Guest Post by Ryan Burnham Founder of Day by Day Dad.
I didn’t think I would be a father at any point throughout my twenties. There were times when I considered it, but it was never something I was certain about. I am privileged to have come from a family who chose me. By that I mean, I was adopted at 3 months old and so I know my parents were certain they wanted a child. They did wait eight long years on a waiting list before getting the call that they could adopt me.
I have always enjoyed being around children in small doses but wondered how I would be as a father. My father is an incredible man. He came from a humble family and worked hard his entire life. He never climbed the corporate ladder but that didn’t deter him. He was the protector and the provider. That instilled specific values in me that I see coming through today. But, like every father, he wanted the best for me and always wanted to give me every opportunity to live a better life than he was able to. I’m incredibly fortunate to have parents who care for me the way they do. When my wife and I decided it was time to have children, it came with careful deliberation and conversation. My biggest worry was not being able to provide for my children physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Now that my daughter is here and is almost two months old, I know that I have to adapt my life according to her needs. I know that it will take an effort to provide for her. The astonishing part, to me anyway, is how my mindset and body have quickly adapted to being able to provide for her anytime she needs it. Here’s how my life has changed since becoming a dad.
Yes, I’m a millennial. I used to hate that term because it carried with it a stigma of entitlement and laziness. I’ve come to use both of those assumptions as drivers to be better; to prove to myself that generalizations need not apply. I want to make sure my daughter embraces that mentality as well. Enough griping.
The advent of the technological revolution we’ve been privy to in the last 30 years has brought with it a level of convenience that we’ve never seen before. With just the sound of my voice or a cursory movement of my thumbs, I can call up any information that I need. I can find out what foods my dogs can eat, the perfect water temperature for a bath, etc. It has also given me access to tons of information that gives me the ability to be better educated about the raising of my daughter. As uncle Ben said, “with great power, comes great responsibility.” It’s far too easy to rely on all of these sources of information. I have been guilty in the past of being the first to jump on my phone to look up some bit of information that I’ve been pondering. So quick to “Google” something.
A millennial dad has access to information 24/7 and at his fingertips. I constantly remind myself to focus on my instincts first and foremost. Our species has evolved over millions of years and that evolution has included our instincts. I’ve come to learn to trust mine. When I’m unsure though, I certainly turn to sources online. As I was taught during my time in University, I don’t just rely on a single source. I do use some critical thinking when consulting any information online.
I am someone who thrives when my day has structure. It is far too easy to let the day slip away by sitting in front of the television or doing things that I would prefer to do rather than what I should be doing. Before becoming a dad, I had tried several times to create a routine for myself. My focus was mainly on the mornings in order to start the day off on the right foot. The hardest part was setting a time when I would get to bed so that I could wake up refreshed and ready to conquer my morning routine.
Having a baby has changed that. Although she is still too young to have a real routine, she does wake up between 4 and 5 in the morning. I’ve come to embrace that time as my new time to wake up. It gives me the opportunity to relieve my wife of her duties and take time with my daughter. I also get the opportunity to share my daily routine with her. We spend time reading, working out and then sipping coffee while writing or planning for the future of my podcast.
Family Time, Couple Time, Alone Time
Managing time has been the most difficult part. Since my daughter is not old enough for a routine, she gets to dictate the structure of the day. That can be trying if you look at it in a negative light. It’s easy to get lost in the fact that you didn’t get to some task today before she woke up. Or that the relaxing evening you had planned was botched because she wouldn’t fall asleep when you want her to. It isn’t easy. I have to remind myself of how important it is to spend time with her. Even when she won’t fall asleep when I’d like her to or if she’s asleep in my arms and I can’t put her down. These are moments I will cherish and smile about in years to come.
Having a baby also means that you have to adjust the rest of your life. My wife and I used to spend most evenings together watching our favorite television shows. Now, those evenings include spending time with the baby and soothing her. It’s easy to focus on the time together that we’ve lost. I have to remind myself that those moments are not lost. We just have to make adjustments so that we do spend time together and are truly present in those moments.
My time alone has come to consist of my morning workouts, the times when I’m working and when I take care of chores around the house like yardwork. I’ve come to embrace the change rather than stress about it. I know that these changes will make me a better person and a better father. I also know that as she gets older, things will continue to change and evolve.
Change of Mindset
I’ve generally been an optimistic person throughout most of my life. We all have times where we get down on ourselves for different reasons. In recent years, I’ve discovered a number of authors who have helped me focus on keeping the right mindset. Meditation and staying fit have helped too.
Unforeseen or unplanned changes to your routine and life generally take a toll on your mindset. I know that’s the case for me. I have found myself getting frustrated at times when my daughter won’t go to sleep. I have to take a step back and think about why I’m getting frustrated. Here I am, trying to impose my will on an infant who is simply relying on her instincts to live. I have had to remind myself that I need to change my mindset to remain positive and realistic. That has not only helped me in the present moment but will surely help me as my daughter grows up.
So, how has my life changed since becoming a father?
Well, it’s changed in a myriad of ways that I can only begin to describe. You know what, though? I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my wife, my dogs and our families. When we got each of our dogs, I didn’t think I could love anything more than I love them. I wondered if I would feel the same when my daughter was born. Truthfully, it was hard to really fall in love with her before she was born.
Today, 8 weeks after she was born, I can say that my heart grew two sizes the second I saw her. And, somehow, it continues to grow daily. I have found a new level of appreciation for each and every moment with her, with my wife, with our dogs, and with our families. I look forward to waking up each day to discover how she’s grown and developed. I look back on the last 32 years with fondness and I know that I was simply working toward becoming the best father that I can be.