Parenthood makes gaming better by making time your most precious resource


Parenthood changes you in nearly every way.

You lose free time, but you gain the ability to see things through a different set of lenses. Suddenly what you want or need isn’t the most important thing, and you wake up every morning with a sense of purpose and understanding about what your day will entail. A large part of your existence is now the complicated act of trying to keep a completely helpless young human being alive.

I have five children, and I write daily and play video games regularly. This usually happens at night, after everyone is asleep. I talk to new parents often, or people thinking about becoming parents, and the issue of video games often comes up as if they’re confessing something.

Everyone is worried about whether they’ll still find time to play, but then they worry about sounding self-indulgent. If your life is about to change in every way imaginable, are you really worried about whether you’ll be able to keep up with the new releases on Steam?

This is something rarely discussed when it comes to parenthood, but let’s put it bed right now: Making time for your passions and hobbies is an important form of self-preservation. Making time to play and think about games isn’t selfish if it’s something you’re passionate about, it’s an important step in maintaining the person you are in the face of a life-changing event. More importantly, becoming a parent can help make you a mindful, happier player.

Being mindful of time

Parenthood is time management, and time is the most valuable thing we have. You can’t get it back, you can’t buy more and time spent doing one thing is time not spent on anything else. It’s a zero-sum game, and as children grow up you quickly realize that time is the most important thing you’ll ever spend on them.

The accounting of time can become dire as you have more children, but the jump from no kids to your first is the biggest change you’ll likely go through. Every child after the first is a major change, but you at least have a small idea of the lay of the land. It’s the first one that shifts your perspective to such a stunning degree.

You’ll also become aware that, if you want your gaming time to be sustainable, it’s going to become like purchasing carbon offset credits. You’re really carving out two hours for every one you want to spend gaming, because your partner requires and deserves the same amount of free time to chase their passions. The idea isn’t just to play video games, the idea is to make sure there is time for the things that make you who you are, no matter what they may be. That has to be a two-way street.

Becoming a parent can help make you a mindful, happier player

This is why gaming is such a rewarding activity as a parent: You have to be focused on the hows and whys of what you play and when. The piece about what games Adam Condra plays during Lent resonated with me not because I’m religious, but because a lack of free time means that I view the games I play in the same manner to find meaning. I don’t have the time to get lost for hours each night and to play everything, so every minute spent playing a game becomes precious.

Frequent updates and games you can’t pause are the bane of large families; the mechanical construction of certain games makes them nearly impossible to play.

League of Legends, where a single match can take 30 minutes to an hour, and that can’t be paused? They're right out. If a teammate has to rely on you during the entire length of a match that can’t be stopped, you’re going to have a bad time when a child wakes up crying, or vomits all over themselves randomly.

This is a thing that happens, new parents: Young children randomly explode in vomit or feces, and there may not be any warning. There is nothing you can do to stop it. Make peace with the idea that many evenings will be spent cleaning up something that flows from the body of your child. Good luck.

Clarity of intent

This is one of the gifts of being a parent that people rarely discuss: You learn what’s important to you. If you have a few hours each week in free time, or less, what do you do with it? Do you read a book or stay caught up with your favorite comic? Do you play a game, and if so, which game? When you extend the same courtesy to your partner, what do they do with themselves? All the fat that makes up so much of your day falls away and you begin to understand what you truly care about. Giving so much time to someone else makes you feel intensely gratified by the few hours you have to yourself.

The mechanical realities of gaming also become important. The Wii U is an amazing system due to that GamePad; I often have mine plugged in and resting on the nightstand, not connected to a television, so I can play full console games in bed. Streaming devices to play your PC games suddenly become much more attractive. Portables are your friend.

You find time in the cracks, and you make sure you use every bit. You rub the fifteen minutes of time you find in your day into your gums, like a junkie who wants to benefit from every particle. You begin to curse the start up time of consoles or the need to download patches; that’s time you could spend playing!

Being a parent takes away free time, but it doesn’t take away your ability to continue to pursue the things you love, but that pursuit will certainly take more effort and planning. You also need to get over the fact that it can feel selfish to carve out the time to play games; keeping up with your hobbies is a major part of what makes you unique and fulfilled. Your children will benefit from having a well-rounded person as a parent, and you can’t offer that unless there are times you’re comfortable placing the oxygen mask over your own face first.

Giving so much time to someone else makes you feel intensely gratified by the few hours you have to yourself

This isn’t really a piece about finding the time to game as much as it’s about mindful self-care. If gaming is important to you, you need to communicate that to your partner and make sure they have the same amount of time to blow off steam and do what makes them happy. It’s okay to admit that gaming is important to you, and it’s something that you’re willing to work for when it comes to finding time. You have to open about what you want to do with your free time when discussing this with your partner, and give them the same courtesy.

It’s possible to be a parent and gamer, and I’m looking forward to reading about others in the same boat in the comments. It changes how you game, on the other hand, and what you value in the games you play. I'm thankful for the time I get to spend gaming, and I wish parents were comfortable discussing the importance gaming has in their lives, and discussing strategies they've found to keep up with their hobby.

Being a parent shouldn't be about giving up who you are, it should be adding to the person you're becoming. It's a journey, and one that fills every corner of your life, but it's worth making the time and effort to preserve your hobbies and joys. You can still game after having a baby, and you should do so openly and happily. You'll never appreciate it more.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Polygon as an organization.

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