On being a father (some advice)

In a few short months, I will be a father again. On or around February 14th, we have another baby girl on the way – and she is already making her presence known with her 5am kicks! One of my best friends is also on his way to fatherhood – for the first time – and we were able to met up on a “future” dads weekend this month. Over the weekend, he asked for my top 5 pieces of advice and compiling them has turned out to be a great reminder for me on my own journey into fatherhood again.

  1. Take parental leave – I know not everyone has the luxury of having leave, but if you do have any parental leave, TAKE IT. I hear many working dads talk about how little time they took off when their child came, and about how urgent that one work trip or presentation was at that time in their career. This is such a myopic view of work and your role outside of work. You can and should take time off! One of my favorite perspectives on work is from this New York times article, “Play the role you are given… Play it seriously, and diligently. But recognize that it is only a role, one among many — and not of your design or choice. When you see your duties as various roles you must play, and your life as a collection of these roles, this will alleviate the urgency and anxiety that burden any given task — including, or especially, your career.” You will never get those first few weeks/months with your new child back, so being able to be present, involved, and not boggled down by emails and work to-do lists is a really good thing.
  2. Tune out the noise – there are so many books, blogs, podcasts and people out there with TONS of parenting advice. What they should wear, what they should be doing at what age, if you should co-sleep, how or if…or when! to sleep train, how to discipline and the list goes on and on. Each piece of advice conflicts with the last, and each is given with such passion that makes it challenging to ignore. Ultimately, every kid is unique, and it is your responsibility to figure out what pieces of advice to ignore and which to take as you embark on your journey of fatherhood.
  3. Change all the diapers – especially early, new baby doesn’t need you as much as they need mom, so do the dirty work. Jump up to change diapers, to rock to sleep, and for 5am wake-up calls. Especially if you are working, you don’t get as much time with the baby, so every second you can grab – even doing something non-glamorous – is precious and helps start building the same bond that is ingrained with mom from birth.
  4. Be a good partner – your relationship with your partner changes overnight. It is so easy to let frustration fester in a lack-of-sleep induced craze. If your partner is at home with the baby, they are going crazy from lack of adult interaction, and never-ending diapers and whatever your child needs in a given moment. If you are working, you are running on fumes for important calls and meetings and feeling under-appreciated for aforementioned #3, while providing for your new family. Go out of your way to show appreciation and thankfulness for what your partner is doing – both in words and regular actions (if you can’t think of the last time you did… it has been too long). Emily Oster’s interview with Erza Klein has one of the best reflections on the data around martial happiness – and how it is impacted and evolves with kids.
  5. Be present – with so much less time, it is easy to try to multitask your life. Play with your kid, as you respond to just one more work email. Scroll instagram as you rock your baby. Being constantly connected helps to bring friends and family closer – but also disrupts boundaries between you and your baby. Ditch technology around your kid when you can (trust me, they will notice when you are fully present), and create rituals to leave work at the door as you get home.

These are the 5 pieces of advice I am giving myself as I prepare for daughter number 2 – what is the best advice you have heard? What has been noise you have learned to ignore?

Kids are Terrible for Your Career

Terrible click-bait blog post title (I apologize). Last week right before Father’s Day Business Insider posted an article about Eric Bahn’s tweet storm about how terrible kids are for your career.

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Over the course of eleven tweets, Eric proceeds to share that his kids bring him so much joy despite robbing him of time, sleep, health, and friends. Having been a father now for a little over a year, I agree with a few of his points. For one, kids empirically do strain your marriage in the early years – but leave you closer the older you get. Ezra Klein had a great conversation with Emily Oster on this subject. Kids also do make you way poorer. They are really, really expensive; kids born in 2018 (like Lucy) will cost $233-372k from birth until their high school graduation.

That being said, I want to offer a counterpoint to the assertion that kids are terrible for your career.  Since becoming a father, I have seen my performance as a leader improve in a few ways – and talking to other fathers, they agree! Here’s a few ways that becoming Lucy’s dad has helped me grow as a leader and human.

