on some pros and cons.
The gradual decline into sensible decisions
Having a child does take some of the ‘independent’ out of location independent. A main consideration will always be ‘what options are there for childcare?’ (Which is why, when previously avoided like the proverbial plague, we are now exploring campsites with kids clubs for the summer!) Also sneaking up is the impact on spontaneity; last minute ‘shall we go off and explore for a week?’ turn into ‘when’s the next fiesta? (In Spain roughly every 5 minutes). Nursery will be closed, let’s go then’. It’s not that it’s impossible to be spontaneous. You just have to weigh up the consequences; sometimes it just won’t be worth it.
The end (or at least severe curtailment) of grass-hopper ideas
You know those times when you had an idea so brilliant that you were hunched over your laptop from mid-morning (let’s be realistic) until long after beer o’clock through sheer inspiration and promise? Those days are gone. Any hint of inspiration which will add to your workload has to be vetted, examined, put on hold then rigorously re-examined before it even gets onto the ‘maybe in the future’ list. It’s not that kids in themselves are inspiration killers- but the lack of time imposes a military-like discipline (which isn’t always such a bad thing). To be honest, I do miss that stuff, it’s exciting and fun. But then, I miss work in general but I’d rather spend more time with my daughter than at my laptop (even though sometimes it’s a close run thing). What I can take from that is how lucky I am that I love what I do to earn a living.
Seeing the sunrise every day
One of the delicious parts of quitting the corporate world was to turn off the alarm clock for good. A child brings you a different kind of early morning wake up, one with pointy elbows, kicking feet, and if you are lucky, saliva-laden kisses. If you’re less lucky, these kisses come with a snail trail of snot. We binned our watches when we walked away from the 9-5 and started to live to a schedule dictated by the sun, our hunger and the internal clock that told us ‘it’s ok to drink wine now’. Before kids we resisted all (largely unsolicited) advice which glorified the notion of babies needing an iron-clad routine. It did not sit comfortably at all. Then we found out that it’s only by knowing exactly when your kid last ate, slept, played and poo-ed, and when they are likely to do so again, that you have any hope of surviving with your sanity intact.
So there are some of the negatives, which no doubt you already had a strong suspicion about. What positives could there possibly be?
Where happiness lies
This was news to us- when you have a kid, your internal compass shifts. Seeking ways to make yourself happy is less of a priority than finding ways to make your kid happy. That might sound a bit depressing to anyone new to the idea, but it actually feels perfectly natural and right, so there is probably some clever evolutionary device in play! Making your child happy does positively impact the quality of your own life. Generally, it gives human beings pleasure to make others happy. So what better to focus that on the person who is the love of your life (in a way you can’t really imagine before they arrive). As the cliché goes, you also start to see the world through your offspring’s eyes; and the more of it they get to see, with saucer-wide eyes and mouth hanging open with an audible ‘Oooh’ of wonder, the more you want to show them.
Slower paced travel
We travel in a different way now, which has led us to spend the last 6 months in the same small town in Spain, getting to know the area, building friendships, experiencing new customs and adapting to a Mediterranean pace. We rarely stayed anywhere longer than a month when we were travelling before. Having a child gave us the impetus and courage to give something different a try. We haven’t stopped travelling entirely; we’re just back from a week exploring Ibiza, we’ve discovered more medieval castles than someone who actually lived in the Middle Ages, and we’ll be on the road for 2 months over the summer. We’re racking up less air miles yet somehow seeing more.
What work life balance looks like to us
We used to work most of the time. Even when we were travelling, there were missed opportunities to properly absorb new horizons because our view was so often focused on our laptop screens. Now, we try to spend four days a week together and work for three. The compulsion is still there to work more (or is it just the sense of fulfilment from having your own business?) but we don’t act on it unless it’s essential because ‘family time’ is the priority (god, I used to hate that phrase). When we work, we are ready to, and we are able to pour all that motivation, excitement, vision and activity into pretty compressed hours. When we’re not working, we are out doing fun stuff, making the most of this short pre-school time together. Keeping a toddler’s body and brain stimulated is easily a full time job on its own! It has helped that we live somewhere where the cost of living is low, the proximity to UK clients is close and the climate is kind but we still have ups and downs; sometimes there are conflicts between work obligations and being at home. But mostly it works, and it was always going to take a massive event to shatter existing work habits and make us rebuild according to a new set of rules.
So should digital nomads have kids? Who knows? It doesn’t depend on your circumstances, your restrictions, your lifestyle or your plans, it just depends on YOU. Whatever your choice, you’ll make it work. And you’ll convince yourself that life is much better this way, because that’s just what people do.
Note: this blog post took less than an hour to write but was started 5 months before it was finished. Just saying!
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