Handling the Unexpected
In normal everyday life, stuff happens. Things go wrong. That’s just part of how it all is.
Paternity leave is no different, except for one small detail. You know the one. Weighs about 8 or 9 lbs. and screams like a maniac at night. When adjusting to your new life, those pesky interruptions of everyday life might feel far more significant. Perhaps it’s the lack of sleep. Or it might be that you are still adjusting to your new schedule and expectations. Regardless, ‘stuff’ happening can wear you down exponentially faster, even while on leave.
In the weeks 2 & 3 post, I mentioned that one of the most important aspects of making a schedule is being prepared to completely throw it away when things go sideways. Admittedly, being easy going and flexible isn’t one of my best qualities. Having a very structured approach to things has served me well in my career, but the past two weeks have shown me that my home life requires something completely different. I’m going to have to get better at riding the waves.
Over the span of a week, the following things occurred:
- Washing machine died – A big problem when you have a newborn.
- Skunk discovered living under shed – Meaning the dog couldn’t go outside, which translates to 3 walks a day.
- Stack of plates fell and shattered – Not a huge deal, but frustrating in the moment.
- New washing machine MIA – After limping along for a week without it, on the day it was supposed to be delivered we were informed it was still being built in China
- Sunk released – After capturing the skunk myself, I hired a professional to remove it. He accidentally released it back into my yard, while trying to transfer it to a separate cage.
- Toddler problems – Meltdown city!
Truth be told, I feel fortunate that all of those things occurred while I am on leave. Handling them while pulling a 45+hr/wk workload would have been a lot less fun. Nothing on that list was more than a headache and ultimately, they gave me a lot more perspective. Perspective on what is important and what isn’t, regardless of other stress factors.
Just the other day, the whole family was sitting around after breakfast. Hurricane and I were playing on the floor and Little Man was sleeping with Mommy. It felt like any other normal day, and any number of things like the ones listed above could have distracted us. There is always something to worry about. Something that needs to be done or a call to be made.
This time though, I decided to scratch all of that and we loaded up the family to go to the store. Hurricane had been begging us to buy a blue rubber ducky, which had been spotted several weeks back. After some mild parental resisting (it’s not overreaching to say that plastic isn’t good for anyone), we had her earn it by cleaning up toys. She had amassed enough dough to buy a blue duck, and on a whim, I decided today was the day. Her face lit up!
I’m not always around for moments like those. A lot of the time, weekends are when we get things done, just to stay afloat. It meant a lot to not only be there, but to have been the one to put that smile on her face. The same goes for my relationship with my wife. Paternity leave has really helped me finally understand her better. I’ve been able to step back and give so much attention to my family and how I interact with them. I have a whole new perspective on what she needs from me and how much she gives to our family.
Yeah its sappy, but I don’t think thats a bad thing. Appreciating your life and the people you love doesn’t make you weak. It just means you care. And what is stronger and more manly than caring about and taking care of those you love?
Self Knowledge – Flaws Exposed
The stresses of a newborn are tough and raising a kid on top of your normal day to day will push you. It is going to expose both your strengths and your flaws. There is no hiding. They will be very real and very apparent. You will undoubtedly surprise yourself, sometimes in negative ways. But there will also be positive surprises. One example is a level of selflessness that you have seen in others, but maybe never quite believed you had in you.
The negative revelations will be tough to process. But, the only way to get better and grow as a person and as a parent is to recognize those things. Then work to change them. That is a perspective and approach that cannot fail. If you are committed to being a good parent… you are committing to better yourself.
I’ll give a personal example. For whatever reason, I have been pretty bad at changing Little Man’s diapers. In full honesty, it’s sheer laziness. There would be times where I was tired and he was crying. I knew I should check and change him, but I just waited for my wife to come in. I would say something like, “Yeah I don’t know, maybe he’s hungry”. That may very well have been true, but it was still BS. Here I am thinking, and telling myself, that I am doing everything I can to help out. Meanwhile, I was failing on something very basic. I am running a site on paternity leave for crying out loud! It stings to even admit it, but it happened.
I wasn’t being as good of a dad as I thought I was and I was being a disrespectful partner. Not a good look. I was exposed for being lazy and selfish. Now I can work with that self-knowledge and improve.
Stuff happens, we all get worn down and exhausted, but we should keep generating a better version of ourselves every day.
I think I just went full Oprah on that one…
The Hurricane Report