Fatherhood is such a turning point. Life really comes full circle when you begin to lead a small version of you into this world. Introducing them to everything is quite an experience. In my marriage my wife and I consciously made the choice that I be the one to bring home income, and she would be the one to focus on the home, and raising the girls. I have spoken about these roles in the past, and I think it is very important to recognize each as their own individual challenge. They are different, and we have found it most constructive to just treat them that way. It is when we get worn out and begin to compare that friction begins to show up. Remembering we are on the same team can sometimes seem like a far off thought.
We have been in this arrangement for about 3 years now. We have 2 happy, healthy, and vibrant girls and couldn’t be more blessed. The roles have begun to sink in and become very familiar. We have worked to find a schedule between the two of us that can meet each of our needs. I have amended my work schedule a few different times to first be home in the am to spend time with the girls, and then most recently traded this time for the ability to come home and put our oldest to bed every night. I would not trade these moments for any amount of money. This was by far the best choice I ever made. I am so thankful to have a profession that allows me to dictate my schedule. I try to give my wife a day during the week that she can get things done. I have learned throughout this time that supporting mom is the most important thing. Somehow someway fellas, support mom. Each of us can do it in our own individual way.
Last weekend we flipped the script. Mom had a seminar all weekend. So mom was gone from sun up to sun down, and papa had the girls. I have been rooting my wife on to pursue things that she wants ever since the girls have been born. But its really hard to explain to someone the journey that a mother goes through personally before/during/and after the birth of a child. Let alone 2 of them. I have been fortunate enough to be next to my wife for 2 very different births, and am floored at the journey I have witnessed. All I feel that I can do is just support her decisions for personal progress.
So here I am with the 2 girls, mom has been gone for 12 minutes. HOLY SHIT!
This is where the rubber meets the road. You see its one thing to hold a crying baby when mom is sitting on the couch next to you, or maybe when she is upstairs, or just in the next room. Because you/I know if shit really went down, she is there to nurse the baby, and basically she is the trump card. Well when its just you/me, I looked, I don’t have a damn trump card, and (do I know what to do?) Talk about feeling like a complete Newb! Shit Got Real! Well Team No Tears made it through the weekend, and we did fantastic. I was worn the hell out, and talked myself off the cliff multiple times, but that is for another entry.
I wanna talk about the real success in the weekend. It was in the surrender. I don’t want to paint this in a negative light because surrender may suggest some sort of bad or weak connotation. But I want to use it in the strongest of ways, I want to use it in the most empowering of way. Surrendering like when you surrender to warm sunlight, when you let your body just soak up the warm sun. This is a brilliant surrender. This is an engulfing and empowering surrender. Warmth and Vibrance surge through your body. This is what I am referring to. You see my days are very different normally, than these days over the weekend. I am constantly with people, and constantly moving, and constantly on social media, and constantly thinking about how to advance this business or that business. The demand is constant.
This weekend I struggled on the first day to step outside of this normalcy. I had to refrain from checking media, I had to slow my mind down from thinking about all these things that I chase all week. I was not really sure how to shut things off. With this came a shortness of temper with the girls, almost like I was not prepared to deal with the pace of the day. Like there was a huge chasm in between papa’s adult life and these simple and perfect existence of my daughters. I felt space and disconnect, and it was shitty. I began to get in my head about it a bit and get critical. You see I value vulnerability. I value the ability to connect, and the ability to be unguarded. I really try to be present with my family, but sometimes this comes a bit more difficult due to my day to day work life. I was having trouble shifting gears. Simple tasks seems harder, changing diapers seemed like a chore, crying rang out in my head like a gong. I have to tell you, cooking meals for my daughter is really hard for me. I got like 2 maybe 3 go-to moves. And if we don’t have those, I got nothing. And a couple times, I considered crying because I had no ideas what the hell to make, and every time I suggested something, of course our 2 year old would shake her adorable head with her wrinkled brow and say no.
Sometime during the day, I started to turn a corner. I knew in my mind that I had nothing to do that day. Not even one thing, except be there with my girls. This was where the freedom came. I saw space. When this sank in, I was bathing in the warm sunshine of surrender. Things became effortless. My patience grew by 100 fold. I could have sledgehammered all of my watches. Diapers became prizes. I was connected. I was in the game. There was such a change. And it was tremendous. The weekend was exhausting, but once I was able to truly engage with them, the whole game was different.
My wife came home one day after a very long day of lectures, and blew my mind. She said that she didn’t know how I was able to do long days at work. She was out here doing something for herself, and felt empathy for me. I was cashing in on time with my daughters, my wife was out doing things for herself, and giving me a pat on the back too. I mean “What a Day!” I had to tell her that I was crushed as well. I don’t know how she survives days and weeks with the girls.
