My name is Spencer.
And I'm an altaholic.
What is an altaholic? Well, it means I play video games (or at least I used to). It means I play MMORPGs. It means that WHEN I play an MMO, I generally make a lot of characters.
For instance, my favorite game of all time, City of Heroes (may she rest in peace), allowed me to have something like twelve characters per server, and there were some twelve or so servers (rough estimate, I can't really remember the exact numbers). I had easily eighty characters on that game, and each one had a back story, and I played each one (some more than others). Of course, only two or three of them made it to max level. Can you guess that I'm a writer?
There's just something satisfying about being a hero and saving the day.
I play Gemstone 4, a text-based MUD (Multi-User Dimension) and have quite a few alts on that game, but it is more intense in its player interaction, and the drama at times is too much.
I've been playing Lord of the Rings Online (LoTRO), and have tried to break that trend. I have one character I actually play, a Beorning (think "werebear"). And I like her a lot. But I do somewhat miss the ability to just jump around from one life to another.
Sadly for all of these games, writing has taken its toll. City of Heroes/Villains is alas no more, but I never have really replaced it. I love GS4 and my friends in it, but it seems I have less and less time, and when I don't show up I feel guilty and then stop answering/looking at emails from friends about it. I haven't played it in months because I've been so focused on finishing my novel. And though friends from college are trying to get me to play LoTRO with them, the timing is terrible because of the kids. I feel guilty asking my wife to feed, bathe, and put the kids away once or twice a month on a Saturday so I can play a game online, even though I spend most of my time with the kids and do not often get to spend time of any sort with adults. And now my second- and third- favorite games (Starcraft and Guitar Hero/Rock Band, because let's face it, they're close enough to the same game) have come back into my life, but I feel guilty again when I try to play them during my free time, because I could/should be spending that time writing.
For me, a formerly-avid gamer, becoming a writer has been a sacrifice. Combined with being a stay-at-home dad of two, even my hobby of brewing beer has taken a major hit.
But it's not just my hobbies. I used to be very social, and, as I mentioned before, I now have only a few opportunities to spend time with adults. I've joined the Masons, but can only meet with them about once a month, and I'm much younger than most of them. I have friends who come over once a week to play board games. And I go to church with the family once a week. But I do not have work mates. I do not have nearly as many friends as I used to. I do not have any family in the area except for my kids and wife. You must remember, I'm an identical twin, so having someone with me all the time is part of how I was raised, of how I think.
This week, my wife went out of town and I had the kids. This isn't the first time this has happened. But it *is* the first time this has happened while both kids were able to walk/run around, to get into things, to get on each other's nerves (as well as my own).
It is exhausting.
I get up by 6:30 (and being a night owl, I'm unused to this) to get my daughter off to school on time. I spend the next hours playing with my son, who now wants to get into everything and chase the poor kitties. While he naps, I try to get some work done in finding an agent. Usually I have to hold him to get him to sleep, and if I put him down he wakes up cranky. Lunch happens at some point, and if I need to go out, I have to do it after he wakes up. But I have to be back early to pick my daughter up from the bus. By 3, she's complaining about being hungry (even though I just gave her a snack) as I feed the baby. By 4, I've been arguing with her for an hour about getting her five minutes of homework done. Cleaning has to happen while I watch them. Normally, I get dinner started at 4:30 to 5, but luckily I was able to get a bunch of pre-made tacos this week. Still, I've had other things, like dance and making food for the Masons, that have taken up that time instead. After dinner, there's a brief period for play (and cleaning/feeding the baby more), followed by bath and bed time at 7. She's hopefully actually IN bed by 8, and I'm sitting there with over-tired baby who is fighting sleep until 9:30 (I need to work at getting a sleep schedule down for him). And then I'm dead tired and just go to bed. Of course, he often wakes up a few times at night, which can lead to hours of lost sleep. I understand now why my wife turns in so early. Previously, I got up at 7:30 to 8:30, when the baby woke up. I went to bed somewhere between midnight and 2, usually because I'm writing at night. It's amazing how much more energy it takes to care for the kids with no relief.
How do single moms do it?
I can only imagine that they have some sort of support system of friends and family that I mostly lack. Either that, or they make enough money to afford a nanny or daycare. Because it's not like I can just choose to stay up later. I'm exhausted at night. I'm lucky I haven't fallen asleep before the baby does.
So hats off to single moms and dads. You are the true heroes.