There are those points in one’s life where maturity escalates rather abruptly. Going to college, having bills for the first time, starting a full time job, buying a house, getting married, and of course having a kid.
I think of all of these, only did the arrival of J.Atlas not remotely fit to my preconceived constraints.
Prior to the J.Atlas arrival friends, family, and coworkers were generous with comments. Many were cliche.
“It’ll change your life forever!”
“It’ll be the best time of your life.”
“Enjoy sleep now, while you can!”
“It’s the toughest job you’ll ever love!”
“It’ll be hard, but it’ll get easier.”
“You’ll stop doing all your fancy cooking as soon as that baby comes.”
All those messages sunk in and collected together in my brain into some sort of strange network of assumptions. Now 3 months in, I can admit that nearly all of these assumptions were wrong. Here are my discoveries so far:
- Babies aren’t that hard – Okay, caring for a baby is challenging, but not in the way that I thought. I had assumed that the toughest part would be the baby screaming or fussing while desperation sucks life out of you. Like a Dementor from Harry Potter wearing a diaper. But really, that’s not all that common. It happens, but it’s not the norm. The biggest challenge for me so far has been working in a new environment with Jen. It’s the classic challenge of paired management. For me, as a father and husband, navigating our relationship through his development can be genuinely tough. Being supportive when I need to be supportive and trying to communicate what I think is best for the little guy while being respectful to Jen’s preferences. This is legit hard. The baby’s easy.
- Sleep is not gone forever – there is no question we sleep less than we did before. But it’s not as hard as I thought. It’s just kinda what we do now. That’s it. It’s the new norm.
- We have tons of time – Seriously. We have tons of time. We just can’t really use the time. Boredom is surprisingly everywhere. What do you do after you’ve played with the rattle, read him a book, sang a few songs, bounced him, gone for a walk, and after all that only two minutes have passed? You just kind of do it again. This is the real time sync that people hint at. It’s not that you don’t have time, you just don’t have the luxury of choosing how to use it.
- Overall, life isn’t that different – People say everything changes, but it doesn’t. We are still us. We still have dinner together and enjoy walks. We have a little man that we carry with us, but we are still us.
I think when it’s my turn to hurl broad generalizations at expecting parents, I’m going to put it this way:
Babies increase life’s standard deviation. It’s like the bell curve of emotion has flattened a bit. The lows are lower, the highs are higher, but overall the mean and median remain unchanged. You respond with more maturity; maturity being nothing more than the ability to better handle broadening of our own personal happiness confidence intervals.