Categories
Personal

Don’t Expect Having a Child to Change Your Life

How much I’ve changed in a month since becoming a dad. I’m pretty sure, many like myself would have heard how life-changing being a parent would be. I didn’t realise then how vague that statement was. One thing I can tell you upfront is – don’t expect having a child to change your life.

Being vague, I definitely formed my own impressions and thoughts. I thought it’d be a huge life-changing impact. Even right now, I’m having difficulties explaining my initial thoughts. Maybe how I viewed it was that having a child would change my very purpose of being alive. I thought my life would revolve around my family. I thought my life and career goals would change. I’m pretty sure I had a stronger impression but I’m not able to put it into words. Whatever it was, it’s definitely positive, seeing how excited I was.

Exactly a month has passed since I’ve taken on the responsibility of another life. How much has my life changed? How much of my impression was right/wrong? Let’s see…

I’m still…
  • I’m still playing games
  • I’m still seeing my friends
  • I’m still working the same job
  • I’m still studying
  • I’m still spending the same amount of time at home
  • I’m still watching my dramas
  • I’m still frugal
  • I’m still stubborn
  • I’m still lazy
I’ve changed to be…
  • More emotional
  • More understanding of other parents
  • More family-oriented
  • More easily agitated
I’ve lost…
  • My alone time
  • My beauty sleep
  • My privacy
  • Part of my money set for me
I’ve gained…
  • A new family member
  • Lots of love
  • Attention
  • Knowledge
  • Experience
  • Wisdom
  • Sympathy

So, how much have I changed? That’s pretty subjective. My life is definitely more family-centric now. I schedule my time around them, I buy things with them in mind, I always look forward to seeing them after a long day at work, I smile when I think of them, my phone is filled with photos of my child now. Heck, even my sleep pattern is defined by them.

However, other than that, I believe I haven’t changed all that much. What I want to say here is, many expect change externally. However, it doesn’t work that way. Change in us can only start from within. External factors are just motivations to help you change.

Don’t expect having a child to change your life. Likewise, don’t use your child as an excuse for your changes.

Categories
Personal

How I’m Getting My Sleep as a Dad

I was warned by many dads that once I have a child, I can say goodbye to proper sleep. What I mean by proper sleep here is getting my eight hours of undisturbed, quality sleep at night. I took their warning lightly, thinking, “how bad could it be?”. I wasn’t too worried then about how I would be getting my sleep as a dad.

I’m pretty sure many would expect me to be facing similar experiences as they did. They told me they did not get sufficient sleep, at best, six hours and that would be considered a luxury to some. Even then, it’s not consecutive six undisturbed hours of sleep. They’d get the sleep in blocks of one to two hours, multiple times throughout the day and night.

Planning

So, I prepared myself prior to my son’s birth. First, I broke up my sleep. In the beginning, I’d sleep for four to six hours, wake up for a toilet break then sleep the remain hours until I got my eight hours. As time progressed, I shortened the intervals and wake up more times. From waking up once to two, till up to four times. Of course, when I was exhausted, I let myself sleep through. I wasn’t training myself, just giving my body an introduction of what to expect.

Secondly, I planned with my wife strategies on how we could possibly handle the situation. We would each take day or night shifts caring for our son. Or, take turns attending to him each time he needs us. This option is not my preferred option as it would lead us to be calculative. The scenario, “I did it the last round, it’s your turn”, would be inevitable. The third option is to take “shorter shifts”. For instance, she’d take 12am-4am while I’d take 4am-8am or vice versa.

Third strategy would be to play by ear. This is a weak strategy, in my opinion. In the beginning, it would seem like it’s fine but I foresee that weeks or months in, when we both start to feel more tired, we would argue about it. Just like in TV shows, the husband would nudge the wife to wake up and it would become a viscous cycle. That’s something I would want to avoid as much as possible. The kid is both ours and it should be a shared responsibility, not only a single parent’s.

Reality

It has been a little over two weeks since we’ve become parents now. I’m glad we’ve done some planning before. Currently, we’ve been toggling between our first and second strategies. On nights my wife seems tired, I would take up the night shift, while on nights that I’m tired, she’d take up the night shift. After which, I would let her sleep more in the day or vice versa. Although, it has been more practical and comfortable for us to adopt the second strategy. Neither of us has to be up all the time the entire night and we can both get sufficient sleep. She often prefers to take the first half of the night while I take the second.

In practice, we don’t decide before we sleep or ahead of time at all. It has so far come naturally to us. If she feeds and changes our son’s diapers at midnight, she would very likely take the first half of the night or the entire night shift, in the case that I wake up for the second half.