There were a couple things I learned that will never leave me from this weekend. The first is the beauty in surrender. Being where you are, and surrendering yourself/letting go of all the other distractions, may be one of the most gratifying and empowering experiences you can grant yourself. The second is empathy for the other. In your relationships, be empathetic to you significant other. They don’t have an easy go either. Try it on for a couple days, without the trump card. You may gain some appreciation for someone else’s place in this life.
By all means work on your ability to switch. When you come home from work, forget about work, its family time. I feel like I need a car wash right outside my front door, so when I get home I can just go in there and get throttled by some water jets and some soap. Maybe then I would feel the change, so engaging and connecting with my kids would seem easier. Some days it feels like it really takes effort. And I feel like we are a very close knit family. Spending days differently has an effect. Make sure to pay some attention to bringing the crew back together.
2 years later commentary
We have made a whole lot of change since this last blog post. Currently we moved across the country. We live in a small town on a farm and not in a big city. I stayed home with the girls for months while my wife worked and now we are switching back to some sort of hybrid working arrangement. You see the biggest hurdle through all of this is still the ability to adapt. But the same simple things remain true. When you allow yourself to surrender, or when I have allowed myself to surrender are the times I have been able to connect. When you choose to uproot your life and go a new direction things get real very quickly. You walk into a new city, no one knows you, you have no business, you have no house, no identity in this place really. This has its benefits and it has its lonely spots.
Being home with the girls has been great, but over time it has proved very challenging for me. The lack of contact with the outside world if you will has been a real challenge. It hits home in my daily motivation and my mind space. The days that I get up early and make sure to take care of myself are the days I feel much better about myself. The days where I take a break and sleep in are rough ones. You see with a job, I took for granted the value of task and schedule and duty. You/I have to get up and get ready and go. You get to get out of the house. No matter what your job is you get away. You get adult time. And this, whether you realize it or not. Is personal time. Its a win, well at least when you experience the complementary struggle on the other side of the coin. When you wake up in the house and have kids, wreckage ensues and this really doesn't stop until they go to sleep at night. With little ones, leaving the house is usually a chore that some days doesn't seem to be surmountable. Being present can be the challenge, so taking the kids out in public just sometimes doesn't happen. Cabin fever is an understatement. There must be another demonstrative term for this with children. Because its much heavier on the fever side of things. This may sound crazy to some of you, but if you have switched roles when you have small children, I think you will be able to relate.
As an adult, there are plenty of ways to escape, and I would caution you against this. Stay in tune with yourself. Stay focused on the things you need and voice these to your partner, if you are blessed enough to have someone on this journey with you. The best way I have to describe escaping is numbing. Careful with numbing. There are lots of forms. An easy example is drinking, or smoking are two very common activities for coping. There are other sneaky culprits such as social media that can creep up on you. Check your screen time update on your phone to see how many hours your putting in. It gets a bit crazy. You see these coping tools that we have may help take the edge off for you, but the scary part is the other edge. Feeling negative emotions is no fun, but you can't just dull these. When you cope/escape you also dull the other end of the perspective. The good stuff becomes less desirable, or you could say that you feel it less. You miss out on the benefits as well. Your window of experience emotionally becomes smaller, which leads you to a space of less feeling and less expression. A place of numb. How do you connect then? All you feel is distance, and hurdles in your way to connect.
I have been here multiple times from multiple situations and multiple coping tools/escapes. We all have reasons to look for escape and thats ok, but don't let that be an end all be all. Escape doesn't have to be the only option. You always have a choice. If you alter the way you think about this situation, it may offer some help. It sure has helped me. There are things that build you up, and there are things that tear you down. Draw a line vertically down the middle of a sheet of paper. On the left write down all of your vices, write down all of the things you want when your stressed, or life isn't going your way. This includes all things from chocolate to cocaine, and everything in between. On the right side, write down all of the things that build you up. This includes things like meditation, working out, time with friends. Spend time on this list they may not come to mind as fast. I have had some trouble filling this list out many times. Sometimes life has been dark for awhile and its hard to see these.
Once you have your list, plan your next week and write down things that fill you up on each day. Make those your singular mission. It doesn't matter which ones where, just make sure they are present. Then as you go along throughout the week, if you feel yourself looking for vices or escapes, jot this down in red on the day. After a few weeks look back, and see how you feel. When we consciously make an effort to build ourselves up, and consciously begin to recognize our attempts at tearing ourselves down. A lot becomes clear. A glass of wine today isn't gonna take you out. But it may if you have been on that train for 6 months unsuspecting. I say that because I have seen that day.
As parents we have the opportunity to help one another. The struggle is real on both sides of the coin. If you are working, or if you are home. Support for each other comes in many forms and takes on many colors. Simply being present and listening sometimes is all thats needed. Be aware of your partner and their struggle, and be aware of your struggle. I can tell you, as I mentioned previously. The surrender is where its at. Its powerful, but it takes vulnerability to feel this strength. For the love of sanity, take some time and build yourself up, build your partner up, don't just try to escape, because in the end it will tear you and your relationships down. Be in, be vulnerable, be available.