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Honest reflections on having a baby as an artist

Last week, our lovely daughter, Leela turns one. Lest this moment dissolve into clichés—“becoming a father is the most amazing thing that ever happened to me”, “I don’t know how this year flew by” etc., I wanted to record my honest view both so I can remember it many years later and also, perhaps in my own little way, help other artists who are making a decision about having kids. A quick background first. I’m not a kid-lover—think of me as the grumpy old uncle who doesn’t really know how/what to talk to kids about—but I always knew I wanted kids, perhaps due to my Indian cultural conditioning, perhaps because in some hidden recess of my heart, I have some paternal instinct. But in the last two-three years before having Leela, I was starting to have a little doubt. Those were my most productive years as a writer; my wife, Kerry and I had just completed a sabbatical traveling the world and had enjoyed every moment of our unencumbered existence; and I was getting deeper into Eastern mysticism which doesn’t view earthly attachments favorably to say the least. In short, life seemed very full and joyful, an antithesis to the weariness and anxiety I thought I saw in most parents’ faces. Yet we leaned in and had a child (and will likely have more). Somewhere intuitively it felt like the right thing to do. And it was—for us! But it may not be for you, which is 100% fine. One year later, here is a balanced view of my feelings about having a baby through the lens of someone who like many of us, is juggling a corporate career, art, and family:

  1. It’s an amazing experience—but so are other exceptional experiences.

    I’ve had moments of pure rapture in being with my daughter. The first time she gave a discernible smile, when she laughs a hearty laugh, the day she started crawling etc. But I’ve also felt the same feeling suddenly in the middle of climbing in the Himalayas or writing a particularly inspired scene in one of my novels or even engaged in a deep conversation with a Slovenian Krishna-bhakt in a Bulgarian hostel, all moments where the sense of self dissolves completely and you know that there’s just this moment you want to be in and no other. I think our culture has over-hyped that motherhood/ fatherhood is the only experience through which you become completely selfless and hence, joyful. If you’re a person who’s committed to constantly growing and pushing your boundaries, who knows that there’s no end-point and the journey itself is the destination, you end up with more and more moments of pure being without intent to become. You don’t necessarily need to have a kid to experience that dissolution of ego.

  2. Your dreams don’t change.

    “Wait till you have kids”—I’d heard this phrase so many times before having Leela, the general idea being that after you have kids, your life will revolve solely around making more money so that you can buy a big house, put your child in the best schools, and work towards getting them into Harvard. Not true at all. Before Leela, I wanted to write a novel that would meaningfully change the lives of my readers. After Leela, I worked harder than ever to write that novel. Before Leela, we wanted to construct a life where we could work in an orphanage for three months every year. After Leela, we want to do that with our kids. You get the point. If your thinking if off-the-beaten-path before having kids, it won’t become mainstream after. If anything, I’ve become even more conscious of my sense of legacy and becoming a person who’s living a life completely of his choosing after my daughter’s birth so that my life can be some sort of example for her.

  3. You become more productive

    For me, this was the greatest surprise of having a baby. I’d expected that I’d have very little time left over for writing between a job and child care. Instead, I found more time to write than ever before. Of course, there are sleepless nights and time spent in taking care of the baby, but there’s also a complete elimination of spontaneous dinner plans, impromptu weekend getaways, and random movie nights. And it’s not as bad as it sounds! Quickly enough after having a baby, you learn that having an extraordinary sense of routine is one of the best ways to master parenting. Knowing that you’ll be home from at-least  7p.m. to 7a.m. every day has allowed me to carve a chunk for writing on a consistent basis. Without the baby, our time was more flexible—and perhaps that’s why we never valued it enough.

  4. Waiting to make some money may be a good idea …

    We had Leela when we were in our early-mid 30’s so we were reasonably placed in our careers. This allowed using baby-sitters on weekends from time-to-time which allows more time to fit in work and art. I think money does buy you a little space in child-care though I realize that everyone may not have that option.

  5. ….but not necessarily!

    If I’ve learnt anything in the last year, it’s that if you have a strong sense of who you are, the baby fits into your life rather than you having to change your life to fit the baby. We had Leela when we were both changing careers, moving to a new city, trying to re-build our savings after our sabbatical, working to get book deals and later launching our novels, life was filled beyond capacity. But Leela just kind of fit in—and quite well too. I think life just stretches to accommodate your ambitions. The only imperative is to know where you want to go and that doesn’t change whether you have kids or not!

I’m sure I’ll learn more  and re-visit the above as Leela gets older and (if) we have more kids. But until then, no regrets so far at all. Oh, and if you enjoyed this article, don’t forget to sign up to receive the free preview of THE YOGA OF MAX’S DISCONTENT, published by Penguin Random House US (called The Seeker in India), dedicated to Leela! You can also get my free meditation video course and peak performance nutrition supplement when you sign up here.