I was told countless times that fatherhood would change my life. Whenever I pressed people on how, the answers were vague. I am still trying to sort out the particulars that go beyond the banal or obvious.
The most notable phenomenon I’ve experienced is an elastic sense of time. Parents often say that the kids grow up faster than you expect, but you don’t often hear that, while parts of life speed up to an alarming degree, others slow down. My youngest just turned 5 months old. I have this odd feeling that I have been looking after a near-5-month-old for a time period approximate to the Pleistocene, as though she hasn’t aged other than growing larger and less grumpy. This is an illusion, of course, and I realized it when I stumbled across a fossil from another era: an N-size diaper. I barely remember when my older daughter, 2 this June, was her age. She seems to exist in a state of the perpetual present — where she is now is where she has always been.
The sense of elastic time is compounded because both children appear to be much happier when they are outside and both require an extraordinary amount of attention. This means there are large periods of any day I spend with them when I’m doing nothing other than following them around a field, making sure the older one doesn’t get eaten by eagles or consume a clutch of spiky flora she collected the moment I blinked, and taking care that the younger one has a shaking rattle to admire and plenty of milk to drink. No cellphones. No movies. No email. No music. No chopping carrots. Nothing. We are a family in field. The hours melt away.
As far as the effects of fatherhood on my own personality, it’s hard to say. I have amassed a pretty good set of power tools lately and find myself daydreaming about garden supplies. My wife claims this is a recent development, although I’m not sure. Otherwise, my collecting impulse, as seen in a tendency to amass vinyl records, rare teas and volumes of curious and forgotten lore, has waned considerably and has been, in the case of records, extinguished.
How does this affect my work life? I think I’m much more relaxed coming into the office after a day spent among the daffodils. I’m probably better rested — I am among the fortunate few who sleep longer hours now that I have children and am less distracted by nightlife and Netflix. And I think what I do accords with what I’ve experienced with fatherhood: the drive to simplify so that I can focus on the fundamentals. I want to be free of distraction in order to experience what is truly significant. And that, for me, has been a lesson in editing and writing and matters more important as my daughters navigate the joys and dangers of the life forever before them.
Contact Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org