Am I Having Fun Yet?

This page written circa 31 May, 2003.

A few months ago, a friend asked me what I thought about having kids. I answered as impartially as I could: So far this path does not evidently appear better or worse than remaining childless. I added that the pressure is considerable, and that it would shred the relationship of the parents if that relationship was not rock solid.

Kay has been known to ring me at work and ask if an early-mark might be possible, so that I could come home and prevent her "taking to our children with a carving knife". We are hoping that having these two pays off better in the long run. Child rearing, done concientiously, is hard work. Our kids are smart, alert, extroverted, and apparently rather lovely personalities by comparison with some of their peers, yet Kay and I agree that we were and might have remained just as happy without progeny.

Four years ago I asked myself "What Makes a Thrill?". I was feeling the lack of excitement in this lifestyle. Life with kids is good in Santa Rosa, though I doubt it would be as good as city life if I was childless.

So, did I make the right choice? Is life as good now as it was?
Kids and Santa Rosa go well, but would I have been happier as a bachelor in the city?
Now that Kay and I have kids, could we return to city life?
Should we?

First of all, let's look at a year from the past: 1981. Whoa! Now that is a far cry from my 2002.
Comparing these years, I am left with the impression that 2002 was vastly less exciting, but no less full and perhaps more contented. On balance, I feel as if I made the right choice, but mostly because of the change, not because it is more fun. Procreating and decamping from the metropolis worked well in parallel, and the result is just different. The next question is "Could we and should we return to city (more exciting?) life?".

The sparkle has gone out of Agilent, though it is not clear if this is permanent. My lab remains very well equipped, but most of the people working on my projects have been laid off or reassigned, so I have a slew of matters on my plate, most of which will not be addressed. The last couple of pay rises never happened and if we no longer have pay cuts we also have no profit sharing. The magnificant staff restaurant has slowly declined in response to the loss of subsidy and custom so that it is now no more than a common cafeteria. Discretionary spending is zero, and conference visits are barely subsidised even if you have a paper to give. These are signs that it is time to leave Agilent for a company that is going somewhere; what keeps many people is the simple observation that to leave Agilent for another high-tech company means you will have to leave Santa Rosa too. The tight finances mean less money to holiday back in Oz (or anywhere).

Another thing keeping me here is my lack of vision of a lifestyle to which to go. Where would I work? Where would we live? Kay is not enamoured of desert life, so Phoenix is out, and Fort Collins unappealing. A viable job in Manhattan or Oxford seems improbable. Working for ESA would likely mean living in the Netherlands, oddly Kay seems to prefer this to American desert (Phoenician?) life. In Sydney, we could not really live in Newtown with young children, and in any case I would not like to have to commute more than 20 minutes. I have had experience in suburban Sydney life, not appealing back then, but inescapable given likely locations.

Given that the only way to get good dollars out of Agilent these days is to take a golden parachute, I might well put my hand up given another chance. In the mean time, we will work on the vision, but life here is still good. Baz Luhrmann said (quoting Mary Schmich's mock commencement address) "Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft." Not too soft yet, but enjoying the softening.

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