My wife has a mommy blog, it is called “Born To Mom.” It is (obviously) based on the premise that she feels like she was born to be a mom. But she isn’t the only one in our parenting duo who feels like raising a child (or children in our case) is what he or she was meant to do.
That’s how I feel too.
I haven’t had many “dreams” in my life. Especially growing up. I have had fleeting visions. Like wanting to wear a suit to work every day; wanting to carry a briefcase, wanting a home office.
But nothing concrete. Nothing that I could pin on my bedroom wall and say “that’s what I want to be when I grow up.”
Nothing expect being a dad. Family and fatherhood are the only things that I can remember wishing for or wanting while growing up.
And that’s why 2017 was the year my dream life began.
This past year, our twin boys Ayden and Zayn were born, and in an instant (actually it was more like 30 minutes for my wife’s C-section delivery) it was life my old life had ended, and new life began.
It was the life I had been waiting for for as long as I could remember. And it began a whirlwind of a year that I will never forget.
I won’t recount the year in it’s entirety here. I won’t even come close, because I’ve already done that on our family video blog – or vlog – on YouTube.
The point of writing this post is to document what I have learned about myself and about life in general in the 365 days of what I consider to be the first “real” year of my life.
1. Parenting is hard
I was told time and time again before having kids that parenting was going to be hard but I kept on saying that I was ready for whatever was coming my way. And I was. In fact, Sheeba (my wife) and I probably would have had kids earlier if it wasn’t for me saying I wasn’t ready. Typical guy answer. Even though I knew my whole life that I wanted to be a dad, I wanted to be 100% ready, or as close to it as possible. So when we decided to give it a go, I was going to embrace no matter how it went.
Well it turned out we got twins and everyone was right. Parenting is hard. Actually, it is the hardest thing that I have ever done in my life.
And that’s probably because what I pictured as “being a dad” doesn’t really happen in the first year. Or at least not until the very end of the first year. The cuddling, and wresting, and giggling, and chasing, and talking, and joking. That doesn’t happen until a kid is a person and not just a baby.
Until then, it’s just about keeping them alive.
The majority of the first year is babysitting. And if you have a bad night, you can’t just collect you $20 and go back to your quiet, kid-free home. It’s babysitting around the clock. And if you fail, they die. Or at least that’s how you feel.
It’s sleepless nights, it’s uncertainty, it’s pressure, it’s expectation, its failure. It’s everything. And most of it is hard.
That’s not to say there aren’t good times. There are. And I loved those times. But I was naive and totally underestimated the amount of strain and angst that the first year of parenting would have.
2. Time is precious
In my mind, there is no doubt that maternity (or paternity leave) is a necessity. Parenting is a full-time job. Actually, it’s more than that (see above). So time is precious, and with twins we didn’t get a lot of it this year.
On a daily basis, we probably got 45 minutes to ourselves after dinner and clean-up/prep for the next day was done. And during that 45 minutes, we did not have a ton of energy. So it wasn’t always productive. Although at times it was (e.g. my wife started a mommy blog).
Throughout the year, we were lucky enough to have a lot of help from family and friends, which meant that Sheeba and I actually got one night at a hotel to ourselves and a couple 2-3 hour dates, which is probably more than a lot of parents can say for their first year as parents. But time was sparse nonetheless. And it being so, made us want it even more.
As I’ve mentioned, neither of us has really wanted anything but to start a family and live a wholesome, meaningful family life. And this year we got to do a lot of that. I mean we even hosted a brunch and a couple of dinner at our place.
But the lack of free-time, personal time, where we could be us first (individually and together) without having to put our kids first, that was difficult. It was made even more difficult by the fact that we started wanting other time for specific things. We started craving travel, we got the entrepreneurial itch, I started envisioning new career paths, and passion projects. But not many, if any, of those things have happened.
So now more than ever we know that value of time. And free time specifically. I guess the silver lining is that when we have it, we have learned to make the most of it.
3. No more, please
This is me being completely honest and open. At this point, I don’t want more kids. And it’s not because of how hard the first year was. Because, since it’s over, I’ll probably get to a point where I feel like I could handle it again. Once I re-build all my physical and mental muscles.
