Work and Fatherhood: A Two Year Reflection – Part 1 of 2
Fathersaurus Timestamp: It is 11:02 PM on 1/17.
TRex is fast asleep; birthdays are exhausting, as is the poor decision to wake up at 5:30 AM. As I sit here on the sofa, I’m debating whether or not to open my work computer up. Balancing work and fatherhood isn’t easy. There’s lots to do [always], but I don’t really want to work right now. The day’s been long; again, birthdays are exhausting, as is the poor decision to wake up at 5:30 AM. Thankfully my decision is made for me. Battery’s dead. Problem solved.
Two years ago a dead battery probably wouldn’t have stopped me from working. Instead, I would have:
- Grumpily searched for my one of many power adapters [why I have more power bricks/adapters than I do computers, I have no clue]
- Waited annoyingly for my OS to load
- Clicked refresh a bunch of times on my email client
- Impatiently began reading email on my phone
- Wondered why my coworker sent me a bunch of vague/non-specific emails that contained the following Shakespearean prose: “Why are we doing this?” or “Is this done?”.
Thankfully today I no longer have to deal with such eloquent compositions. Nor do I currently have any urgent deadlines, and thus can time-afford the option of ‘not working’ tonight.
Two-years-in-the-past-me would have also felt guilty for not having the energy/desire to do work. “Suck it up and power through”, I’d tell myself. However, after about 6-8 weeks of “toughing it out”, this “toughness” really began to take a toll on both my parenting and my marriage. Losing patience with two-month old TRex, fighting with Mothersaurus, it was bad times. All this for what? To keep some incompetent colleagues happy?
Fathersaurus Timestamp 2: It is now 11:08 PM, 1/17 and I can’t keep my eyes open. Will revisit this post tomorrow.
Fathersaurus Timestamp 3: It’s 10:39 PM on 1/18. TRex woke up at 4 AM this morning. Sleep regression plus whatever stomach illness is bothering him equals fun times for all.
Fathersaurus Timestamp 4: So… after typing out Timestamp 3, I fell asleep, and am now just getting back to this. My punishment for falling asleep while holding my laptop is a minor bout of carpal. #noboohoo – It is now 1/21 2:06 PM. It’s been a crazy week. Sorry for the interruptions. Back to the program.
Losing My Temper
I remember my turning point like it was yesterday. I was about a month back into the swing of things at work. TRex was crying in the middle of the night for his nightly feed, and I went in to feed him. Afterwards, he kept crying. And crying… and crying… I just wanted to go back to sleep.
And regretfully, I lost my patience.
JUST SHUT UP – I yelled [the one and only time I’ve told him this], while placing him back in the crib and storming out of the room.
Fathersaurus Note: I’m not particularly proud of this moment, but I mention/bring it up to let other new parents know you’re not alone in wanting to go crazy. I’m a very reflective person, and well, this does not reflect kindly. It happened though, and I think it’s worth sharing. And yes, I apologized to him that evening.
Mothersaurus heard the commotion, came barging in to protect her young’n and kick me out of the room. I lay in bed pondering what I just did. I didn’t fall back asleep.
But I did figure out what I was doing wrong.
Your Patience Cup – Sometimes it Overfloweth
For new dads, parents rather, one of the more difficult things to master is managing your patience with people. You only have so much in a day.
So here’s the solution – or my solution at least.
Imagine you have a cup. Within that cup is all your patience you have for people in a day. As a couple, pre-child, I imagine a healthy cup is split evenly. For myself, that split was in thirds: a third of patience for myself [you need patience to put up with yourself – admit it], a third of patience for Mothersaurus [at the time she was just Spouseasaurus], and another third of patience for the people at work. On any given day those portions ebb and flow depending on what’s going in your life, but for the most part lets just say it averages out to about even.
When a child enters the world, your patience cup doesn’t necessarily get larger [it can after some practice, but that isn’t always the immediate case]. So what happens is you, as a new parent, are unconsciously still trying to portion out your patience evenly: a quarter for the baby, a quarter for your partner, a quarter for yourself, and a quarter for your colleagues at work.
And that’s the problem: splitting the cup evenly isn’t the answer.
TRex/your child, is a constant consumer of your patience. Analogously, TRex/your child never buy rounds, but you’re always buying them one. They’re jerks, and unfortunately you can’t stop drinking with them.
So what do you do?
TRex needs constant patience, Mothersaurus needs constant patience [otherwise I’d be Singlefathersaurus and that seems like a lot of work – very expensive work], so what you’re left with is a battle between yourself and people at work. So I chose to take away a patience from work.
Think about it.
Why should I save my patience for incompetent people I didn’t want to be around at the expense of yelling at my child? It’s backwards. If anything, dealing with your adult colleagues should be EASIER than dealing with your child. Don’t get me wrong, tension/disagreements at work are all fun and fair, but I shouldn’t have to metaphorically, and sometimes literally, clean up after you. Nor should it ever feel like I’m babysitting someone.
Thankfully, taking the above stance has had a positive influence in my career. I’ve become more assertive in the workplace [because there’s no time to dilly-dally], and as a result I’ve become more effective at my job. I’m no longer concerned with managing ‘feelings’/appearances as much as I am managing the work and the people. When you enable people to do well, and you yourself are doing well, all the other nonsense just kind of comes together. Just to be clear, you can be assertive without resorting to being a jerk about things; being a jerk is self defeating.
Fathersaurus Note: I’ve left the aforementioned company and now work with really great people. People I’m excited to regularly see. I still practice the same ideology though.
In my next post I’ll discuss how TRex’s newfound awareness really changes when I work and the newfound conundrum that sometimes puts me in.