In the previous post, I shared 'Three things that have changed since I became a parent', reflecting on how much taking care of a tiny human can flip your world inside out.
Well, almost everything.
When I think about how my life has shifted since becoming a Dad, there are a few things that remain the same. And after sharing what they are, I'll let you in on the secret why.
1. My wife is my lover, not just that kid's mother!
It's an enormous, colossal, seismic shift when you go from being a two to a three. I am so grateful for the years Sam and I shared before becoming responsible for another life-form (excluding our old turtle, Sheldon). In the years of being a two we travelled to Thailand and Europe. We took some risks and moved our life interstate without any idea how it would work out. We forged friendships together. We watched all the good seasons of How I Met Your Mother (1-5) an embarrassing amount of times. We had regular Star-Wars marathons. We ate out at all kinds of amazing restaurants. We spent hours, days, months, years talking about everything under the sun. We evolved - from a 17 and an 18 year old who we cringe seeing in old photos and videos now - to two people who are as comfortable in our own skin as we are in each other's presence. We spent eight years building a foundation of romance, friendship and love before we were joined by our Noah. Then, bam! All of a sudden there's another person with us basically all the time. He's there at our dining table, in our bedroom, on our outings and holidays. And that certainly changes some dynamics. I'll confess - I've sheepishly corrected myself on more than one occasion for calling Sam 'Mama' when Noah is not in the room. And it's not a lie - a part of who she is now is a Mama, just as much as a part of who I am now is a Dadda. But here's the thing. Long after this boy leaves our home and makes his own, I'm going to be going on adventures with this woman I spoke sacred vows to. Whilst I can't help but view her now in relation to Noah and in this parenting partnership we've formed, first and foremost before all else, she is my love. My wife. My girl. She is the one I give my best energy to. She is the one I write my best words for. She is the one I spill my guts to. And I will do everything I can to constantly remind myself that though parenting together is the most significant and demanding role we have been called to currently - one of the best things we can do for Noah is see each other with the eyes those cringeworthy teenagers had for each other.
2. Life isn't more expensive with a baby.
In our cultural context there's a correct order for doing things. Roughly speaking it's something along the following lines: get qualified, start a career, save some money, buy a house, get married, start a family. There's a strong undercurrent and emphasis on being 'financially secure' before committing to the biggies. We haven't followed this order. When we got married Sam was working full-time and I was studying full-time. A year after getting married, with essentially no savings we moved our life to a new place, where I was earning less than Sam had been and she commenced study. I won't lie - it was tight and difficult and stretched us. But we learnt what we are capable of and who our provider is and what we value. The next risk? Literally a week or two after finding out we were pregnant I resigned from a full-time job (our only stable income) with a few threads of things to pursue. Again, no savings in the bank. No back-up plan. Just a sense that this was the step before us. So why didn't we wait a few more years to do the family thing? Partly because some good friends of ours reminded us there will always be a reason to wait until tomorrow. Partly because there are families all around the world and all throughout history who have never, ever viewed money as a deciding factor in this regard. Did we feel 'ready'? Sure. As much as you're ever going to feel ready for something it's impossible to be ready for. But the whole 'babies are expensive' thing is an absolute myth! I mean, if you want them to be expensive, there's no shortage of weird, expensive contraptions and tiny items of clothing with expensive logos printed on them. But, it doesn't have to be that way. Between all the pre-loved baby clothes we were given by friends and a bunch of great op-shop scores, we were basically set - and that's not even including the clothing people bought us new as gifts. Add in some cloth nappies off gumtree (which Sam had secured before we were even trying), a couple of secondhand wraps and an ergo and you're off to a flying start. Noah's food either comes from Sam's body for free, or from sharing what's already on our plate. I completely acknowledge we benefited from the generosity of our family and community (being given things like a cot and a carseat). But once Noah joined us I noticed our spending habits changed too. We used to regularly, impulsively go out for dinner, dessert, movies, retail therapy...now, going out at night requires much more forward planning and the amount of items that have entered our house along with another life-form have increased our desire to live simply, consume less and evaluate how we spend our money, time and resources. The end result? On balance, our finances are in a better place than they were before we became parents. Does parenting add costs to your life? Of course. Will there be greater costs as Noah gets older? Yep. Will we continue to become increasingly resourceful and skilled at stretching what we have? You bet. The bottom-line: you may have been told caring for a baby is going to break the bank, but the truth is you have the capacity to use what you already have in ways that may surprise you.
3. We still go out to the places we like and do the things we like doing.
I know you've heard someone complain about all the things they used to be able to do before they had kids. You've seen comedians talk about it. And yes, I'd be lying if I didn't say Hamish and Andy's 'Parent Fantasy Hotline' was one of the most relatable things I watched last year. But if you completely stop doing all the things you love and going to all the places you like...I don't think you can blame that on your baby. 'Oh, but you must have had one of those easy babies who sleeps everywhere you go'. Nope! We had one of those 'hard' babies who didn't sleep anywhere we were (including home). So we figured, we might as well still try going to the places we would have liked to anyway. The result? Noah has been to music gigs in backyards and venues. He's been to more poetry nights than your average hipster. He's done the rounds of our local cafe scene. We've brought Noah into the way we want our life to look - rather than losing that life to revolve around him. Beyond that, we think it's vital that each of us still engages in the things that energize and inspire us as individuals. So, we schedule it in. Once a week, we each have a solo date. For me, it frequently involves a craft beer and a hammock. For Sam, it's the beach and a sketch-pad. Of course, some things are more challenging. The classic dinner and movie date ain't so easy anymore. Booking a room in a nice hotel and sleeping in late...won't be happening anytime soon. But as the philosophical maxim I'm often found quoting goes, 'don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good'. We can't do all the things we used to do the way we used to do them. But it doesn't mean we can't find new ways to enjoy those old things in this season.
THE WHY BEHIND THE WHAT.
There's something very different about these three things to the three I shared in the last post. Those were things that had changed necessarily. I had no real say in the matter. Even though they have ultimately been positive changes (like waking up earlier in the morning without ever using an alarm clock), they took no intentionality on my part. These three things are the complete opposite. Without intentionality all of the above statements could lose their truth.
Do I always feel like I have energy for my marriage, when we spend half our time together in the evenings cleaning the house and washing nappies?
Would it have been easier to just buy a bunch of new stuff rather than looking out on gum-tree and hitting the op shops for baby gear we needed?
Is it exhausting and difficult taking your baby out at night or trying to make sure they don't throw all your smashed avo across the floor of your favourite brunch spot?
Are these things worth the work?
The reason - the secret - why these things remain the same, is because when Noah was the size of an almond, a mandarin, a watermelon in his Mama's belly, we were talking about them. We were committed to them. We watched people we knew who were demonstrating them.
Surrounding the world of babies there are a billion different conversations. About what you can and can't do. What you should and shouldn't do. How your life will and won't look. My advice? Figure out what matters to you. Find someone doing it that way already. And brace yourself. It won't be easy.
Everything can change when you have a baby.
But, some things should stay the same.
And if you work at them,