Our baby boy, JJ is 14 months old now and we’ve taken him to one of our favourite cities, Chiang Mai, Thailand. As you can imagine, my wife and I have a drastically different lifestyle than before having a child. We were definitely apprehensive about long haul flights with a baby, but so far everything about this trip has been great. Thailand loves babies, so we’re very grateful JJ has a chance to get so much attention from so many different people. Here is an update on how having a baby has changed our life and some of my thoughts on raising an international child.
The Miracle of Childbirth
After witnessing the birth of my child, I’m extremely happy that we chose to deliver the child in my home country of Canada. We’ve had great experiences with medical care in other countries, including the first prenatal visits in Budapest, but the quality of care in Canada was absolutely amazing. From what I saw, child birth can be a very violent and even dangerous experience, so it was great to have first class medical care. Having a full trauma team in the delivery room on a moment’s notice was very comforting even though they were not needed.
Babies are a Burden
My wife and I have been married for more than 16 years now. We strongly valued our freedom, so we were quite happy to not have any children. It was nice to be able to travel to different countries, work on different projects and basically do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. I always viewed having a child as a massive burden and loss of freedom. I was wrong.
Having a baby is certainly time-consuming and difficult at times, but it’s also been the most rewarding experience of my life. Seeing this person develop before our eyes has been absolutely amazing. I love watching how he learns everything from breastfeeding, to the first time he laughed, to the first time he ate solid foods, to how he learned to sit up, then crawl and now walk. It’s truly fascinating to see a child, my child especially, develop before my eyes.
Travelling with a Baby
We are traveling fine with our baby JJ in tow. We weren’t sure what it was going to be like, but after spending time in Japan and now Thailand, traveling with a baby is not that difficult. It’s great to be able to slow down to his speed and discover more details about a city that we’ve gotten very comfortable with over the years.
Children are not an Excuse
I think back to all the people who told me “You’re lucky, :
- you can travel because you’re young,
- you can travel because you’re single,
- you can travel because you don’t have a business to run,
- you can travel because you don’t own a house,
- you can travel because you don’t have children.”
I’ve grown up through all of those situations and yet I still make time for what is important to me. All of us have a million excuses to not do something. I don’t want to make excuses. If I can’t make time for what I value, than I don’t really value it that much.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t written much over the last year. That’s because my family is my first priority and my business is my second priority. I’ve had to cut out a lot of distractions in my life to keep focused and I’m glad I did. I miss writing and hope to make time for it moving forward, but my baby comes first.
Travel doesn’t prevent me from spending time with my son, so it’s not a barrier to living my best life. In fact, travel enhances my family’s life in so many ways that I feel it is an essential component of living a good life.
I’ve wasted so much time jumping from project to project over that last 5 or 6 years. With JJ in my life, I finally have complete clarity and focus. It’s very refreshing to know exactly what to do everyday. Mindlessly post “look at me” social media updates and check email 30 times per day are not on my to-do list.
Babies in Thailand
I’ve written about Thailand a lot, so it’s no secret that I love the country for many reasons. I never imagined that it would also be a fantastic country to raise a child. Children are so important in Thai culture that no matter where we go, Thais always take the time to smile, play with or even hold JJ. Our experiences in Canada don’t even come close to the sense of community and social connection we have in Thailand. Thais really know how to live in the moment, it’s too bad that so many visitors here don’t look up from their screens long enough to notice.
I want my baby to be outgoing and comfortable around people. I think the best way to do that is to be around a lot of people, all the time. In Thailand, that’s very easy because people live out in the open. People are always on the street so we see familiar faces every day and they are all very friendly. I imagine this is what small towns were like 30 or 40 years ago in Canada. Society has lost a lot in the last few decades.
Mothers and young children in developing countries like Thailand seem to be together all the time. I want to do the same for my child. He is developing so fast that I want to spend every single second I can with him. I don’t understand western ideas of encouraging the separation of infants from parents so quickly. In fact, there is more research showing that “Modern parenting may hinder brain development.” Asian parents breastfeed for as long as they can and generally have the baby sleep in the same bed with parents. I think that’s very healthy.
There are so many wealthy parents that hire nannies or send their children to daycare so that both parents can work. In Canada, I often see affluent couples choose to outsource the raising of children just to maintain high levels of consumption. Is a bigger house and fancier car worth being spending so much time away from your children in their most formative years? I certainly don’t think so.
My wife and I have a pretty simple life which affords us the opportunity to work at home and travel regularly. That means we are with our baby 24 hours a day, every day. That is a deliberate choice we’ve made. I can’t imagine being away from my baby for 40 or 50 hours per week like many parents in the developed world. I don’t want to be a fast-food father.
I’m grateful that my wife and I were both born in affluent countries that afford us the opportunity to choose how we want to spend our time and money. There are billions in the world that are not so fortunate.
It’s difficult for me to understand why so many in the west, with more wealth than my wife and I, choose consumerism over time with their children. If you are a single parent and don’t have any options, I understand. However, I’ve heard too many people say they are working hard for their children while owning a fancy motorcycle, a big SUV and over-sized house. How many parents do you see on their phones while pretending to play with their own kids. None of that is for your children. It’s all for your ego.
I’ve seen many young parents take turns leaving their spouse and children at home to go on party trips to places like Las Vegas or Mexico. I can’t fathom that at all. I could never leave my wife and child at home just to go on a drinking vacation with friends. That is completely incomprehensible to me.
Happy to Be a Father in Thailand
I’m very happy to be a father and I’m even happier to have my child experience cultures that still value social connection over consumption. I missed the orderliness and cleanliness of Canada and Japan, but Chiang Mai remains my favourite city. It’s so easy to live here.