Most of the time, the freedom was too much for me to cope with.
I am spending six magical days living a thought experiment: Would it be nice to be a bachelor again? I packed the wife and kids off on vacation early, and for the first time all year, I have the house to myself. The kids have been reduced to blurred little figures on a malfunctioning Skype connection. Should I run off, remake my life and leave them as just a distant drone of alimony demands?
As a temporary bachelor, it’s hard to resist metaphors of liberation. You wake up, much later than usual, and think: I now have 16 hours entirely to myself. I had made a mental list of about 500 things I planned to do in my six days, such as go to the cinema 25 times. Unfortunately, most of the time, the freedom was too much for me to cope with. Almost at once I fell back into old bad habits: sitting up till late at night doing pointless bits of work, doing unprofitable Google searches, bothering people with emails that they didn’t really need to answer. (The usual tics — constant checking of email and Twitter — didn’t exactly go away either.)
No longer needing to fill every waking minute, you end up wasting time: I spent half of one day just looking for a wallet. Still, I’m not complaining. Once you’ve had kids, you realize the truth: Bachelor life is a cinch. At 6 p.m., you can just stay in the office! At 8 p.m., you can go and catch a movie! And then you can go and have too much to drink with a friend. I didn’t even have to waste any time pursuing women, like real bachelors do.
For six days I’ve had no emotional shifts, no frenzies of effort readying three children for school simultaneously, no 15-minute surges of Olympian expenditure of energy on a recalcitrant son. You don’t even have to argue with the wife about some topic you had never contemplated before. I’ve been going to bed long past midnight (terrain I had not seen for some years) barely tired.
But of course the question is: Would this be a better life? Years ago, I could have chosen the childless path. It might have been very fulfilling. As a bachelor, you can maximize your career, travel the world, try to sleep with a few of the women you’ve always yearned to sleep with. I’m not a family-values ideologue: the childless way has much to say for it.
When I was a full-time bachelor, I felt my life had meaning. Indeed, I somehow always managed to go around stressed and thinking that I never had enough time for anything. Today, as a temporary bachelor, having spent a few years on the inside of the prison gate, I enjoy bachelordom more. But it now works for me strictly as a delicious holiday. These six days are among the most precious of the year, but only because they are so scarce. This can never feel like real life again.