Tag Archives: Former Life

A Challenge That I Didn’t Expect

In hindsight, my decision to have children was about as informed as is the decision of a typical eight year old child to get a puppy. An eight year old thinks that having a puppy is a great idea because the puppy will provide companionship and a close bond. The eight year old hears that they will be responsible for the animal, but doesn’t have the adequate conceptual framework to comprehend the actual significance and meaning of this responsibility. I was much like that eight year old when I first started seriously entertaining the idea of having children. I had heard that raising a child was challenging for a multitude of reasons, but I lacked the insight to understand the implications of my decision.

The “Little” Difficulties of Parenthood

There have been many hurdles to overcome while on this trek called parenthood. To be honest, many of them revolve around the very basic idea of taking care of yourself. Having kids was, to say the least, a lifestyle change and I don’t think I fully comprehended what this entailed. Sleep, for example, is something that I had been told take at every available opportunity, but it is very hard to put myself to bed when I feel that I haven’t had adequate time to myself during the day to appreciate just being myself. As a result, I typically stay up much later than I should trying to give myself a little “me” time during my day.

Prior to having children, I had also been warned that having children might jeopardize friendships. Yet another case of hearing the words of warning, but not fully understanding their context. I think there are at least a couple main reasons that having kids can make you drift away from people that were good friends. Once you have children, you will have some pretty intense limits placed on the time you have available to partake in your pre-child lifestyle and this is likely to dig into the time that you have available for friends. Another strain on friendships is the inevitable change of your priorities. As a father, I still have all of my old interests, but since I am one of the major care takers for our children it stands to reason that the details of my children’s lives will be one of my primary interests, and I think this can be alienating to friends that don’t have children.

The frustrations that children present are another thing that I had been warned about, but that warning just didn’t quite sink in. I have worked a fair bit with slightly older kids and find them relatively reasonable. Infants and toddlers, however, I hadn’t had a lot of experience with and have since learned that they are almost entirely unreasonable. Don’t get me wrong, they are cute, beautiful and charming, but they are also incredibly unreasonable. It is both hilarious and exasperating to watch a toddler walk around and interact with their environment. They will generally make a move for anything that you don’t want them to touch; move random objects from one place to another without any obvious reason; repeat themselves ad nauseam; appear to make concerted efforts to obstruct any reasonable course of action; find that thing that is most likely to stain your carpet and hold it so that if it were to fall, it would only barely miss the table (which could easily be cleaned), and then with infuriating grace they will drop it on your carpet, thereby destroying any remaining hope you had of retrieving your damage deposit.

Although I had been warned about the aforementioned “little” difficulties, I still found that I wasn’t fully prepared to deal with them. Parenting has a momentum to it though, and I found that I certainly became prepared to deal with the little challenges very quickly. Having had the warnings was useful, because even though I didn’t have a deep understanding of exactly how these challenges would look when I was in the situation, at least I had a frame of reference. This made the act of becoming a father much less of a culture shock than it otherwise may have been.

My Unexpected Challenge

The negotiations went on long into the night

I have this underlying belief that fathers of multiples (twins, triplets, etc.) are much more engaged in the raising of their children than fathers of singletons. I know that I had every intention of being a very involved father prior to finding out that we were having twins. Once our twins came along though, there was really absolutely no choice for me to do anything other than be a very engaged father, and because of the higher work load, I suspect that I took on more than I would have if we had one child at a time. As a result of me being so involved with my kids, Jenn and I both felt like every parenting decision that either of us made became quite the negotiation, and this is what I hadn’t heard anyone mention in the lead up to having kids.

To be clear, I think it likely that the parents of any child are often involved in negotiating how to do certain things, however I also think that the amount of negotiating increases with the level of involvement of the parents. It seems like a fairly natural association, because the more both parents are around and the more involved they are, the more both parents have at stake. Although the negotiations were a natural consequence of a high level of involvement from both of us, at times it was also quite difficult and both Jenn and I found it quite frustrating at times.

When deciding how to proceed with different issues, there were obviously times when Jenn and I didn’t agree on the best course of action. Generally we’d both give the other a chance to try their method, and ultimately this was a great learning tool for both of us. Trying an approach that individually we might not have tried started yielding some good results for both of us. It was a great learning tool and we have both had times when we benefited from trying something that is outside of our usual bag of tricks.