We’re both tired and need our sleep. It’s all about supporting one another and not to be calculative. I’m lucky I’ve been working shift jobs the past seven years as so far, I’m doing more night shifts. Because of that, she gets more rest at night. Even then, I’m still getting six to eight hours of sleep every day. I’m glad with how I’m getting my sleep as a dad.

Categories
Personal

I was Not Fully Prepared for Parenthood

Nine months ago, my wife and I found out we were going to be parents. It was the biggest news of 2019. Thrilled, we spent the next nine months preparing ourselves the best we could for parenthood. We read books and articles on parenthood. We even talked to other parents, new and seasoned, for their perspective and experiences.

Being first-time parents, we had many questions that needed to be answered before the arrival of our baby. Living in the time of information, our questions could easily be answered by the Internet. Also, because we’re living in the time of information, it is extremely important to use what information we’re being fed with.

Every person’s experience is different. However, that doesn’t make others’ experiences invalid to us. I always believe in listening to different stories and opinions with an open mind. I would not shut anybody’s story, instead, I would ask myself how I would approach should I be in a similar situation. To do so, I would have to verify the facts first by cross-referring. In my partnership with my wife, I’m often the one who often does the fact-checking.

I won’t be going in detail with regards to what information we acquired as it would make better sense to write another post on that separately. I will, however, share what I failed to prepare for (in my own standards).

Emotional Management

I’ve read many books and articles which described delivery to be a trigger of many strong and powerful emotions, from joy to sadness to even possibly postpartum depression. Books can describe these emotions to us well. Although, we can never truly understand it until we or our partner experience it.

As expected, my wife has shown a spectrum of emotions. I wouldn’t say it’s like her mood swings on her periods as it’s more stable. In the recent few days, she’s been expressing that she has been feeling “uncomfortable”. Unable to put her finger on exactly what is causing her to feel uncomfortable, she sometimes expresses frustration. Knowing that it is part of the process, I’ve been trying to be understanding. I can tell you one thing. It is definitely not easy to be understanding when you don’t understand what exactly is going on. So, whoever tells you that emotion management is the wife’s problem, don’t believe it entirely. It almost equally becomes the husband’s problem as the husband will suffer the consequences. Stress has started to build up.

Cultural Expectations & Pressure

My marriage is an interracial marriage. I’m Malay while my wife is Chinese. We thought the difficult part of the different cultural expectations were over months ago. Boy, were we never more wrong. With the arrival of our baby, there are even more expectations.

Each of our cultures has a set of traditions for the mother and child. From both sides, we would hear, “You need to do this”. “You cannot do that”. “You must follow this”. Need. Cannot. Must. Three most common words we would hear, almost dictating what we have to do or avoid. If we chose not to adhere, we would receive an earful. Although it is of good intention, it can be pretty stressful. I’m a very logical person and often a justification for any actions. However, many of the traditions are not justified by science and not logical to me. Having said that, my wife and I are very lucky that our parents are understanding and often, we’d meet in the middle.

Due to expectations and wanting to meet them, it resulted in pressure.

Time & Sleep Management

If you ask any parent or read any parenting book, they would touch on the topic of time and sleep management. Throughout the nine months, every parent would remind me to get enough rest. If you google “how to get rest with a baby”, you would get plenty of advice and theories. Do, however, keep in mind that they are just theories. Many of the parents I know, despite knowing the theory, are still unable to practice it.

My wife suffers from this more than I do. It is definitely not because I’m not doing my part. I wake up as much as she does to attend to our baby’s needs. I’m also always the one staying up with our baby when he doesn’t want to sleep. So, why is she suffering more than I? Simple. It’s simply because I’ve been working on 12-hour shifts for almost seven years now. Should I have not been working shift, I would be suffering as badly.

Stress

Everything I’ve described above contributes to the stress that’s snowballing within us. It seemed manageable at first but have recently seen to be a little more challenging than I thought. That stress has started to hit me just two days ago. I haven’t found an outlet to relieve my stress. Neither has my wife. That stress would definitely start to put a strain our relationship if not addressed. We’re not upset or disappointed in each other. Rather, it’s due to the stress we’re facing individually.

So, in conclusion, I had managed to prepare myself enough theoretically but no matter how much more I could have done, even if I could turn back time, I believe that I would never be prepared enough for parenthood. Parenthood is something we can only prepare better as we experience it. That doesn’t mean that we should not prepare at all. What I meant is that we should prepare ourselves for parenthood to the best of our abilities and understand that without the experience, we can never be fully prepared.

Categories
Personal

One Week Old Dad

Last Saturday, my little bundle of joy was welcomed by his loved ones twelve days ahead of his expected date of arrival. What used to be a home for two, now is for three.

It has been a week since I’ve become a dad to my newborn son. I can feel that my life has started to change, fast. It has been an exciting and interesting week! As much as many would like to hear the woes of becoming a new dad, my experience thus far makes it tough to focus on the woes. The happiness my little bundle of joy has brought me overcomes everything else that bothers me.

