Overthinking Life
Published in

Overthinking Life

Tips for New Dads

My experience of becoming a father has been a wild ride that has greatly depended on willingness, humility, and sacrifice. For women, motherhood is more gradual as they get used to being physically uncomfortable and tired from sleepless nights even before the baby is born. For men, fatherhood is rather sudden; there is a day we became fathers. It feels like getting hit by a medium wave that knocks you down unexpectedly; once you steel yourself, the wave turns out to be tiny, at least for baby number 1. By 2, the wave is huge, and by 3, you’re just being tossed around wildly, trying not to get sucked out to sea.

Willingness

When my kids were born, I fell in love with them immediately. I looked at them and was filled with joy. Without this joy, I’m not sure I would have had the drive to do well by them. Initially, they only eat, poop, sleep, and cry. They breast-fed, and occasionally would sleep on me. When they were otherwise awake, less than 30 minutes per day, someone else wanted to hold them. I was quite frustrated by that.

On the flip side, I was responsible for changing the poopy diapers. Initially, they didn’t smell bad, but the smell worsened as the kids got older or as the poop aged in the trash can. Taking out the trash usually meant closing a bag of poopy diapers with that little puff of concentrated, rotting shit smell. That’s why we ditched the diaper pail a year after our second child was born. By the time they potty-trained, I could barely handle changing a diaper. Every time, it smelled like the first time, like someone pooped right up my nose. But, I kept doing it. I was willing to be responsible.

The poop business doesn’t end there, though. I have twice had to pick out poop with my hands from the bathtub when my son pooped in the tub. It was awful, but at the same time, it was a testament to my love for my children. I will also probably wipe other people’s butts more than my own in my lifetime. My only hope is that my kids have to wipe my butt when I’m old!

I’ve also been hit in the dick or kicked in the balls more from my kids than my entire life. This is a sad fact, but again, this is part of the willingness to have patience with my kids because usually they don’t mean it nor do they understand what that pain is. Besides, what’s a day of parenting without injury?

There is also a willingness to take chances like taking them out on my own. I have taken two of my boys out to Costco, the park, ice cream, and to eat pizza at work. This is no small feat. The kids are all over the place, and you’re rolling the dice each time. Will they both behave? Only one? None? Usually, I am aided by the firm belief that I can leave with them whenever shit gets real, and it will! At least I don’t take them to places where that isn’t possible. They are still at an age where I can carry them both as I have done when leaving a farmer’s market on two occasions. We shall see if I have the nerve to take all three of my boys when the baby gets a little older.

Humility

I’ve grown in humility due to parenting, and part of it is becoming more willing to learn or do things differently. The first bit was knowing my limits, or more precisely, finding my limits. Usually, people want to find their limits for something like running or biking, not how little sleep you can have to function as an adult. Do you know how little sleep you can have and still workout? What is your bare minimum to not fall asleep behind the wheel? These are questions that can be answered by having kids.

Kids are the ultimate interrupt command.

Not sleeping from kids is different from not sleeping because of some project you’re working on. Some people will say, “Oh I didn’t sleep much because I work crazy hours.” The main difference is obligation. You can always quit your job, but quitting kids is much more difficult. They require a focus and demand immediate attention as babies that few other things really do. They are the ultimate interrupt command.

Lack of sleep from kids is not just missing a few hours; it’s the quality of sleep. I could sleep eight hours a night as a parent, but get woken up every hour. The sleep interruption is more of the issue than lack of sleep. My hearing has become sensitive to my kids where if they cough or cry a little, I wake up. I usually get between 4 and 6 hours of sleep with 1 to 4 interruptions a night.

Learn to cope with the fatigue. Coffee will only do so much. For me, diet is more important. This is harder too with kids, but when I eat less sugar and more protein, my energy throughout the day improves. I’ve had to mostly get rid of added sugar so I can function in the day. More recently, adding more nuts has helped as well.

Figure out when you can take some power naps; they will greatly improve your life. I used to take a 9pm power nap to get through the night with our first born when he was a baby. Looking back, the shockwave of the first child was very difficult, but the workload of the next two was much higher.

Parenting is harder than running the Dopey. My wife and I ran the Dopey in Disney World a few years ago, which is where you run a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and full marathon over four days. Some of those days we didn’t get much sleep because of our son. There was injury and fatigue, but the mental strength to make it through that is far less to make it through handling kids everyday of the year.