Although it is sometimes exhausting and frustrating, negotiating with your spouse on how to deal with parenting issues it’s certainly worth it. It implies that your child(ren) have two parents who are involved enough to care about how things are done and it has helped me to remember that there are usually multiple ways to achieve your goal. Moreover, there has been a benefit to my communication skills and with luck our kids will benefit from growing up in a house with parents that communicate fairly well.

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Who’s Really Pregnant, She or We?

She-or-We
Photo credit: Melissa Baker

Adjusting to life with a pregnant wife was a big change for me, and it really didn’t come easy. One of the most significant changes to my life was that when we were out socializing with friends, I found that I had to drink my beverages a lot quicker than the pre-pregnancy days because the designated driver got tired a lot earlier in the evening while pregnant. In a roundabout way, this brings me to the topic of this post. Of course being pregnant is going to impact the biological host’s life, but how does this impact the partner of said host? More specifically, when one person in a relationship is pregnant, are both of you pregnant?

At a certain point in the pregnancy I noticed that Jenn, perhaps inadvertently, started occasionally talking about our pregnancy instead of¬†her pregnancy. I’m not a very good biologist, but I am quite a good literalist (at times) and I was dead sure that I wasn’t pregnant. I’m also no idiot, and I knew it was a way of including and sharing the experience of pregnancy with me and also a way for Jenn to feel part of a team. Even though I fully understood where Jenn was coming from with the new terminology, I have to admit that I was never really fully comfortable with the language, and these are my reasons three.

The Biological Component

Since (literally) I wasn’t pregnant, there were things that I just didn’t understand. The actual biological changes that were happening to my wife were noticeably lacking within my body, and because of this I think that, although intellectually I wanted to share the experience, I wasn’t faced with the reality of the situation to the same extent that Jenn was. My body was still my body, I didn’t have a rotation of novel cravings or aversions and my hormones weren’t on the same roller coaster ride that Jenn’s were on. There were a lot of physical and emotional realities that I did not and could not share and, therefore, only partially understood.

This lack of understanding left me in a situation where mentally I was not at the same level of preparedness for the impending parenthood as my wife was. Ironically the new terminology that Jenn was using was intended, at least in part, to help me get my head to that point, but I think it ended up making me a little defiant towards the situation rather than understanding of the situation. Essentially I think I was probably having some of the same feelings that Jenn was likely having about losing my “self” and my former life. The difference was that for Jenn, with all of the changes happening to her body, this realization was an ever increasing blatant reality, but without those physical changes happening to me, this was still more of an abstract concept for me. So, like a defiant child, I resisted the new terminology to try to retain my “self” and my former life.

“Self” and My Former Life

So what was so great about my “self” and my former life? Well, they both had no kids! I had a lot more freedom and much less responsibility. On the freedom front, I was able to pursue my personal and professional interests without having to consider the impact that it would have on my children. With respect to the responsibility side of the equation, being out until 3:00 am is never quite the same when you realize that your kids will give a wake-up call around 6:30 am and expect you to be “on” for the rest of the day no matter how you feel.¬†Pregnancy is the nine month reminder that all of these things are around the corner for you and your partner.

Macho Macho Man: The Social Component

The macho macho man factor can be described in the following way. Your friends offer a sense of comfort and familiarity for a few reasons, but partly because they are a reminder of your “self” and your former life. When your pregnant partner mentions that “we” (you and her) are pregnant in front of your friends, then you are immediately thrust into that role that threatens your “self” and your former life. In an attempt to maintain the social status quo in front of your friends, you have the urge to resist the new terminology that is the symbol of your changing life.

So I’m an Idiot, Okay

Earlier in this very post I made a statement that I’m going to quote:

I’m also no idiot, and I knew it was a way of including and sharing the experience of pregnancy with me and also a way for Jenn to feel part of a team.

To be clear, throughout the entire pregnancy I was on board with being supportive and part of a parenting team. Even though intellectually I understood Jenn’s reasons for implementing the “team pregnancy” terminology, there were some parts of me that just were determined to go out of the pre-parenthood world fighting to prevent (or at least postpone) my loss of “self”. The dramatic conclusion to this post is that I understood the purpose behind the turn of phrase, and am no idiot in that way. In another way, however, by not being fully comfortable with the change of terminology I tested the team spirit of my relationship, and if not idiotic, that was at least a challenge. There were plenty of difficulties during our pregnancy, and the loss of “self” is a difficult thing for both parents to experience, but in hindsight, I think the change in terminology was good because it helped me to get my head in the parenthood game earlier than later.