Shuffling Priorities As A New Dad

 In Fatherhood, Lifestyle, Living, Resources

After six years of hard work, I was proud of my lawn.  The grass was green and full.  The flowers bloomed at the right time, in the right place, and in the right colors.  At this point, all I had to do was maintain all of the work that had gone into it.

When we had twins in August, I forgot to water the grass as much.  By October, I hadn’t reseeded my lawn.  I still needed to buy mums and pumpkins and hay bales for the front porch.  I desperately needed to take a few hours alone and get these things done.  I explained this dilemma to my wife, who stayed home with our seven week old twins each day, while I worked 12 hour days as a teacher and coach.

But she didn’t seem to understand.  I explained that I always do these things in the fall, and that I was falling behind.  She still didn’t get it.  I explained how the cool weather is good for the new grass because they can establish roots before winter.  She didn’t budge.

It turned out that she understood exactly what I was saying.  In fact, she understood it better than I did.  I was basically saying something like, “The lawn is my top priority, so that’s where I need to devote my time.”  On the other hand, my wife’s daily actions said, “I put all of my time and effort into the babies, because they’re my top priority.”

I knew her argument was stronger than mine, but still, this was my routine for the past six years we’ve lived in our house.  I knew our twins were most important, but what about the yard?  I blocked out her second valid argument, which went something like, “The lawn will be taken care of eventually.  It’s not going anywhere”, because it only sense to a logical, rational, clear-headed person.  That was not me at the time.

Yes, the lawn survived.

Yes, the mums and pumpkins and hay bales found their way to our front porch.

No, my priorities did not change.

Yes, this continued to cause issues in our home.

Whenever the babies were awake, we were with them and fully engaged, being the best parents we could possibly be.  Every minute spent with them was truly quality time.

But once they fell asleep, I shifted gears.

I would wake up at ungodly hours in the morning to take care of matters that were important to me.  I would clean and organize our basement from 5-7 on a Saturday, before the babies woke up.  I would do dinner prep at 4:30 in the morning before leaving for work.  I would be nothing but productive during naptime.  No one could accuse of me of not using my time wisely.

But all of this was just a cover for the fact that I still hadn’t made my wife and twins my number one priority.  I was trying to have it all and it was slowly breaking me down.

I’ve never been a control freak.  No, seriously.  I mean it.  I just thrive on organization and structure.  But this was the hardest lesson I had to learn.  I knew what I had to do, but I couldn’t do it.  Or I wouldn’t do it.

Eventually, I became downright sick of myself.  I was obsessed with my “me time” and felt robbed when they’d nap 15 minutes less than what I had expected.  Yes, I would feel temporary resentment towards my smiling six month old son, just for waking up a little early.  Definitely not my proudest moment.

So I let it go.  Kind of.

That winter, the salt on my car lingered a little longer than I would have liked, but eventually I found time to wash it.  The basement wasn’t as organized, but the kids and I read lots of new books. There was a still a pile of leaves in a corner of the backyard, but we went on lots of walks when the weather warmed up.

Once I rearranged my priorities, things became a little easier.  I no longer let my to-do list hang over my head.  I didn’t feel weighed down by the messy state of the garage.  I was eager to go on day trips, even though it meant I wouldn’t be doing stuff while they napped.

I still fall into my old ways from time to time, but I know that things will be taken care of eventually.

Three years later, my lawn is still in pretty good shape, but my relationship with my wife and kids has never been better.

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