So much of this blog is filled with my (female) thoughts on parenting, that I thought it would be interesting to read about this same subject, but from a male perspective. Not just any random male, though – I wanted to peek around the thoughts of Olive’s dad, my husband. We share the same life, the same child – but I wanted to see just how different our opinions are on…well, us.
I asked my husband to answer a few questions about his thoughts on being a dad and husband – and hoped he would be game to have it published here. It took a little persuading, but he did it (thanks Patrick!) – and it’s all here for you to read below.
But before you dive in, here are a couple of things I’ve learned from this exercise:
1. Men (or my husband, specifically) worry and think more about us than we give them credit for.
2. Women talk about “the balancing of roles” all the time – but men really juggle all of that, too, they just don’t discuss it as much.
3. I really enjoyed learning this about my husband – even when I thought there couldn’t be anything more to learn after almost a decade of being together.
An Interview With “The Dad”
1. Introduce Yourself! What is your name, what do you do?
I’m Patrick. I work for a molecular diagnostics company. While it is probably not the most exciting industry, it is rewarding because you get the sense that you are contributing back to the world.
2. What is your favorite thing about fatherhood thus far?
The indescribable sense of happiness and deep satisfaction that I feel every single time I look at my daughter, especially when she laughs or smiles at me. I don’t have to be her go-to person (that is mom), but that’s OK. I still love her unconditionally.
3. What is the most surprising thing about fatherhood thus far?
Shortly after Olive was born, I felt that the transition from “no baby” to “baby” was surprisingly challenging. We went from zero to 200 mph overnight. Freedom was immediately lost and a new sense of commitment both as a husband trying to take care of my wife, as well as a new father trying to take care of a newborn took over. For most who know me, they know that I am not really one who likes to “talk things out”. In hindsight, I think if I had had a friend to talk to (a friend who was going through the same things I, and at the same time as I), things probably would have been easier as I would have been able to set expectations in my mind. I honestly believe that “not knowing” anything is really what made things so hard – Olive has been a great baby and now a great toddler.
With that said, I also feel like one of the drawbacks in trying to prepare yourself too much is that things might lose their “specialness”. The first moment when the baby moves from milk to actual purees was hilarious and awesome, because we were just like “oh this could be cool, let’s try this!” rather than, “oh crap, our baby is behind, we need to move her to solid food now!”.
More recently, the challenges have changed and increasingly I am finding it difficult to keep my energy up and keep pace with how quickly Olive is learning and exploring everything. She is soaking everything in like a sponge and you really need to be careful with what you say! Just like every parent (I hope), I want to teach her everything I know, and I am starting to feel regret that my Mandarin Chinese or understanding of calculus and magnetic fields is what it is…maybe I should go back to school or at least self-study a bit so I can help her with her homework when she gets older?
4. Do you find it hard to balance the role between being a husband, and being a father?
Is this a trick question? I feel like I am doing a decent job of balancing the two roles, but I also feel like there are specific situations which really make this balancing act exceptionally challenging.
Example 1: I am not going to say that I am more patient than Jody, because that would just get me in trouble; but I will admit that taking care of Olive on a day to day basis is not easy. I tried it on my own a couple times and I have found that it is both physically and mentally demanding – running around, interacting, teaching, cleaning, changing diapers, etc. is a lot of work.
For my part, I work a full-time job which requires traveling to various parts of the world (jet lag really sucks), I am going to school for an EMBA, and when I am not doing those things, I am try to balance what time I have left between family, extracurricular activities, and house work.
Now let’s say that I am working from home and Jody is having a rough day with Olive, what am I supposed to do? Is she expecting that I drop work so I can help out and take care of the family? How much stress should I expect Jody to be able to handle? And let’s say I do drop work, who am I supposed to take care of first in that case – Jody or Olive? How do you prioritize your responsibilities when everything seems super important?
Example 2: Where has the romance in our relationship gone? Well, it has moved from the first class seats at the front of the plane to the economy class seats, not even the economy plus seats. It has fallen into those cracks of time when your daughter is not paying attention or when she is asleep…thank god for Jody’s rigorous adherence to Olive’s sleep schedule.
It is really important to keeping the communication alive between Jody and I no matter how difficult this is. I am not a total introvert, but after spending the day traveling, in front of the customer, or on the phone with a customer, my first after-work thought is “I need a glass of scotch”, not “let’s talk about how we are parenting as well as how our relationship as husband and wife is doing”. The problem is that if you don’t communicate, a lot is lost. Not only do you miss out on the new developments of your child, but you also miss out on new developments in your wife’s life. This is pretty crucial knowledge because it helps you know how happy she is and, perhaps more importantly, it helps you understand with what she is feeling and/or thinking (i.e. does she want sex tonight, or does she just want to sleep?).
5. What do you think has changed most about your wife since she has become a mother?
Spending the past decade with Jody, I believe that I have a pretty solid understanding of her life and her personality. I believe that the single greatest challenge that Jody has ever faced started the moment when Olive was first conceived. I believe that Jody had no idea what was coming and as a result, the first few months that followed after giving birth were really pretty chaotic. However, I would say that the past year or so has really seen a graceful transition from I-don’t-know-what-I-am-doing-the-sky-is-falling-Jody to I-am-superwoman-and-I-can-handle-anything-life-throws-at-me-Jody. I feel that the reason this transition has been so graceful is that she has become increasingly selfless. The reality is that no one else would ever love Olive as much we do, and thus it is natural that we both try to pour every ounce of ourselves into her – and it is pretty scary/awesome how readily she drinks it all in.
6. What do you think has changed most about yourself, now that you have become a father?
The heightened sense of responsibility with a touch of risk aversion. As an example: I drive slower than I used to (most of the time), especially when Olive is in my car. I have also noticed that my urge for becoming an entrepreneur has waned as I increasingly see the risk of failure as being waters that I really don’t want to test. I also find myself waking up fairly early almost every day, and on the rare occasion when I do sleep in I get this weird sensation of guilt because I am missing out on the sleepyhead-morning-look that Olive gives us when we get her from her crib.
7. How has becoming parents affected your marriage? How has it made it weaker, or stronger?
There have been a few moments where I felt like becoming parents has utterly destroyed our marriage, but I think those feelings really only occurred in the early months after Olive was born. The combination of lack of sleep, lack of patience, and not knowing what the heck we were doing is pretty potent. In the long run though, I actually feel like the experience has really forced us to put more effort into each other – to be more patient with each other, to communicate more, and really to just try and love harder. As a result, I think our relationship has actually become stronger over time. Now obviously the change wasn’t an overnight phenomenon. It took time, but I think one factor that really helped was that we both felt and acknowledged the joy that Olive brought to both of us. Learning to love Olive seemed to really help us pacify any negative feelings and also taught us to love each other better.
8. What are your hopes for your child?
When I first married Jody, one of my marriage vows was that I wanted to make her happy, no matter what. This translates to Olive as well. I want her to discover something she is passionate about, something that makes her happy, and I want to be able to provide her with the means of pursuing it. I don’t particularly care if she is the most successful woman on the planet, I just want to see her become a mature, happy, and self-confident woman.
P.S. I really hope she isn’t tone-deaf. She loves to sing and it would crush my heart if she couldn’t sing/hear the correct keys.
Thanks for reading the lengthy post – I’d love to hear your comments. Do you think your husbands or partners feel the same way? Will you ask them these questions, too?