My wife is three months pregnant and I’m freaking out. I’m really afraid of what life will be like after the baby gets here. If I hear one more person tell me “You’re life is gonna change so much,” I’m gonna throttle them. I KNOW EVERYTHING IS CHANGING. The problem is that I’m not sure if I want it to. I’m a writer with a day job, and I’m really worried that I won’t have time to write once the baby’s here, and that just leads to all kinds of fear of failure stuff for me. I want to be a good husband and a father, but how can I do that if I feel totally trapped and miserable in my life?
Well, I will join the chorus of what everyone else is saying just by wishing you a heartfelt “Congratulations!” on the upcoming birth of your child. And while it is true, I agree with you that it can get a bit annoying to have people tell you “Boy is your life gonna change,” when, unless you are a complete moron, you are already keenly aware of this fact, probably every moment of the day. So, no need to worry about a long-distance throttling for Dr V, OK? I get where you’re coming from. Trust me.
However, I would like to offer a variation on the statement, a caveat, if you will. Your life is about to change, but here’s the kicker: not in the way you think it will.
I think to a certain degree it’s impossible to really anticipate what it’s going to be like once the baby gets here. Sure we can go to birthing classes, watch the documentaries, read the books, talk to friends, even ask our parents questions. Yet at the end of it all, it is something that can only be understood through its experience. Until you get there, it’s really just groping around in the dark trying to figure out how the person you are now is ever going to possibly survive… being a parent (and that’s not even considering any anxieties your wife may have surrounding the upcoming birth). I can tell you that while those first few months are for sure intense and at times trying, they are also singular and full of magic and wonder. I think it’s the latter aspects that help us deal with the former.
From my own experience and that of several of my other working-parent friends, I believe the biggest change isn’t so much in the quantity of time we have for ourselves (though to be certain that amount definitely goes down), but more so in how we choose to use it. I’d like to think of it as learning to be more responsible with whatever time to ourselves we are allowed. You mentioned you were a writer, so I’ll use that as an example. Let’s say on an average day you get maybe two to three hours to work, after your day job’s over with, stuff around house and with your wife’s taken care of and so on. So you sit down, and maybe while it’s technically “writing time,” you meander around on the Internet a bit, read some articles, watch a video of a chipmunk skateboarding, whatever. Post-baby, what I’ve found is that when there is a window to work, we simply work, and leave the distractions for later, if at all. You may find that your quality and productivity actually improve and increase after you become a Dad. After all, you might find that necessity sharpens your focus and motivation; a combination which can often foster productive creativity. Not to mention the additional motivation of having another tiny mouth to feed.
I really hate to use as ancient and as hack a cliché as this, but it’s true: Where there’s a will there’s a way. If your writing is important to you, you will find the time to do it when your equilibrium restores itself after the little one arrives.
Which leads me to my next point. Take it easy. Rest. Breathe. Don’t try to cram what would have been the rest of your life’s work into the next six months. In fact, if anything I strongly urge you find time to really enjoy doing nothing. Because that is one luxury that will for sure be in short supply post-baby. Don’t go nuts and get lost in the sofa cushions, but really enjoy these final months of not being a parent. Not because being a parent is some horrible fun-destroying life sentence, but just because, hate to say it again; things are changing. So take a moment to really absorb and appreciate the way things are now, because soon it will be they way things were. I can even go mystical on you: enjoy your last months as a caterpillar before your metamorphoses.
Most importantly of all, enjoy being the parent of a newborn. I don’t know if you plan on having more kids, but one thing I can promise is that this time will pass at warp speed. There are no words to describe how fast it will go, so make sure you don’t miss it. You only get to see your kid as a baby once.
I think that since you were concerned enough to write in for advice on this subject shows what a high priority your writing is for you, Jesse. As I said, I think that once you find the balance in your new life as a parent, you will see there is time to be both a writer and father. I truly hope you are able to recognize the importance and magic of where you are and where you will be in the near future. It would be a shame if you missed any of it; these are the Golden Moments of life. And who knows, you’ll probably pick up a lot of material to write about along the way.
With Love and Light,
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