The previous 5 years in my life have been focused on reproduction and in all honesty survival. Pregnancy, baby, toddler. Repeat. Throw in a few job changes, buying and selling a house, a torn pectoral tendon, and I now can come up for air.
Do note that this breath of fresh air does get sandwiched between temper tantrums, business trips, and ear infections, but it’s there nonetheless. Undoubtedly it is welcomed, but the taste of the air has changed. It now has a bit of crispness and weight unlike before. It is quiet, noticeable, and definitely a little chilling. During these moments of respite, I felt the need to reflect.
This period of life was hard. You don’t get to ease into parenting, one day you don’t have a child, the next day you do. And most of the time it seems that while you’re still in the sleep deprived slumber of having a baby or toddler, you do it again.
Then after a while, you get a moment to reflect like I did and you realize, what have I done? I’ve got 20 more years of this? But what about me and my dreams, hobbies, etc.? How am I going to achieve all the other things I had planned in life when all I want is a nap?
These questions surfaced like a philosophical face-slap. Was this my version of a mid-life crisis? I was determined to find out and avoid the feeling of crisis at all costs.
These moments, when I first got some fresh air, were pivotal. Here was a fork in the road. On one path is a trip down real fatherhood, which includes some honest self evaluation and incredible opportunities. This path looked daunting but it also gave a glimmer of hope for something rich and wonderful.
The other path I could have chosen was to put the pause button on what I considered my life and focus only on raising children over the next 20 years. Here I could allow myself to let the responsibilities of fatherhood turn into a burden without the opportunity. I could start saying to myself and others, “I just don’t have any time for myself anymore” while I let some dreams slide. Or worse, not allow myself to dream because I don’t think I have the time. At first this path appeared to be easier, but in the distance it did not appear as fulfilling.
The good news is that this split in the path to fatherhood is not a one time choice. Everyday we get the opportunity to choose which way we want to go.
Being a father feels both straightforward and infinitely complex. The responsibility and commitment can be daunting. The self evaluation it demands is challenging. Not be willing to do an honest self evaluation and lead by example can possibly lead to a midlife crisis.
Choosing the right path by being honest with oneself and trying to lead by example is a one way to get started.