When you become a parent, your whole world changes and priorities shift. This is just what is to be expected and nothing new, but how the changes are felt is quite dependent on the contexts we live in — how old we are or whether or not we can rely on a structure — relatives, other parents, the options in the city you live in— which supports us in our often times demanding role as parents.
With our boy being born in November of 2019 we have been living through the hardships of a pandemic since our son was still very little.
Many others have experienced this as well: Orienting yourself in the world of new parents and in the cosmos of a newborn (and make no mistake, you’ll have to see the world anew again, through the eyes of your little one) is exhausting enough — and of course wonderful in its own right. But working through all of this during the changes the Coronavirus brought us? That has been quite the burning rollercoaster ride so far. For many people out there, struggling to make a living, this still is an understatement. For parents in particular (although not exclusively) the pandemic is a huge challenge.
Here’s to what I wish I knew before becoming a father, pandemic or not.
Time is the most scarce resource now
This one goes hand in hand with the sleep aspect, which I will be dealing with. Well, I already knew that the scarcity of individual free time and of that dear quality time with my partner would experience a real hit, but being a parent with that big bundle of responsibilities and duties it naturally brings, not just in theory, but in practice, while the world simply doesn’t stop spinning any slower — this is demanding as heck. Lucky are those parents, who get a little help here and there from their relatives and their social circle. We got that sweet family help, as far as the pandemic restrictions allowed it. And still, our life has been upside down many times, and not always in the good way.
You might not be able to make room for your dear to heart hobbies for a long stretch of time, but at least you should have an eye on your body and what it needs. Try to eat as well as possible (and don’t judge yourself, when it doesn’t work out all the time) and allocate at least small time slots for some physical activity.
You will finally get your time management together as things become more routine-ish, including the time spent for the chores of your household, which of course still need to get done (multiplied even). But at one time you will think back and cannot help yourself, but wonder, how much time you used to have on your hands back then when the little majesty was not yet residing in your halls.
Experiencing new and more intense feelings
Having a child can be overwhelming. For me, it was unbelievably powerful to experience how our little one is punching himself into existence and into becoming the loved boy he is today. Of course, the joy of watching him learn more and more about the world surrounding him carries on, but getting to know that little person from the very beginning let me feel in a completely different way.
The downside to loving a child and loving it that much is that you quite certainly will be afraid of a great many things. Topics that didn’t hit you that hard once, will ram into your stomach with full force. The hypothetical thought of your child suffering from hunger or experiencing war will find you teary-eyed. We are not even speaking about crimes that are commited against and targeted at children. Thinking about these will get your blood‘s temperature up and you weeping in no time — at least, that’s what it does for me.
You will be multitasking, if you want to or not
I’m a firm believer of the assumed ability to multitask to be a fad and a myth of the service industry. In my understanding, if you tried to do multiple things at the same time, you would end up doing none of them justice. But guess what, as a parent you will have to juggle diverse tasks simultaneously. While having family breakfast, your little one is restless and grumply unless he or she is sitting in your lap? Should be no problem, right? Place child in lap and keep him/her entertained. Want to have a sip of coffee? Have just that. Oh, wait, that little hand is eager (and amazingly fast, like no-hesitation-at-all fast) to grab your mug’s handle. Changing a diaper? Better watch out those little hands throwing the toys right into the area you are just about to clean from poop. Or sometimes they just want to reach down there to know what’s going own, all the while you wish you had an extra pair of hands. And it’s not like their curiosity will decrease anytime soon.
Back pain will show its hideous face
My lower back has taken some fatherly bullets between all the rockings into sleep and carrying the groceries/child/baby buggy/whatnots up the stairs and across the Google Map. So it’s good to strengthen your weak points. Look what works for you and what’s the most efficient. Planks get the job done for me, as well as hanging from a pull-up bar, as it decompresses my discs. Oh boy, if I only knew about the discs.
Energy levels will be really low for quite some time
Since we planned for having a child, I have been convinced that we will be terribly exhausted once the child is there and that everyday life would have to be managed on a whole new level. That wasn’t something I feared, but have been quite certain of. I respected the hell out of the choice of becoming parents.
And yes, exhaustion came pretty quickly, pretty hard, and sooner than expected. Even before our son was born. Few weeks before the calculated date, my partner had to be induced due to some unforeseen effects of the pregnancy. All went well, but I learned that every pregnancy paves way for its own unique story — and more often than not it has some aspects that might frighten or at least challenge you both.
Some things will lose their importance to you — The Bullshit Sensor Premium Edition
You might already know this from hitting your 30s. Some drama your past self would have associated with a few years back you couldn’t care less about now. Now other things are more important. And that is great!
Do the Konmari on your relationships and your work life. You can’t be bothered with things that aren’t real and authentic, and that — in its own way — is quite fantastic.
Sleeping will be different
And of course, it will. At least since we got the news that my significant other was pregnant, we have expected that sleep will be rare and it has been ever since. We both work part-time and our schedules are packed. It will take quite a long path down that road of parenthood to find back to a stable somewhat shadow version of sleep. The reasons are many and obvious, and loud. And the causes for loud are numerous as well: hunger, teethings and, of course, all the big emotions (Terrible Twos, I’m looking at you) are among them.
Your social circle will change
Some people might not understand that your life is now full to the brim with new responsibilities and that you are drained of energy like 110 % of the time. Those who stay are your golden friends — they might not agree with your parent lifestyle or they might not like children at all, but they will like you just for being there every now and then when it matters— in which form that might be. Dealing with a pandemic is leaving very little room for being social in a traditional non-digital sense either way, so that’s that.
Your relationship will change
At least the focus of it will undergo a severe transformation. Your child should be the focal point now and will take up most of your free hours (and even some of those that are not free, coming full circle with multitasking). The pampering of you and your partner will find a place on the backburner for some time. And that is just normal.
I think a good rule is: No pressure on both sides, be understanding, but don’t neglect your partnership as a whole. You both were the primer of you growing together a family. It is great to honor that on a regular basis by being openly grateful for your partner being there and for their efforts.
You will change
This is an individual one as you will find your own way of what kind of parent and father you want to be. But in it lies a great chance: being as good to your little one as you would have wanted for yourself and helping them find their way in this world. There might be nothing more exhausting and joyful.
This post was previously published on A Parent Is Born.
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