Dear Friend Who’s About to Have a Kid,
As an expectant father, most of what you’ve been told is that parenting is really hard. Other synonyms: difficult, tough, challenging, life-altering, impossible, a grind. But “hard” seems to be the adjective of choice for the modern, unsolicited advice-giving parent, usually along with a sigh and a head shake.
Sleepless nights, maddening carseat scenarios, nightmare plane rides, strain on marriage, strain on space, strain on body, strain on professional life…just a lot of strain, really.
So I’m not going to sit here and regale you with the countless other reasons why having a child will be the hardest thing you do. On the contrary, I’d like to make the case that, on balance, parenting will actually make your life a lot simpler.
You will always have an excuse to arrive late, leave early, or not show up at all.
No more hemming and hawing when you get these texts:
Colleague: “See you tonight at the Christmas party?”
Boss: “Can you stay late to finish the project?”
In-laws: “Wanna pop over to watch the latest Meryl Streep’s vehicle?”
Friends: “Moving again. Help me lift the couch?”
A simple “Can’t make it. Kid thing” will suffice. No explanation necessary. Keep responses vague and you don’t even have to lie.
Best part is you can always hedge with something like: “Gonna do my best to make it, but if so, will probably need to leave early. Kid thing.”
Better yet, don’t respond at all and no one will hold it against you. No one gets the benefit of the doubt like a parent.
You won’t need to set an alarm.
It can be glorious when they shuffle in with bed-head and snuggle you on a Saturday morning. It can be maddening on a Monday when you were up with them until 3 am and you’re trying to get 20 more minutes of uninterrupted sleep before a full workday. Regardless, it’s one fewer item you need to worry about. Congratulations, your wife will birth the world’s most sophisticated alarm clock.
You will become more efficient.
My folks watched my boys the other day and I accomplished more in three hours that my pre-kid self would have in two weeks. Something about having finite amounts of time that ramps up your productivity.
You won’t need motivation to get (or stay) in shape.
There’s a reason we’re built to have kids in our twenties: millenials can eat nuclear waste between Fortnite binges and still stay fit. At 40, a trip to the post office saps most of my energy. But for the first few years, 90% of parenting is getting your kid tired enough to sleep, so physical fitness is as important as emotional resilience. If I don’t stay in shape, the nightly game of “Dinosaur King on the Mountain” in my basement could put me back into physical therapy.
You will never need motivation to go to work or to stay at your job.
Mouth to feed = “I don’t need this job.” Mouths to feed = “I can’t lose this job.”
You will become a better person.
Imagine life with a parrot on your shoulder and a mirror in front of your face, both reminding you, incessantly, of your faults.
Actual exchange from this morning in the van:
Sam: “Dad, can you put on the Superman song?”
Me: “Buddy, I can’t use my phone while I’m driving.”
Me: “Because it’s not safe.”
Sam: “But you just did it back there when you turned on the Batman song.”
Me: “I know buddy, but…(stammering). Hey, look at that excavator over there!”
It’s not even that you become a better person because you necessarily want to become a better person. It’s just less of a hassle.
So friend, as you await this miracle, take comfort knowing that just because something is more challenging, doesn’t mean it’s more complicated.
I leave you with the words of one of my favorite minimalists, Henry David Thoreau:
“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.”
Fatherhood will afford you to let alone pretty much everything.
Except what matters.
Wanna hear interviews with dads? Check out The Detroit Dadcast.