Injuries are heartbreaking because you want to protect them from injury. However, they are inevitable. The first time my son bite his tongue, and it bleed, I cried. I was watching him by myself, and I felt like a total failure. For a tongue injury, there isn’t anything you can do unless they bite it off entirely.

Time management has also been key, especially at work. I’ve had to go in late or leave early to deal with kids and relieve stress from my wife. The result is that I have worked on focusing on work when I’m at work. That means doing a task now rather than waiting until I’m good and ready. Procrastination has to be reduced, and I had to work on being able to task switch faster.

Adaptation is key. You have to adapt. My kids changed to our parenting techniques, and the change was constant. We had to keep up with them which means constant change and paying attention to what works and what doesn’t. It also means being open-minded to new techniques, taking criticism well, and being honest with your own character. These aren’t easy things, but working at them little by little, I’ve found some success.

Sacrifice

Sacrifice at a level few have done before being parents, short of fighting in a war. I like to think of sacrifice in the anonymity sense because your sacrifice will go unnoticed by your kids, your family, and your friends. Your spouse might notice, but they’re sacrificing as well.

The first victim in the land of new babies is sleep. I didn’t realize I could function on such little sleep, and it really opened my eyes to the responsibility of taking care of someone powerless over their life short of crying. This has meant interrupted sleep and less total sleep.

The second is peeing. I had a hard time becoming accustomed to not peeing and pooping whenever I wanted; this isn’t possible with kids. I’ve discovered I can hold my bladder and bowels for at least an hour longer than I would have thought possible. This is not information I would like to have known, but experience gave me this. Once the kids are potty-trained, I try to pee when they pee, especially in public. It makes the trips to the bathroom easier, but then the trick is to pee as quick as you can because you only have until they run out the door.

Another component of parenthood is not enjoying meals because you can’t give food your full attention. I will never forget the first time I ate at In-N-Out with my wife without kids. There was a silence in the air, and the food was amazing. Most of the amazing part is that I could enjoy each bite and not be in a rush to finish in case one of the kids had a meltdown.

I’ve also sacrificed the time I used to give to hobbies. Rarely do I snowboard, and on a rare occasion I build some of my Legos. I just don’t have the time. Sports had to go too. I used to follow MLB, NCAAF, and NFL throughout the year plus NHL and NBA playoffs along with World Cup and Olympic action. Now, I catch a game here and there, and I’m completely oblivious to my teams doing well. I was only aware a few games from the World Series that the Astros were doing good in 2017. With the first kid, I had to cut back to just playoffs, and after the second kid, I can’t give my full attention to sports. I’m entertained here and there, but a big part of the entertainment was the suspense of following a team’s up and downs throughout the season.

My friendships have shifted too. Most of my friends have kids. It’s having something in common with people that is hard without kids because people don’t understand the crazy things that can happen. They also don’t understand the hassle of bringing your kids to an event or having a conversation that could end mid-sentence at anytime.

Kids are non-stop tornados

Cleanliness has become a big deal because the kids cause such a mess. They are a non-stop tornado throughout the day, so I’ve gotten more and more in the habit of cleaning stuff in whichever room I happen to be in. I do this even though I know they may dump stuff out again that day or the next because ultimately, I feel less stressed. My life feels a little less out of control when I clean just a bit more.

Extra Bonus

You will most likely save your kid’s life a few times while they are little or even when they are older. I remember my dad doing the Heimlich Maneuver after I had eaten too large a bite of a hot piece of pizza. I was 14 at the time. I’ve saved my kids from choking, getting hit by cars, getting hit by trains, and knives. It is not a scenario anyone wants to happen, but after the fact, you feel a little bit like a hero even though your little ones probably won’t remember or care.

In Conclusion

Suck it up!

You’re a father now, and don’t complain to your spouse about it. Every time I come home from work, I give myself a little pep talk to remind myself that no matter the stress I’ve had at work, most likely, my wife has had a rougher day taking care of the kids without being able to take a break. Work is the vacation now, home is the job, and I get to do both. I get to have this crazy life with these wonderful kids and wife.

--

--

Thinking too much on Philosophy, Math, Science, Politics, Work, and Life

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Robert McKeon Aloe

I’m in love with my Wife, my Kids, Espresso, Data Science, tomatoes, cooking, engineering, talking, family, Paris, and Italy, not necessarily in that order.