Is 42 Late or Right on Time?
By most standards, at least the ones I’m familiar with, 42's pretty late in life to become a father. I can’t say I really care too much about that though. What I care about is becoming a father when I have the best chance at becoming the best father I can be. So from that perspective, I feel like I’m right on time.
Am I as ready as I thought I’d be when I thought I’d become a father? That’s a good question. I’m not sure when I ever thought I’d become a father. I think I always felt like I’d be a father someday, although I was never sure when someday would come.
Thought There‘d Be More Stability
I did think there would be a more solid and stable foundation underneath me when I became a father, at least more solid and stable than I feel right at this moment in time. The foundation is pretty solid and stable, however not as solid and stable as I thought it would be when our first child was born.
Much of this is perspective. Most of my adult life has been spent trying to build a solid foundation, an immovable object that only was supposed to get bigger, stronger and more permanent over time. As I think about this past pursuit and how unhappy it made me, I’m becoming a strong believer that much of our suffering is caused by trying to make permanent an impermanent existence.
“How much is enough?” is also a question I struggle with on a regular basis, in many aspects of my life. A version of that question, “How ready do I need to be before I’m ready?” seems pretty relevant to the way I’d view my preparedness for what’s probably one of, if not the, most life changing event to happen to us as human beings. Until recently, say about two years ago, I always measured “how ready” solely in terms of financial stability.
More Than Money
Over the past two years, I’ve started to discover and uncover a healthier balance among the aspects of my emotional, physical, psychological and financial wellbeing. While finances play an important part of the foundation I feel needs to be established for my family, especially living in NYC and Brooklyn in particular, I’m feeling grateful to discover that the pursuit of financial stability doesn’t necessarily have to come at the expense of my emotional, physical and psychological wellbeing.
So do I have the financial foundation in place that I thought I would when our first child arrived? No, not really. While I’ve been fortunate to have enjoyed some success as an entrepreneur, I haven’t hit the big exit just yet. Looking back, I think I always thought I’d have at least one big exit under my belt before starting a family.
My income is less stable than I’d have expected it to be when I got around to starting a family. In the peaks and valleys of entrepreneurship, I fell into an income valley from the top of the highest income peak I’d ever attained, at just about the same time we found out my wife was pregnant.
Fortunately, income shows signs of picking up again, after an uncomfortable lag throughout most of the pregnancy. Is it the stable stream I would have expected to be flowing when starting a family? Not really, not just yet.
What surprises me is that I’m not letting these income considerations crush or debilitate me. And that’s because I’m learning to value and cherish other aspects of my life, rather than just the chase of the dollar. At the same time, I’m excited to be on a path in my career that feels right and is aligning with my entire sense of being, my true self.
It’s for these reasons I’m feeling optimistic that I’ll be able to build the financial foundation that is necessary to support my family, without it preventing me from being truly present for them frequently, consistently and fully.
Finding the Strength In Balance
While the financial foundation feels less certain than I’d have liked and expected, my emotional, physical and psychological foundation feels stronger than ever before in my life. For this I feel fortunate, hopeful and optimistic that I’m positioned to be the best father I can be for our son.
I’m learning the importance of emotions, having started from a place of suppressing them to the deepest, darkest places of my being. I’m learning to embrace my emotions, good and bad, be with them, stay with them and let them transform me.
I think this will be hugely important in raising a son who is emotionally healthy, balanced, aware and intelligent. Had I not learned the importance of emotions for myself, I’m afraid I would’ve been unable to recognize and support our son in learning to work with his emotions in healthy ways.
Physically I’ve never felt better in my life. I’ve been eating a paleo/real food diet for over two years now and have been feeling really energetic, healthy, clean and balanced as a result. Regular yoga, acupuncture and visits to a holistic doctor have been helping my body reactivate its innate healing functions. Even my stomach, which has been a chronic source of pain for as long as I can remember, going back to my earliest childhood memories, shows signs of healing.
I’ve been training pretty seriously as a cyclist, which has strengthened me physically and mentally to the point where I was able to ride 93 miles with over 10,000 feet of climbing, in a single ride, earlier this spring. Prior to cycling my workouts consisted of about 20 minutes of light cardio, which I told myself was just long enough to justify really breaking a sweat in the steam room and sauna afterwards.
I’ve gotten my average night’s sleep to nearly 7.5 hours, from under 6 and I’m feeling much better rested physically and mentally as a result. I’ve cut my drinking back significantly, from over 20 drinks in a week to fewer than 5, while still being able to enjoy drinks socially with friends from time to time.
As a result, I feel like I’m in the best physical shape possible to chase after a young child, play with him, protect him and be there for him. Had I not made these changes, I’m afraid I would’ve been too physically drained at the end of the day to do any of these things.
I feel like the care I’m giving my physical being now will also help me stay physically active and mentally sharp as he grows into a young man. So for these reasons, I feel hopeful and optimistic.
Psychologically I’m also feeling stronger than ever. Starting to work with a psychologist over the past two years is something I feel very grateful to have done and continue to do. Prior to starting this work, I wouldn’t have even considered working with a mental health professional, as I had assigned a stigma in my mind that this type of work was for people who had something “wrong” with them. I certainly didn’t have anything “wrong” with me, that’s for sure.
Just the fact that I’m writing about this publicly represents a huge mind shift for me. Working with my psychologist has helped me tremendously. While I have a long way to go on the journey, I feel happy with where I am on the path of self discovery, as my son enters my world.
My mindfulness and meditation practice has also been a crucial factor that runs through all these aspects of my wellbeing. My practice started with two minutes of sitting meditation and has gradually progressed to my longest session of 45 minutes.
I’ve settled into a rhythm of starting the day with a 15–30 minute session each morning, then sitting for a few shorter sessions here and there throughout the day. I’m feeling hopeful that this practice will continue to provide a critical grounding element in my life, as the ground under me tectonically shifts with the arrival of our son.
Right on Time
So am I late to fatherhood at 42? I don’t feel like I am, I feel like I’m right on time. In fact, had I become a father any earlier in life, it probably would have been too early. Funny how that works out sometimes, isn’t it?
Visit Just Rolling with It if you’d like to learn more about the journey that’s brought me to this moment with a renewed sense of wellbeing.