“Mummy’s gotta stream”: Making gaming life and parent life work
So you are a gamer. Now you’re a gamer with a baby, and you realise it’s been 6 months. You haven’t exactly slept, and you can’t remember the last time you sat down for a game.
Gone are the days where you can get home, strip off, slide your toes into some jelly, flip the console on for the night and chill. In fact you’re not sure if you left the house today – and you’re pretty sure you didn’t get dressed.
Or maybe you did, and you made it back to work, but can’t quite remember what happened during that period between picking bubby up from day care and waking up at 2am to the same bundle of love crying.
What the hell do you do?
The following is a snapshot of my life and experience with the transition from kid-free life to parenthood, my steady descent into #StreamerLife, and how in the living hell we all coped.
The pre-kid schedule
My dear, long-suffering readers – if I am going to take you through this journey, then I promise I will not lie to you.
My pre-kid life was pretty damn sweet.
Khal and I had bonded heavily through MMORPG’s, raiding in EQ2 with VvV, then playing Age of Conan, lotro, Tabula Rasa (we are old ok), Horizons, (several Eve accounts running in the background), and whatever else was going in our down-time. We were Beta testers, Alpha testers, game breakers – MMO’s were our life. That, as well as take-away Thai from the corner store, a case of cleanskin from Dan Murphies, and a shutter blind that kept the light out of his room. This was our life-rhythm.
It’s not that we weren’t busy. He worked a good job that was complicated and time consuming, I was finishing my Masters degree, teaching at uni, running my consultancy on the side, and occasionally taking up full-time work gigs in businesses that needed my direct hand.
And yet – somehow – we could, once the work was done, slip off the day, collapse into our jelly-filled hedonism together and fall headlong into the internet.
Then I fell pregnant.
Let’s skip over the pregnancy itself
Mostly because I can’t remember it. I was far too sick.
By the time I was coming out of my haze, we were moving state (I think remembered my graduation?) and we had to plan our life around a baby – something we had little idea about – crashing into our lives.
We decided on some basic rules. Babies don’t work on schedules and can’t be paused, so we knew we would have to significantly change our #gaminglives to match. We quit MMORPG’s.
We quit this thing we loved most in the world.
And we were okay with that. Kinda. Not really. It broke our freaking hearts to walk away from those communities we had spent years and years in, but we also knew that if we kept raiding, resent would infiltrate our relationship. I would have to be the one that quit raiding, and then for 4 nights or more a week he would be unreachable for 4-5 hours. It would mean he would not have bonding moments with the baby, and I would be left doing the evening routine solo and unable to call on any help if there was a catastrophe.
And no, we couldn’t just raid less days or time-share responsibilities. Not completing the content we were. They were very “All or Nothing” days. So we quit.
This worked, at least for a little while.
Baby No. 2
Parenting. We were smashing it! I had perfected the fine art of breastfeeding while Geralt hacked and slashed his way through Scoia’tael with Vernon (#Roache4Life) and let Letho go. Khal even took up some sneaky Eve time on the side once our eldest stopped with the constant poop explosions.
I began studying again, took up a bit more work, finished a three player game of Dungeon Siege 3. That box of cleanskin slowly worked its way back onto the agenda, and we came to the growing realisation that bubby had a strong appetite for noodles.
Then I fell pregnant again. This time, my sickness was somehow worse. We also moved house. The new baby took an even harder stance against sleep than the first and we were all exhausted. We moved back to our comfort zones to cope – which meant Khal started looking at MMO’s again, and I, struggling to keep the house in shape, the family fed on a budget, and to give Khal his much needed work recovery space, would find myself lying dazed on my bed with Candy Crush pulsing in my hand, woken by the shrill cry of the youngest done with her evening power nap.
This was a serious problem
One of the things that made me take this issue a little more seriously was realising how endemic it was. As my circle and I transitioned into child-filled lives, I noticed that more and more of my parent-and-gamer friends just… stopped gaming. Many of their partners continued – it seemed that gaming down-time for secondary carers barley slowed down.
For me it took close to 2 years of not gaming – and realising I was missing out on the Witcher 3 – to really smash my head back into reality. The Witcher series, a series that I had spent more than 700 hours of my life immersed in, had released its finale, and I had barely touched the intro. I needed a strategy.
I looked my husband in the eyes and told him that I had discovered an unforgivable atrocity: there were no full play-throughs of the Witcher 1 on Twitch. I told him that this was a problem that only I could rectify, and it was going to be my new goal.
Khal realised that I was serious. He realised this was not really about my deep and absolutely non-sexual love for Geralt. Realised that I really, really needed this to work (before I became a ghost of the being that he loved.) So, he worked with me to ensure I had the hardware to stream. This meant I was not only able to stream W1, but on a completely unrelated point, was able to play W3 on the highest settings with beautiful sound.
Streaming as an excuse for alone time
I’m not going to lie, this was 100% an excuse for me to get some scheduled gaming alone time. It was an excuse for me to do the things that revive me as a person – connecting with strangers, having conversations, listening to music, talking philosophy, and creating a community.
It gave me a schedule – one that I encouraged myself to keep. What started out as a “once a week during nap time” activity turned into a 4-5 night a week priority that has introduced me to amazing people and communities from all over the world.
What did valuing this little piece of self-care give my family? A revived mother, an enthusiastic wife, and much more genuine, present family time.
The art of negotiation, listening, and consent
This story is not really about how streaming can be your recharge time. It’s not even really about managing a gaming schedule amongst the rabble. It’s about knowing yourself and your partner well enough to understand what your recharge is, and ensuring – absolutely ensuring – that you have access to that.
Like most things in a long-term, time-poor relationship, this article is about the art of compromise and consent.
It can be very difficult for couples to come to a sensible and reasonable rhythm around off-time and on-time. The alternative to not putting this at the front and centre of your relationship is disconnection, miscommunication, and arguments that can be avoided if you approach your family’s self-care with an open heart and an open mind.
How do we manage it? Well, everyone is different. We maintain a rigorous schedule. But that little dissection is for another article. Over the next few months, you will see how the other parents of WomANZ deal with these and similar issues. We would love to hear from you too.
The first step is to acknowledge and talk about these things. So, let’s chat! I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.