Note: After posting this it was brought to my attention that this piece of writing may seem insensitive to those who have had difficult experiences on the road to becoming a parent - or who have desired parenthood but have not been able to fulfil this desire. There are many people in my close circles who have these stories, and if this is your story , I want to acknowledge your grief and loss. My story has its own scars (which I've written about in earlier posts), but it also has enormous privileges that I know are not shared by all. This is intended as a lighthearted and humorous reflection on things that may impact the decision to try and have a child, but it is not intended to make light of the difficult road this can be.
There's no two ways about it.
The rumours are true.
Becoming responsible for a tiny human flips your life upside down,
shakes it like a snow-globe,
waits for you to think the contents are just about to settle...
then shakes it all again.
It changes...pretty much everything.
Well, not quite everything.
More on that later.
I thought I would do you a favour if you're on the fence about whether to have a crack at procreating by sharing a small selection of things that have changed in my experience of fatherhood so far. Feel free to grab your yellow legal pad and a sharpie, and bang up a pros and cons list adding these items to whichever side you think they belong to:
1. I don't ever use an alarm anymore.
Through my life I've always liked the idea of getting out of bed super early in the morning. It is a lovely idea in theory. You hear about all those incredible people through history who utilised the ridiculously early hours of the AM most of us spend snoozing writing novels, painting masterpieces yada yada yada....and you think: "Man! Imagine what I could do if getting out of bed before 7am didn't feel like punching myself in the face voluntarily!" At least that's how I felt. I valued the idea of getting out of bed at the crack of dawn...in reality, I generally took three alarm clocks to raise from my slumber. Nowadays, this is not the case. I have a tiny human who dictates when it's time for me to start the day. Sometimes it's 5am. Often it's 6. If I'm really lucky sometimes it is 7. But I never have to think consciously about what time I'm going to wake up. Someone else decides that for me! Am I up writing novels, painting masterpieces, all that jazz? Well, no. I am however more often than not taking a long walk (an activity notorious for allowing the creativity in your brain to rise to the surface), noticing the simple beauty in the world as it wakes, and enjoying the presence of my little friend, tucked in place on my back. Occasionally I've thought to myself before going to bed, maybe it would be a good idea to set an alarm just in case Noah miraculously sleeps later tomorrow morning and I miss an important work meeting or something. Then I laugh and think to myself, there are no work meetings important enough that I wouldn't take that precious chance to remember what it feels like to be asleep after 7am.
2. I shower way less than I used to.
An "Ew" just left your mouth didn't it? I know. You're judging me. Let me explain. There are all these little luxuries in life that you don't even realise are a big deal before you have a tiny human...then suddenly they become the hottest commodities on the market. Take for example, going to the toilet by yourself and spending as long as you want just getting lost in your thoughts while you do your business. Now add a little human banging their hand on the other side of that door and yelling like you're in Disneyland and they've been locked outside. Toilet trips become quick and efficient because you succumb to opening the door and then end up wiping with one hand while you're using the other one to intervene and save all the toilet paper that is being rolled out like ancient scrolls by your little explorer. What does this have to do with the shower? They are another hot commodity in the land of parent-ville. Back when I used to sleep to whatever time my third alarm clock would go off, I would eventually drag myself from my leisurely snooze straight into a leisurely, hot shower. It took the sting out of waking up. These days that kind of daily access to private bathroom time is a figment of imagination. Showers are divided up between parents throughout the week. The plus side? Apparently it's actually better for your health to shower every 2-3 days instead of daily. And it's better for the earth. Booyah. I'm not gross. Just environmentally conscious.
3. I don't watch TV in the day anymore.
Nothing like a bit of day-time TV binging. Starting a Saturday slowly with a couple episodes of whatever HBO show you're hooked on. Or spending sick days curled up in bed with a laptop and the Matrix trilogy. Unless you're trying to rock that screen-free parenthood dream. Then you're going to spend a lot more time reading Hairy Maclairy. Or jamming out with a mix of tiny instruments and pots and pans. Obviously not everyone chooses the screen-free path. But we have and whilst there are times when it's difficult, there have been a couple of significant benefits to this. First, it's made me realise how incredibly reliant I am on screens of all kinds (leading me to think it's probably not such a bad thing to cut down), second, choosing to do something else has repeatedly brought me back to the present moment. The fleeting, precious, present moment with this tiny human who won't be so tiny for long.
To be perfectly honest, I miss sleeping in, taking long showers daily, and the freedom to lay on the couch for most of a Saturday playing FIFA or watching cartoons. But, even before I had a baby, if I had a greater measure of self-control I probably wouldn't have wanted to spend so much time on those things anyway. The hardest thing about parenting is the hardest thing about any relationship with a loved one. You've got to put your desires down a notch, in order to meet the needs of the other person. But on the flip side that leads to one of the best things about parenting or any relationship with a loved one. Most of us want to become more present and less self-centred - being forced to behave in those ways even if you aren't really 'feeling it' is surely a pretty decent place to start.
To put it simply, becoming a parent has made me more the kind of person I always loosely aspired to be, but didn't actually have serious enough motivation to follow through.
So, got grand intentions of waking up early in the morning but struggle to actually make it happen?
Create a tiny human.*
Want to help the environment by consuming less water in long, hot, steamy, showers?
Create a tiny human.*
Tired of binge watching Netflix whenever you have spare hours in broad daylight?
Create a tiny human.*
*Don't actually create a little person for these reasons. The traditional reasons eg. wanting to start a family with your partner are potentially a slightly more solid foundation for parenting.
Next: Things That Have Not Changed Since I Became a Parent