  1. Understand your value – if you are fortunate enough to have parental leave at your job, you realize that you might be out for a long period of time. As a leader, you have to trust that your team is aligned and empowered to deliver great results without you. Leave can also have an amazing side effect for leaders (if you choose to take it); as you come back, you can let your team continue to operate as they were when you were out. This allows you to step back and understand – was I delivering the most value as a leader?
  2. Prioritization the right work – I can agree with Eric that you have way less time – both for yourself and for your work. That realization can result in you attempting to do exactly what you did before you had kids…OR you can re-assess what are the most important things to get done. Say no to meetings that you don’t need to be in. Let your team do their work without checking in at each step in the process. You will find a healthier more productive you and a more empowered team along the way!
  3. Listen without jumping to conclusions – infants have incredibly simple needs and even more simple ways to communicate those needs. Leaders in the workplace can have the tendency to jump to assumptions of what their team needs without ever listening. And then, they get frustrated when their team complains about their answer. Being a father has taught me to slow down and pay attention to what people are communicating and respond and support them accordingly.
  4. Selflessness – as a parent, you learn to sacrifice pieces of yourself for your child – your time, your money, your relationships. This Chad Knight sculpture of a child being created out of a parent is both beautiful and too real. Beyond becoming less selfish as a parent, I find myself becoming less selfish as a leader – sharing and giving praise and cheering on those around me to become the best versions of themselves.Chad-Knight-Collater.al-6

For me, becoming a father has helped me stop and reflect on how I am showing up in the world, both at work and at home. It’s also taught me to strive to be a more caring, more conscious and less selfish version of myself. Kids are terrible for your career only if you don’t stop to reflect on the change that kids force you into – and how you want to show up in that change.

P.S. I want to acknowledge that my point of view reflects my experience as a father and it’s possibly very different for mothers. There are also plenty of studies that show that kids do have negative impacts on your career, especially for women in the workplace. I’m curious to hear from other fathers and especially mothers on what ways, if any, that having a child has helped you think differently or grow in your workplace.

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Raising Daughters

Since Lucy was born, I have been trying to discover what my role as a Father is in raising a daughter in the world today to be the best version of whomever she wants to become.

As the husband to an amazing woman and as a feminist, I thought I had some perspective on where to start — I want to encourage Lucy to be strong, curious, and empowered girl who believes that she already is more than enough. Some inspiration for me comes from this awesome dad, and more inspiration from all the amazing women out there trailblazing and making the world a better place for Lucy to grow up.

I also am starting to be even more conscious of all the messages that our culture sends girls. This past week, I got the latest Surfer magazine titled Surfing, through Her. A full issue dedicated to woman that charge [if need some translation for “charge” here is a surf dictionary]. Lucy has been waking up at 6am lately, and I have been reading her books when she gets up…so figured — maybe I could read her the new Surfer? At the very least, I figured she would be very entertained by all the colorful photos! Let’s do this!

  • Spread 1 – Oneill Ad of Jordy Smith (male surfer) doing a huge cutback
  • Spread 2 – Billabong Ad of Shaun Manners and Creed McTaggart sharing a wave
  • Spread 3 – Rip Curl Ad of Bethany Hamilton deep in the tube
  • Spread 4 – Vans Ad of Wade Goodall walking with his board
  • Spread 5 – Editor’s note: “In surfing, we’ve historically judged the aquatic talents of a woman in terms of how they measure up to a man’s.”

Maker:0x4c,Date:2018-1-31,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

Two pages later, an ad for surfing in Puerto Rico titled, “Beautiful as ever”. Compared to any woman reading the magazine, I have zero right to be incensed by the first few pages, but I was. Lucy is still happy as a clam sitting on my lap as I quickly flip to more colorful pages and all I can think about is how in a magazine featuring awesome female surfers 3 of the 4 first advertisements are featuring guys (props to Rip Curl for paying attention in their ad placement!), then a reflection that the measuring stick for all female surfers is how well they surf in comparison to men fast followed by a surf ad featuring not an amazing female surfer in Puerto Rico but a model with a seashell tattoo.

The first interview with Layne Beachley, a 7 TIME WORLD CHAMPION, summed up this problem precisely “Most of the time, guys are celebrated for their ability and it doesn’t matter how they look while they’re doing it. They don’t have to have the perfect ass and the perfect abs and the hottest body and the prettiest face to be seen as deserving a good sponsorship.” Layne is talking about the problem that (a) female surfers get less sponsors [see above] and (b) they only get sponsored if they are hot.

I find myself back at my initial question. As a Father raising a daughter in today’s world, how do I best support/empower/encourage her as she continues to grow? What did your fathers do OR what do you wish they had? (seriously, please send me what you think!)

