Adjusting to my new role as primary care provider for our little one has been an emotional adventure. When we first hatched the plan for me to cut back my hours so I could take on care I thought about all the wonderful things I could share with our daughter – and I glossed over any issues I thought I might have about work, my value to the household, and my ‘career’ (if you could call the path I’m on a ‘career’).
Adjusting away from work has been the biggest challenge. In order to juggle the bills I still need to bring in a bit of cash each month – this means design consulting for a few clients doing anywhere from 10-20 hours of work a week, depending on who’s paying and what I’m doing. Squeaking out those 10-20 hours has been challenging – and its been hard not to say ‘NO!’ when I see the work piling up and I have ready clients willing to pay for it to get done. Occasionally I’ll cram in a busy busy week – but the price is little time for solo rides and runs – and more time in front of the computer feeling guilty that I’m neglecting our little one as she plays in the office (we’ve wondered if baby gear can be an itemized business expense?).
It has taken a good few months – but I’m finally finding ways to let go of the go-go world I used to live in. Homes are still being built, good people are doing good design, and the world goes on – without me. I’ve jumped from the plane/train/car riding laptop toting cellphone ringing design/sales consultant to a much different world – and the deceleration has caused me some whiplash.
Letting go of the $$ was the first challenge. Realizing how much child care is worth (through interviewing nanny agencies and shopping for day care) put me a bit more at ease not being an ‘equal’ financial partner in our household. The math works out that even if I was bringing in my old salary – I’d be giving most of it up just for someone to care for our little one. Investing time, not cash, is what I’ve come to love about being a new parent. Little ones require such simple things – but the things that we bring to our little one’s lives mirror our values. Giving up on ‘making a living’ to taking care of a living has been a shift. Value is relative.
Letting go of working with and designing / solving problems for people is something I have had the hardest time working through. The connections to good people doing good work is what drove most of my projects – and without that creative outlet there are days that I feel a bit empty. I’ve been working through this by applying my energies to projects around the house or on acquiring skills so I can produce bike related gear – all the while including our little one as much as possible in my everyday world. Dishes, cooking, bike repair, laundry, errands – the everyday. Transitioning from a lead designer and team player on complex projects to ‘daddy day care’ is a work in progress. Most days are wonderful – but there are days, especially just prior to sending off a batch of work, that are mental challenges.
To help reorient my compass and ease my deceleration I’ve tried to embrace the slow, the everyday, the wonder of the moment. It seems I was much better at this when it was an option for me – as a short lived student of Zen I found delight in trying to blend the everyday into my hectic life. Now that I have the time to embrace ‘now’ – I have found it can be stifling and hard to wrap one’s head around.
This week has been different. It seems that the parachute may have finally opened and my body recovering from the sudden deceleration before touching ground. While drifting a bit in the wind I’m eager to get my feet on the ground and explore. Pacing myself to the rhythm of our little one has opened a new perspective on the world.
Beach sand never felt, nor looked so interesting. Grass – its texture on the skin is a joy under the blue blue sky and early summer sun. Loons can swim under water a surprising length of time. Cottonwood blossoms make it snow in June. Park swings are relaxing and exhilarating. Tree houses still inspire this boy’s sense of adventure.
Pedaling slowly also has its advantages (aside from not breaking a sweat) – dew on the leaves glisten, frogs croak at sunset, waves ripple in pattern, clouds become dragons and mountains and birds, rain falls softly on the forest above – and the little one sleeps and dreams of a perfect world, a perfect day, of discovery and of life to come.