As a new member to the parenthood club during the last couple of years it’s safe to say I’ve had a fair few new discoveries.
First and foremost, no matter what you are told, you’ll never be fully prepared for the number of feelings you’ll experience. The only equivalent I’ve been able to use with my friends who haven’t had kids is trying out something like this out:
You know a mirror maze? If you’re not laughing and enjoying yourself, you’re slightly panicked and second guessing yourself, or literally and metaphorically high fiving yourself for getting through something incredibly amazing and fun, but also terrifying and frustrating at times.
That’s what the first year can be like.
For me, that first year was single handedly the hardest, most exhausting and fundamentally amazing thing I have ever experienced. However, instead of writing a piece that talks about how great and difficult parenting can be, I thought it would be interesting to share some of the slightly different discoveries I made during the first year of dadhood:
Discovery #1: I Felt Like I Wasn’t Contributing Enough
When my wife was about 3 months pregnant I felt like I got figuratively slapped in the face. I felt this concern and pressure to do more. I didn’t exactly know what “more” I had to do, so I just assumed more of everything. More time at work to get more experience, more jobs on the side to get more money to get more sense of security to get more ahead of…something.
Not feeling that teaching full-time would provide enough for us I began to casually work at a university with upcoming teachers, started an education blog, took on casual consultancy work with a maths company, applied for positions I wasn’t ready for (to get the increased pay…which led to job interview on Day Three with a newborn and have no memory of) and generally did what I could to not sleep.
What I discovered what that none of that other stuff matters. I was already providing enough of the material things, what they really need is the stuff no one can actually see. The stuff that actually matters: fun, silliness, love, care and compassion…being there.
Discovery #2: Baby Toys
Are Can Be Evil
No one seems to speak about this, but I’m fairly certain I know where most horror and thriller movie directors get their inspiration for suspense and torture from. Even though no one is anywhere near them, when you least expect it, kids’ toys can still suddenly start singing, smiling and moving in some creepy way; generally causing every horror movie to come to life in your head.
Be warned, this only seems to occur at night…when it’s a thunderstorm.
Discovery #3: I Don’t Know What I Actually Want
When I first became a dad I sought to put my career into overdrive to not only provide more money for my family, but also continue to work towards my hopes and dreams I had before kids. Since our first year with our first born has passed, I found myself constantly feeling like I was balancing old and new hopes and dreams. I loved walking into classrooms, getting to know every student in my class and supporting students and other teachers to unleash their talents…but I also wanted to be there as much as I could with my daughter and wife.
I swear whilst I thought I was empathetic to what women go through with pausing their careers, I really had no idea just how much I would grapple with both of these.
Discovery #4: Meetings Are Often Ridiculously Inefficient
Once we had our daughter, I suddenly become insanely efficient when I had time off. If I wasn’t sneaking in a nap straight away, I was getting a ridiculous number of things done in an hour.
The problem with realising how laissez faire and relaxed I had previously been when kid-free meant I was now expecting everyone else to be working in this way. This led to me constantly becoming frustrated with people not being as productive as I expected us to be in our meetings.
Seriously, just get your shit together.
Time suddenly became so much more precious.
The great news about this meant I suddenly improved my ability to ask questions and keep meetings on track. When in doubt, I like to pull out “Ha, that’s interesting. Now, [look at clock] I’m really mindful of your time, so let’s really focus for the next [whatever time remaining is] so we can have this wrapped up and head off“.
The key I’ve found is this always needs to be delivered respectfully…just because I have the intention to get stuff done within the hour to get home to wrestle and act like a fool with my daughter, doesn’t mean everyone else is feeling that way too.
(Important side note: sometimes people just aren’t in the headspace or present at the meeting. It’s important to keep redirecting them in ways that keep them on track, but won’t put them offside).
Discovery #5: Some Friends Without Kids Just Won’t Get It
Don’t get me wrong, my friends are still amazing and supportive…but some of them just don’t get it.
And it’s not their fault.
When we haven’t experienced something it is nearly impossible to understand it (I definitely had NO idea what my sisters were going through in the years before I became a dad). Some friends sort of understand what is happening and have an awareness that a shift has occurred in my life’s priorities, but every now and then I’m reminded that for some of them this change is something that is really hard for them to understand – like beers at the pub with half an hour’s notice (let’s be honest, I seriously miss every now and then!).
Unfortunately I can’t just push back when we are going to catch up for a coffee, shoot hoops or go for a hike by two hours. The background coordination and balancing for free time is a carefully constructed thing of beauty! Whilst I do want to see you, I’m going to say no to things more than I did before kids.
Plus during that first 12 months if you’re not wrecked or exhausted, you’re just plain tired.
It’s safe to say that first year was definitely an interesting time…especially now as we look back on it as we have welcomed baby number two into the brood. Matter of fact, this time around I think I’ve gotten a lot better at working out this dadhood stuff out…maybe a bit.
(You choose which ones to get: our teaching, leading in education or dadhood posts – or all of the above!)