I just became a father. It’s pretty awesome — my daughter’s cute (nickname = Swaggy) — I don’t sleep — yada yada yada. I won’t bore you with those details. However, in this short period of time, I’ve learned a lot about myself and Swaggy has reinforced some basic values that have served me well over the years. There are also things I wish I had done differently. Hopefully these could be helpful to those with and without spawn.
Expect the Unexpected — Embrace the Chaos
Swaggy was born 3 weeks early. At all the doctor’s appointments they told us the range was +/- 2 weeks. So 3 weeks early was clearly out of the question. We had one week to buy diapers, newborn clothes, a stroller, install our car seat, etc. But first mom’s water broke, 3 weeks.
My friend has three kids and quickly sent me an e-mail:
Dude — you’ve learned the first rule of parenting. Nothing goes as expected.
Great. Now what?
Throw Away the Playbook … and Embrace the Chaos
I like answers. I like solving problems… with solutions. I usually can “outwork” difficult situations. I have “playbooks” at work for any task/project that needs to be completed more than three times.
Now in walks this little lady. She cries. She screams. Grab the playbook:
Hungry? Just ate
Poopie diaper? Clean as a whistle
Need to be burped? Nope
She’s still hysterical. Let me try bouncing on a yoga ball while I hold her. Ahhh…. sweet relief!
Add the Yoga ball bouncing to the playbook. The problem is, 24 hours later, it stopped working! Wtf? Time to update the playbook. The problem is that no playbook would work, only patience and the self admission that there isn’t always a pre-defined solution to a problem. It’s frustrating, but it’s also fun.
There’s a lot of bad information out there — Intuition Rules
When it comes to parenting, it turns out that everyone is an expert. There are a cockamamie of theories that will get people to lunge out of their seats to confront any dissenter.
A hospital told us to feed the baby “every 2 hours, even while asleep” where as less than 24 hours our pediatrician said “never wake sleeping baby.” There are theories about “nipple confusion” (not the kind experienced by teenage boys). What we quickly realized is that since we had already thrown out the playbook, we had only our intuition to rely upon — and this worked pretty well.
True Teamwork Prevails
Picture this scenario… daddy goes in for the diaper change and all of a sudden a little trinkle turns into a projectile pee. But mommy jumps over the top, pulls a diaper out of thin air and golden shower averted. Yeah, this happened.
The first 30 days have been hard. Sometimes you ask yourself why you did this. But you truly can’t do it on your own (Note: respect to all the single parents out there). And there is a true joy and companionship that comes from this need to work in synch.
The power of saying “no” (or at least “not right now”)
Probably the best thing I learned and part of it was luck. As an Adam Grant disciple, I’ve built a wonderful group of friends and have lived a rich set of experiences thanks to an unrestrained desire to help others and say “yes.” Prior to Swaggy’s birth I would make countless intros, read pitch decks, demo friends’ apps, and grab coffee with recent grads to give them advice.
But then Swaggy was born and the math changed (I was also fortunate to have read a post by Adam and a great time management piece by FirstRound). In addition to the rigors of my job, any minute spent helping others was one taken from my little one. How would I do this? Were the prior 34 years an exercise in hypocrisy? The first test came a few hours after she was born from an entrepreneur whom I’ve gotten to know well and respect tremendously.
Wanted to see if you are free for a coffee sometime in the next week or so.
Wanted to pick your brain about some of our thinking around here [sic]. You around? Please let me know!
Shoot — was I about to be exposed? But I was steadfast in my belief that my family was currently my number one priority so I had to set some boundaries. After careful deliberation, my response:
how goes it- sorry for the delay here. On week 2 of paternity and all is amazing (but exhausting). I’m going back to work on monday and have promised myself and my wife to take a month or two off from (non-work) meetings so I can focus on being as good of a dad as possible. I’m in one of those strange situations where my friends/network have brought me so much enjoyment and fulfillment in my life but I’ve got quickly take stock of things and focus on this little life that is now in my hands!
That being said, I’m trying to replace coffees/non-work meetings w/skype/facetime/phone calls. While not ideal, it helps reduce some of the friction and I can do it from home (where I will be spending a lot of time) these days.
I closed my eyes and cringed at what the response would be until it arrived…
Proud of you for this shift in priorities.
Takes real strength to so the right thing like this.
From then on it got easier, the responses were similar, and I quickly learned who genuinely was in my corner.
Things I Would’ve Done Differently
Don’t Abandon Your Everyday Life, Especially Not your Positive Rituals
Pre-Swaggy I was a machine. I meditated at 5:30 am, hit CrossFit at 6, read 20 pages on the train at 7:20 to get to my morning breakfast by 7:45. Bam! I had given up caffeine during the week and enforced 24 hour digital detox during Shabbas (note: I’m not jewish).
In the paragraphs above I’ve praised letting go of some of these things. But somehow I used this “excuse of having a child” to justify some unhealthy excesses. I started drinking 6 espresso shots per day; I was writing work emails during night time feedings. I was cheating myself out of some of my discipline. It was ok to let go of certain things, in fact, I was supposed to — but I shouldn’t use it as a crutch to justify habits detrimental to my health.
Drop the iPhone for a Notebook and a Camera
The first time I uploaded pics of my daughter on Facebook I stared at the notifications waiting to see who would comment and like my new pictures. Random high school friend? Check! Dad’s golf buddy? Check! Oh hooray, my ex-girlfriend thinks I deserve a “Congrats!” Same thing on Instagram (in fact I’m doing it as I write this). Not exactly sure what the diagnosis is but there is some vanity/narcissim/internet addiction/pavlovian reflex all baked into one. Regardless of the diagnosis, what it said was that I wasn’t living in my moment; I was living in someone else’s perception of what my moment should be.
The month of March has been one filled with Madness. The highs have been high and the lows have tested limits. But like the tournament, one only leaves with lifelong memories and experiences.
I’m looking forward to the next 30 days.