Well, here I sit at my computer at 6:00 am. Tired. Kind of in a weird fog that only new parents can understand. It’s a combination of sleep deprivation and general exhaustion from just being busy all day with the kid and my regular workday.
My day job has been busier than ever. It’s funny, I forgot about one hilarious/sad aspect of new fatherhood: Nobody gives a shit about the new dads. It’s understandable. After all, we didn’t eject the human from our genitals, so everything is still like “normal” for us, right? At least that seems to be the general theme of my interactions with everyone over the past week. The sentiment of my work clients: “Oh, the baby is here?! Congrats! Okay, so we’re going to need these projects done by tomorrow. Thanks.” They have work that needs to get done… they don’t care that I’m running on fumes. Hey, I get it. It’s my problem, not theirs. They didn’t tell me to knock up my wife.
They’re not the only ones that really don’t seem to give a shit. I can’t tell you how many nurses and doctors have walked into the room with my wife and me at the hospital or various medical offices, looked my wife in the eye, talked for ten minutes, and then walked out without acknowledging my presence. A couple of times I have chimed in with a question or two… and the doctor/nurse’s head snaps around and they stare as if to say, “Where the hell did you come from!?” I was reduced to a piece of furniture. Mind you, in no way would I switch places with my wife. I’m okay being another ottoman in the room, but it’s funny that the overall tone of “Your job is done here, sperm boy” is made so obvious so fast during the whole birthing process.
In fairness, my wife’s OB was great. Very smart woman with a great bedside manner. She was talking to my wife about signs of post-partum depression (they give new mom’s a survey to take several times after baby is born to gauge their mental well-being). She said that had an epiphany years ago and gave the same test to dads… and the dads scored worse! They were exhibiting, on average, more signs of depression than the wives were. How interesting.
Having a baby is huge mind fuck for both parents, but men have a different flavor of, “Oh shit, what have I done?” A lot of the same feelings I had back with my other three kids are coming back to me now. My last kid was born ten years ago, so these feelings aren’t very fresh in my memory… but the sights, sounds and smells of a newborn brought them all right back… along with some new feelings.
Here are my current thoughts and my experience of being a new dad, again, well into my 40’s.
I’m on auto-pilot. I’m not sure where the energy is coming from. I’ve been cleaning, taking trash out, running errands, holding baby, running mom and baby to doc appointments, feeding the cat, answering calls, responding to endless texts, feeding baby, comforting my exhausted wife, holding baby some more, going to the gym… all while dealing with a huge amount of work to do. I clock my time for my client work, and I did 12 hours total on Monday… the same day we all came home from the hospital. I’m soon going to hit a wall and collapse into a pile of mush.
Mentally, this is extra hard for me now because I have “seen the light” of bachelorhood and being in a sexy, baby-free relationship for years with my wife. In my first marriage, I was a dumb, immature kid who married his high school sweetheart. Later I became a divorced, independent guy who later found a steady woman that makes him feel like a king. Now I’m putting on a completely different suit. One of “new dad”, and it doesn’t feel as cozy as it did before. This suit is a little tight around the chest and arms. I can pull it off and make it look good enough… but I’d be lying if I said that I couldn’t wait to take the damn thing off so I can properly breathe again.
Thankfully, this time around I am aware of just how important it is to take that ill-fitting suit off on a regular basis. I’ve been hitting the gym daily since baby came. That is my ME time. Yesterday I took a detour by the sneaker store to get a new pair of basketball shoes (as a self-professed “sneaker head” this is a form of therapy for me) then I hit the gym and got a good sweat in. Weights and basketball. Then I swung by the smoothie shop on the way out. Overall, a couple of hours of alone time. It was a perfect recharge for me, and I was ready to tackle the next few hours of the day with a lot more oomph.
The baby, in all honesty, has been great. My wife is struggling with breast-feeding at the moment, waiting for the “milk to come in” fully, so we’re supplementing with formula (only the good German stuff, of course). I’ve taken over some of the feedings… and it’s probably the easiest part of the job so far. I get to snuggle my little Bean (the official nickname I gave her since birth), give her a bottle, and she goes down and sleeps for about three hours. As I’m typing this now, she’s out like a light in my office. No fussing. No whining. Just the occasional grunt, fart, and smile. As a dad of three other kids, I know that this could be A LOT worse.
So have I had the thoughts of, “What in the hell have I done?!” Of course. I’m a human being, after all. What kind of dumbass wouldn’t look back on his pre-baby days and long for those moments of continuous freedom and fun? But, when it’s all said and done, you love your children more than anything else on the planet. With some age and maturity, we realize how monogamy and parenthood is a pretty good thing for a lot of us men. It’s gives us a bigger purpose and a more finely honed sense of direction. It keeps us from wandering around and banging everything that moves. Instead, we cuddle our Beans, take the stroller out for a walk, figure out how to make more money, etc.. The problem is that many of us lose ourselves in the process. We keep the ill-fitting dad suit on 24/7, and we begin to mold ourselves to it. We forget what it’s like to live without it.
Like all things in life, the secret is in the balance. Yes, be the champion Bean-snuggler, but also get your ass to the gym. Yes, be there for your wife when she’s feeling the baby blues, but also be certain to set the tone of a man who can’t wait to take his sexy wife back out on the town for a weekend of fun without the baby.
Take it from me… if you don’t set the balance properly early on, you will suffer for it. The consequences are not pretty. I, for one, look forward to the challenge to do things right this time around.