The last year has brought with it unfathomable change. You just can’t know what having a kid will do to your routine, to your sleep, to your relationship with your wife, to your entire life until you actually have a kid. Kids change everything.
They change things even when they are in the womb. There is the anticipation factor.
During the last two years I’ve discovered things about my mental makeup and physical makeup. On the physical, I discovered I have hemochromatosis. This is a genetic illness which causes me to retain too much iron. It can totally mess up your heart and liver if you don’t realize you have it. I caught it early. I also got the gout. Where before I felt bulletproof now there was some objective evidence that health could be fragile, especially with the hemochromatosis which doctors basically say is genetic and there is nothing I can do short of bloodletting when my iron gets too high.
On the mental, I’ve discovered that ancient addictions gain power when sleep is low. Addiction is a form of stimulation, after all—a form of deadening reality. When sleep-deprived and looking for an escape, an old addiction is like your old favorite pair of jeans or a pair of shoes that are perfectly broken in. “What would ease my suffering,” my sleep-deprived brain would unconsciously ask. And remember, I take a wide view of addiction—from soda, to pot, to porn, to alcohol, coke, coffee, TV, and yeah, even reading. We use any and all of these as escapes to avoid reality and to avoid digging deep and pressing on.
Aside from the mental and physical things I noticed, I wanted to talk about some of the mistakes I made, some things we did well, and I want to reflect on where I am now (I find myself unable to relax for fear I am misusing time!).
When Nora was born, I continued to train with heavy weights. I was doing chins with 90 pounds. And doing isometric deadlifts, pulling hard with all my might. I quickly hurt my back and elbow and had to avoid many different movements for months to let things heal up. Having a bad back and doing diaper changes do not mix well.
Here’s a pro tip: always flex your stomach when bending over and picking up your kid.
Instead of doing heavy training, I should have focused on lighter weights and breathing. I was sleep deprived and recovery was suffering so I didn’t need to do things which would challenge my recovery.
Another thing we did was cook labor-intensive meals. I swear, we were busy every waking second. I was cooking three meals at a time and feeling proud of being productive but looking back it was just draining. This is still an area of weakness. Barring a huge increase in pay, I’ll still be cooking my meals for the foreseeable future and we might want to cook simpler ones.
Aside from the meals and the working out too heavy, we did a good job trying to sleep when we could. We sensibly moved closer to my family before deciding to have kids. I think that is so important. It’s good for the parents, for the kid, for the grandparents…it’s good all around.
My wife has done a lot of stuff with organizing so we simply put all of Nora’s toys in decorative boxes at night. It helps keep the house straightened up and it doesn’t consume a lot of time. We’ve learned to work pretty well together to get things done and even the load. The problem comes when we get alone time and conversation is more about Nora or planning or making sure we get things done. We need to relearn how to enjoy R&R.
Right now the biggest thing I am feeling is pressure from lack of time. I’ve done a few things to try to correct this, like paring down my interests and trying not to take in as much information (deleting my Facebook account). But still, I’ve noticed that when Nora is sleeping, napping, or with the grandparents, I have this stressful, “Am I making the best use of my time feeling.” This is something I will have to work on, and I think a lot of the work goes back to really dialing in my definite purpose and tying activities back to that.
Finally, adding a little one to your life puts much more pressure on income assurance. That’s been good, but a little bit stressful at times. As a single person, you only support yourself and looking back, man, is that easy. Things get more challenging with more mouths to feed and this challenge is a good one. Challenges force us to dig deeper in ourselves and uncover more of our latent abilities.
When I was in my 20’s, I was a procrastinator. I let things slip. Then external events happened which forced me into action, like my DUI and pec tear. I had to make phone calls, coordinate things, negotiate, keep more appointments, essentially keep more balls in the air. I excelled. Sometimes we need pressure and the pressure of parenthood overall has been good, but some things I still need to work on, and the main one is learning to relax again and not be so serious.
I guess the last thing is that I’ve continued to work out and exercise. I’ve stayed relatively strong and decently fit, even though my workouts changed from afternoon affairs to early mornings. I never liked the early morning workout but I’ve adapted. My dad, a former marine, would say, “Adapt, improvise, and overcome.” And that is exactly what you have to do with kids—while enjoying them and nurturing them at the same time! What a challenge!