I’ve heard of stories from fathers about the feeling when they see the moment their little bundle of joy is born. They have been described to me as “one the best day(s) of their lives”. Some shed tears, some smiled from ear to ear, some screamed in excitement but I haven’t heard any father spoke any negative experience. I always thought, what’s so exciting about seeing a baby being born? It’s just a little human being coming out of his/her mother’s vagina! There’s nothing to be happy or excited about seeing a human being covered in blood and bodily fluid, or so I thought. It was finally my turn.

0122hrs of 18 January 2020, he ‘popped’ out of my wife after a long and hard 42 minutes of deep breaths and pushing. All of a sudden, something hit me. Hard. I found myself smiling hard, hardest I have in my entire life. I felt my heart pound like I sprinted a 100m race with all my might. My legs were jumping up and down like a kid receiving a new toy. My hands reaching out as if a kid asking for candy. Every inch of my body was in hyper-mode! All the experiences shared to me through the words of fathers were understatements. You’d never know the feeling until it’s your turn! It was at that moment I truly understood why people called babies a bundle of joy. Their existence is like a huge dosage of endorphins! It definitely was by far the best day of my life!

My vision was focused on him alone, the background went grey. My hearing only heard his cries while everything else sounded so muffled. The gynaecologist was calling out to me but I only heard her after a few times. It was time. I was asked to cut the umbilical cord. This, I was not prepared for. I thought the doctor would do it. I was nervous. My hands shook. My heart started racing again. Cold sweat ran down the sides of my face. I reached out for the scissors, pointed it as instructed, in the middle of two clamps. My fingers moved and I began to cut. I imagined it like that of cutting the ribbon at an opening ceremony. Except, it was the start of my son’s life and a new chapter of my life. It was that moment when I felt the change, literally like a shift in gear, something shifted imaginarily in my head. “I’m now a dad”, I whispered.

I looked at my wife. She was relieved from the pain, her eyes fidgeting to look at her newborn whose line of sight was blocked by the nurses. I held her hand, kissed her and thanked her for pulling through such a painful experience. We stayed for two nights before getting discharged on Sunday noon.

Leaving the hospital made the “I’m now a parent” moment more real as we walked out of the ward with our newborn in the arm. The days that followed were full of firsts for us. While my wife was occupied with recovery, I pulled my ass which would normally be glued to the sofa up and did all I could to lessen her burden, from helping to nurse, shower our baby, send him to his doctors’ appointments, registering his birth to providing her with the emotional support she needs. She’s gone through so much, my efforts are incomparable.

With so many experiences and moments the past week, I wake up every day, looking forward to spending all the time I can with my family. I will not say that I can’t wait for my son to grow up and see his development. Rather, I would say that I want to be there with my son at every step of his development.

This is an exciting beginning to a new chapter of our lives.

Categories
Personal

New Year, New Decade, New Milestones

Happy new year, dear readers! It’s a brand new year. Last night, we bid farewell to 2019 and ushered in 2020, marking the start of a new decade!

I’ve had this domain for over two years and it has been “under construction” since. I’ve been procrastinating despite having told myself to start posting. So, when else is better if not today? Well, let’s hope it’s not a short-lived resolution like other previous years!

Before I start my new year, I’d like to quickly revisit 2019. 2019 was an eventful year. I achieved so many milestones, making it the most happening year in my life thus far! So, from the beginning of 2019, what exactly did I achieve? In sequence, I finally got my new house (first time being an owner, yay me!), got it renovated, got married to my beautiful wife, had a solemnisation ceremony and two wedding events (totalling to three very eventful days), went for our honeymoon of almost a month in Japan, my favourite country, settled into our new home, found out we’re expecting, got enrolled into Master’s degree, got to know we’re gonna have a baby boy, finished my Specialist Diploma in Sports and Nutrition, went to Japan again for a week this time (did I say it’s my favourite country to visit?), started my Master’s course and ended off the year feeling very accomplished! Wow, that’s a lot of things that I’ve achieved! *Patting myself on my back.

Ushering in the new year, rather than achieving many things, I would like to be more focused. My main resolution/goals for 2020 are to be a good husband/father, get my fitness back up (I slacked too much last year) and to successfully graduate from my Master’s program. Other smaller goals would be to run my personal blog and read at least five books this year. Sounds achievable, doesn’t it? Let’s see by the end of this year, how much I’ve managed to achieve.

In a nutshell, if last year was like surfing big waves, I’d like this year’s waters to be calmer, not particularly small or no waves, but smaller and calmer waves. If that didn’t make sense to you, forget this paragraph, yeah?

How about you? Any new year’s resolutions?