Ending with my favorite Layne quote from the same interview, “When you know who you are, external pressures, judgements and projected opinions don’t seem to matter as much.” In the words of a badass female charger (and Taylor Swift), when you know who you are…haters gonna hate.

On Assuming the Best in Others

Whenever Lucy starts crying, I run through a mental checklist — is she tired? is she hungry? does she have a dirty diaper? is she overstimulated? does she want to be held? I quickly try to quickly assess what is bothering her and then take care of whatever that need is.

I never once assume that something intrinsic to who Lucy is as a baby is what is causing her to cry. The checklist is all external factors and all the “problems” are grounded in what Andi and I need to do for her. Think about it — have you ever blamed a baby for crying?

Lucy’s mood swinging from happy to upset…My first thought is — What did I do / what changed in her environment to cause this?

Although there are some evil people in the world, I generally believe that people are good. But somehow when anyone not a baby is upset, my first thought is not, “I wonder what their day/week has been like leading up to this moment that could have caused this behavior?”

We are *mostly* rational beings, but we all have moments of irrationality. Mine, right now, are at 3am. Lucy is going through sleep regression which has caused her to wake up every hour or two wanting to be held. I don’t blame Lucy for feeling lonely / scared when she wakes up, but instead blame Andi for anything my sleep addled brain can think of (it’s her turn to get up or if only she put Lucy in those pajamas to sleep). And then if Andi gets upset because she definitely hasn’t been able to sleep for more than 1–2 hours either, I go further down the blame spiral. This spiral is all about how her reaction to this situation is driven, not by the fact that she is strung out, but driven by my internal 3am commentary of who she is as a person.

And we don’t just do this to people we love but also to complete strangers. That person that cut you off on the highway (1) isn’t a person; they are an [insert whatever expletive you want here] and (2) they cut you off because they are the devil reincarnate.

Stephen M.R. Covey — ‘We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour.’

How can we start assuming the best in those around us? I love the books Crucial Conversations and Tools of Titans because they have some practical advice for these moments. Here is some of theirs, mixed with my own:

  1. Deep breathing when the spiral is starting
  2. Start with heart — what do I really want right now?
  3. Notice the role that you play in the stories you are telling — When I’m driving, do I subconsciously speed up to keep people from passing causing them to cut me off?
  4. Think and then genuinely wish the other person is happy!

On Being Present

Over the past week, I have been able to take a bit more of my paternity leave to hang out with Andi and Lucy. Lucy is now almost 4 months old and is incredibly aware of everything going on around her — smiling when you smile, “talking” out-loud (think baby dolphin mixed with monkey) and looking with great interest at anything you are doing.

I started to notice over the past week that every-time my phone was in my hand, Lucy would immediately look at the phone. After a while, if I was holding her and still looking at my phone, she would start to cry.

The first time it happened, I brushed it off — she just wants attention and the fact that I didn’t give it to her right now was frustrating to her. The next time and then the next, it dawned on me. How many times have I given up the opportunity to have a real connection for scrolling through my phone?

We go to dinner with a friend, we walk down the street, we call our mom, we have a meeting or we rock our child to sleep all the while only giving half of our attention to the person right in front of us. And this action is self perpetuating — once you are no longer present, those around you also stop being present too. Amazing that this behavior now is just normal; it took my 4 month old daughter to tell me that I was being rude!

Reality of Modern Society — New Yorker cartoon by Liam Francis Walsh

Luke recently recommended Ezra Klein’s podcast “Is modern society making us depressed?” (answer, yes and definitely worth a listen!) as we were talking about this issue. The salient point being that we have systematically alienated ourselves from others to the severe detriment of our mental health.

Just saying “be present” doesn’t seem to fix the issue so here are 5 actions that I am doing to be more present for Lucy and those around me:

  1. Delete social media apps off phone (don’t need to go cold turkey, but easy to avoid scrolling Instagram if you have to open your laptop to view)
  2. Connect daily with one person that I normally wouldn’t speak too
  3. Stop checking my phone when I wake up (this one has been incredibly hard!)
  4. Reflect daily on three specific things I am thankful for
  5. Clear time in my day to slow down and enjoy the little things. Which right now is making silly faces at my daughter and discovering her laugh!