6 things I learned after 6 months of being a dad
Generalities and pleasantries are what you’ll hear.
This is my truth. I hope it’s helpful.
- Your birth plan is worth shit. If you have a desire for this or that, that’s all great. It’s great to discuss and maybe even write it down on some paper. At the end of the day though, there’s only one person who’s deciding how he’s entering this world and it’s not you. The birth of Keller was the craziest night of my life. It was nuts. There is a moment though, where you will realize that your life is about to be irrevocably changed forever. The gravity of that moment has not yet left me. So, please don’t get too hung up on a birth plan.
- The first two weeks are THE hardest two weeks of your life, no exceptions. Sorry, but babies are awful. They can’t see, they can only communicate via crying, they are scared of everything, it really makes you wonder, is 9 months too early? At two weeks, I felt like I was going to break. I literally had not slept more than 3 hours straight for 14 straight days and felt like Keller hated me. Then, at our 2-week appointment, seeing the brokenness on my face, our pediatrician said to me, “if you think it’s hard on you, imagine how it is for him”. That single statement got me through the next 3 months. You will never have more sympathy for another person than you will for your child.
- For 3 months, your life will suck. Yes, there are amazing moments. The first time they nap for more than an hour, the first time they open their eyes, when they hold your finger, they’re all amazing. The rest is super hard. Keller had some nights where he only woke up once, but those were rare. For 3 months straight, you will not sleep more than 3 to 4 hours. That is your new reality. It’s hard to put into words how that changes you but you will quickly realize why the smartest people in the world know that quality sleep matters.
- Your kid will now get all of your F’s. To all the parents I judged, I’m sorry. To the mothers whose child screamed in the back of the church or in line at the grocery store, I’m sorry. To the father who let his kids run dangerously far from him, I get it. You probably were slightly hoping they don’t come back (just slightly). For 24 hours a day, Keller consumes my worries. What will he be when he grows up, will he love Jesus, will he be kind to strangers, will he be smart, funny, good looking. All of that on top of trying to clean these disgusting cloth diapers (all because I love the environment), get him dressed as he fights me with every limb, feed him when doesn’t want to eat, rock him when he doesn’t want to sleep, and on and on. So, I have no F’s for anyone else. For another driver, for my coworker, for Trump, for my drug-dealing neighbor (shout out to King of the Riff Raff), I have zero F’s for you. Keller gets them all. And he deserves them.
- He’s my greatest OKR (objective key result) on my Personal Development Plan. For those who know me, I’m fairly intrinsically motivated. I am a voracious reader, consume best practices like I have 923 lives, and thrive on leading big teams in my professional life. Keller is the most important person I’ll ever develop. And it’s not for the 12 months he reports to me in a job or the once a month coffee I have with him when I’m available, but every day for the rest of my life. I want, hope, pray that Keller is the person I cry because I’m not. I want him to be kind, caring, empathetic, understanding, patient, and love God and others the way I wish I could. Being a dad is the most important and hardest job I’ll ever have.
- To the person who stays home, your job is not only more important, it’s harder. We were blessed enough for Christina to stay home for 6 months. I went back to work after 2 weeks. I thought when I went back that Christina’s new job was more important than mine but certainly mine was harder. I was wrong. Keller is harder physically, mentally, and spiritually. The person staying home will likely be getting up with your child at night so while your sleep may be interrupted, they continue on that 3–4 wakeup schedule for months. Physically, that wrecks your metabolism, your brain function, and your daily rhythm. Mentally, because as I referenced above, Keller gets all my F’s, when I go to work, I actually get a mental break from the stress. She doesn’t. All day, all night, she’s caring for him. Since he can do absolutely zero for himself, it zaps any piece of independence you have. So, when I just want a second for myself, I remember that she never gets a second to herself. It is mental warfare at times. Last, spiritually, is probably the hardest. I get to go back to structured work where I’m given feedback from bosses, coworkers, and customers. While not always nice, it’s structured. The person staying home gets one type of feedback: crying. If he cries all day, you feel like you failed. And he cries, every day. So, before I walk in the door from work, I say a prayer and realize that no matter how hard my day was, it doesn’t hold a candle to her’s.
Final thoughts: Get out, don’t get trapped in your house. Learn to ask for help, from each other, from friends, from strangers. Know you’re playing the long game. It’ll feel like you’re losing the battles, but you’re going to win the war. No matter how good or bad today is, it’s unrelated to yesterday or tomorrow.
I hope this helps. You’re going to be an amazing dad.