Discover more from Hegemon Media
8 Ways Becoming A Father Changed Me
Lesson's from the first year of my child's life.
Becoming a parent fulfilled a lifelong dream. In a way, I’ve been preparing for it all of my life. Yet, reading about an experience is not the same as living it. Here are a few observations on how I changed after I became a parent:
1. The volume is turned down on everything else.
Becoming a parent turned down the volume on everything else in my life. Things like people being upset with me online, big political events, and even work and business struggles no longer matter to me like they used to. The only thing I really care about is the well-being of my family. Nothing else matters.
The connection I have with my family is so significant, that it has made me aware of how insignificant my connection is to anything that I only interact with through a screen. Parenting can be stressful, but that stress makes all other challenges seem smaller in comparison. When my wife and child are happy and safe, there is a deep relaxation that goes beyond any other accomplishment.
If you’re concerned about the problems of the world, I recommend starting a family. Then you will understand what is actually important. Becoming a father has focused my priorities on what matters most, and made everything else less important in comparison.
2. Everything is new again.
One of the joys of a child is that you get to experience the world for the first time through their eyes. In Zen, there is a concept known as “beginners mind,” the describes a way of experiencing the world without preconceptions or expectations. The truest embodiment of “beginners mind” is a baby, because everything is new to them. When I’m in rapport with my child, I get to experience the world anew with him.
As big events become less important, small events become more significant. When my family came to see the new baby, I realized that my parents would be the 4th and 5th person my son had ever met, besides me, my wife, and the midwife. It was his first time in the living room. The size of his universe had just doubled and would grow exponentially as we took him to new places. Everyday events are imbued with greater significance because they are new for him.
As a baby, one of my son’s favorite activities was looking at trees. If you’ve never seen a tree before, it must be a wonderful thing to behold. His eyesight was just reaching the ability to see a few feet in front of him. I’d take him out into the yard and we’d just stare at trees together. He’d put his hands on one and feel the bark. Moments like this remind you how if you’re present, we don’t need fancy media or expensive activities to entertain ourselves. Just looking at a tree can be a mind-expanding activity if we look at it as if we’re seeing it for the first time.
3. Change happens faster.
Infants go through entire phases and personality shifts week by week. Every week I feel like I’m getting to know a new person. Even watching a clip of me talking about becoming a parent recorded when my son was nearly one, I’m reminded of how different he is now that he is almost two. Writing about parenting is challenging because our relationship changes with each developmental leap he makes. Nothing is static. Each moment is different. He grows fast, so I grow and change with him.
4. Thoughts become simple.
I have the capacity to intellectualize. I’ve written a 100,000-word book full of academic footnotes. Yet, when I tune in to what matters to me, the thoughts become simple again. While thinking about what to write for this article, I felt the energy of the words “I love my son.” That’s it. Nothing additional is needed. Simple.
5. My self-development is no longer just for me.
When I was in my twenties, my self-development and healing were for me alone. The purpose of my growth was to make me fulfilled. I’m glad I did that because it made me a better man for my family now, but as a parent, my growth is no longer just for me. I’m not just taking care of myself for myself, but so I have what I need to take care of everyone else.
When I am off-center, stressed, or reactive, that energy is passed on from me to my wife and child. The whole house feels it. Likewise, when I center myself, become calm, and hold a loving frame, that energy is passed on to them as well. There are times when the baby wakes in the middle of the night and my wife is worried she will never sleep again, that I will just sit with her and be present. She is stressed, but I am calm. By the end, she is calm again too. She thanked me for this later. I’m getting better at this through practice.
6. I’ve become more situationally aware.
As a 6’5 tall man, I am usually safe in most spaces. The ones that aren’t safe for me aren’t safe for anyone. However, traveling with an infant changes that. If a space is simply loud or overstimulating it could be unsafe for a child. While I can handle myself, protecting a child requires additional skill. Becoming a parent has increased my situational awareness and made me more likely to avoid unsafe spaces.
7. I’m less tolerant of bad behavior from other adults.
As a single man in my twenties, I had a “live and let live” attitude. Even when I saw others engaging in harmful or self-destructive behavior, if it didn’t affect me it wasn’t my problem. Telling others they had a problem was usually more trouble than it was worth.
However, my child has less of an ability to filter the world than I do. He doesn’t yet know which adult behaviors are bad and which are worth emulating. Having a child has made me more aware of the impact others’ behavior has on those around them. I am less tolerant of bad behavior because the question “How does it affect you?” has an answer. It affects my child.
8. Joy has increased.
Having a child has taught me to find joy in simple things. As an adult, I wouldn’t go to the park just to look at animals there on my own. Going with him is one of my favorite parts of the day. Simple activities like walking around the neighborhood or finding a cool rock bring him immense joy. I remember finding the same joy through simple activities like this when I was young. Through him, I get to experience the same joy again. Spending time with him has made me able to appreciate fun that I would have previously judged as “lame” or insignificant.
Becoming a parent has shifted the metric by which I judge significance from the world to my family. I’ve always been willing to follow my own path even if it contradicted what the world told me. Yet becoming a parent has made me aware that I was still evaluating the significance of an action by the standards of the world. To my son, when his mom entering the room or getting the chance to pet a dog is as significant as any world event. I’ve become less interested in “the world” and more interested in “his world.” There is as much drama and joy in that world as the larger one.