A year of parenthood

Mar 12, 20224 min read

Life has been a blur since having my first child 13 months ago.

I’ve had little bandwidth to document how I’m changing as a result of being a parent. I’m grateful for my brother forcing encouraging me to air my thoughts on our podcast, but I don’t always have my thoughts organized when we record. It’s time to reflect.

My parenthood journey has congregated into a few major themes:

The bad

Exhaustion

It took no time to agree in full with other parents’ accounts of how brutal the first 3-4 months of parenthood are.

Parenting unlocks a new tier of tiredness. I didn’t even know humans could survive on such little sleep for such a long period of time.

The newborn stage nights were the worst of it. I had a true rookie moment at the hospital where I believed he was an exceptionally calm baby. Apparently newborns just don’t need to eat that much, and he evolved into a normal screamy baby when we got home.

Months later, long after we sleep trained him and he started sleeping through the night, I’m still tired. It’s draining to be “on” for so many hours a day, watching him to make sure he doesn’t unplug anything and stick his finger in the outlet, or eat whatever he finds under his crib.

Part of my exhaustion is also self-inflicted. I’ve been subjecting myself to something called “revenge bedtime procrastination” for months. I stay up quite late working on all the projects I no longer have time to work on throughout the day and sleep ~6 hours a night. Months after understanding this phenomenon, I’m no closer to stopping.

My son’s at a great age where I feel like he’s the least tiring he’s ever been, but I’m still worn out. I hear this is nothing compared to later stages of toddler-hood though. Can’t wait!

Anxiety

At the time of this writing, we’re in year 3 of a pandemic. Russia invaded Ukraine a few weeks ago, threatening the rest of the world with nuclear annihilation. The effects of climate change become more obvious every year. Housing prices and college tuitions are completely out of control. Authoritarianism threatens to take over most western democracies.

This is the world my son is growing up in. Whenever I have a good experience, like taking a walk in nature, looking at the ocean, or quietly enjoying a cup of coffee at a coffee shop, I wonder what the world will look like when my son is old enough to do the same.

Maybe the worst of the effects are closer than I think, but I’ll likely be gone when they happen. My son will be here. Feels really dark to think about, but more on this when I talk about hope.

The good

Mindfulness

Right before my son was born, I listened to a lesson on mindfulness in the Waking Up app. In it, the author Sam Harris talks about his daughter mispronouncing “animals” as “aminals”. He doesn’t correct her, instead choosing to enjoy every step of her development.

He points out that someday I’ll pick up my son for the last time, that my time when he’s this small is precious. Picking him up is indeed getting harder and harder. I remember this often: every day is the youngest and smallest he’ll ever be, and whatever stage he’s in is never coming back. It helps me savor the days and be present, even when they’re long and difficult.

Gratitude

One of my greatest fears leading up to parenthood was that something would go wrong during childbirth or that my son would be born with health issues. Despite a fever during labor, a few ER visits his first week of life, and a bad case of reflux, his biggest health problem is a flat-ish head. He’s developing well.

It’s easy to forget to be grateful for things not going wrong. I won’t forget how on-edge I was about worst-case scenarios when I was at the hospital during my wife’s traumatic labor, and how lucky we are that my wife and baby are both safe and healthy.

Joy

My son’s personality is coming out more and more every day. He’s a total jokester. He makes us laugh and laughs a lot himself. He’s outgoing, much more than his mom and dad. I love seeing him excited about meeting new people and try new things (as much as one can during a pandemic). Lately he’s been throwing things on the ground and saying “Uh oh”. It’s still cute for now.

Pretty much every night after he goes to sleep, my wife and I spend a bunch of time watching videos from that day or from when he was younger. Never thought I’d be one of those parents but here I am.

Hope

Without my son, I had a strong chance of becoming a nihilist. The world I described in my section about anxiety felt inevitable. Instead, I have no choice but to believe there’s a chance my son will grow up safely and experience much of the wonder and beauty of life that I have.

I’m going to choose to believe humans can figure out a way out of this mess. And I’ll live like my actions make a difference. I’ll do what I can to model doing good and to teach my son to do the same.


It’s still so early in my parenting journey, and I haven’t even gotten to the stages of life with endless choices about education, values, and discipline. I imagine every year will be a whirlwind of learning more about my son’s personality along with finding more clarity about the kind of person/parent I want to be.

I’m hoping to look forward to it while enjoying where my family is right now.