It’s more so because of the make-up of our little family. It’s the two of us, and the two of them. And the two of them are equals in that they were born together. They will be best friends for ever. They will get an equal amount of attention from the two of us and we will be able to experience life together as a well balanced unit of four.
It seems perfect to me.
And while Sheeba and I had landed on “three” as the number of kids we wanted, and I have always wanted a little girl, neither of those things currently has nearly as much weight as the fact that our family feels complete to me.
4. Work life balance
Mid-year I changed jobs. It was a difficult time to change jobs, because I was uprooting the status quo in what was a very strenuous year at home. And change isn’t always easy. So it was a risk.
It was more of a risk considering I took a pay cut, and left a job that allowed me to work from home for a lot of the time. But the latter is actually part of why I made the decision.
Working from home was hard for me. I was constantly being pulled in opposite directions: work or be a dad and husband. And more often than not, neither got the attention it deserved. And the day felt like a failure.
So when presented with the opportunity to work at a place that I held in high regard, with people I held in high regard, cut down my commute, not take a huge pay cut, focus my skills in an area which I had been wanting to focus, and also solve my problem of opposing forces by going to the office every day, I took it.
I started working in a Monday to Friday, 9-5 position and it was very helpful in establish boundaries and barriers. At work I worked, and at home I was a dad and husband.
It was a decision that was made because of the important I place on work-life balance, and it has worked out so far. Anytime I haven’t had that balanced, I haven’t been my best self. And moving forward professionally, I will always be keeping that in mind.
5. More, please
Wait, what? I thought you just said you didn’t want more kids.
You would be right.
Wanting more doesn’t have to do with the size of my family. Rather, for the first time in a long-time, I want – like really want – something else for myself.
Aside from wanting to have a family and be a dad, the only other thing I have really wanted for myself is to become a sports play-by-play announcer. That passion consumed through my latter university years and early in my professional career.
And while that dream is all but dead, through no one’s doing but my own (it was a conscious decision, I’m not bitter), I haven’t had any other career related dreams since. I mean, I have set goals for myself financially, and I have picked out certain things I wanted to do. But long term, in terms of how I want to define myself when it related to what I do, I didn’t know where I was going.
I was considering re-training, and completely changing field from an artistic and creative one, to a more scientific and social one.
But within the last year, a dream has revealed itself to me. It has actually be percolating over several years, but this year is when it became most clear that I want to pursue something. In fact, I need to.
It is both enlightening, and terrifying. Because the year has also shown me (as outlined above) that time is precious and sparse. And making dreams come true requires time.
Anyways, I not entirely ready to share what that dream is. More to come soon.
6. My heart is full, my life has new purpose
This one is obvious, but this year has left me with a heart as full as can be.
I had felt for a long time that when I had kids (and I thought this would happen especially if I had a daughter) there would be a part of my being that would be unlocked. One that I couldn’t reach without being responsible for moulding a new life.
And I was right.
This year with my boys and Sheeba has left me with a heart filled to a level which I have experienced. And as the boys grow and as we experience new things as a family, it continues to fill, and I continue to be amazed with the feelings that I feel.
I am so grateful been given the opportunity to be my boys’ dad and my life’s purpose – being the best dad possible to my kids – is as clear as it has ever been.
7. I am so lucky
And speaking of grateful, most people say that having twins is lucky, because “you’re done in one go and don’t need to have more kids.” And while they could be right, that’s not why I consider myself lucky for having twins.
I’m lucky because I got two amazing boys and I got them at the same time. I get to experience double the everything, and most importantly, I get two little buddies for life.
But throughout this year, I have caught myself counting my blessings more than once. Because as hard as it got, I was always reminded one way or another of how much I had. Two healthy boys, an amazing partner in crime, a house to call my own, a job that I liked and that was flexible and understanding, clean water, enough of a financial cushion, super supportive parents and in-laws, amazing siblings, great friends, clean water, internet, etc.
What more can anyone ask for?
So in 2018, I am not expecting the universe to provide me with anything else, not because I don’t have goals and aspirations, but because I am already living my wildest dream.