Reflections on parenthood: one year in...

Our son recently had his first birthday, marking a milestone that I felt was worth reflecting upon. In some ways, the past twelve months have felt like five years, despite all of the talk about kids growing up so fast. In other ways, it's also been pretty fulfilling.

The best part of being a parent is seeing our son go through the fascinating stages of childhood development: beginning as a helpless, chubby little thing, but soon figuring out how to sit up, crawl, walk, and eventually, say a few words. Folks who know me also know that I generally haven't been a 'kid person', but things are completely different when it's your own. He gets so excited whenever he learns to do something new that it's infectious, and lasts for weeks afterwards. I've avoided being that annoying parent on Facebook, but the family's been receiving their regular dose of baby pics and videos.

As noted in a previous post, we've also discovered that we have a very active baby. As he's stumbled upon new modes of locomotion, he's become less-and-less interested in sitting still in his high-chair, stroller, or car seat. We're currently visiting my family in Canada, and I don't think that the grandparents quite realized how tiring it can be to follow him around for hours, as he tries to pull on everything, whether nailed down or not. You very quickly realize how much more effort this takes when you're visiting a non-baby-proofed home.

In retrospect, this is the aspect of parenthood that I was least prepared for: the complete inability to accomplish anything while our son is awake. On a typical weekday, the baby goes to bed sometime between 7 - 8:30 pm. By the time we've cooked dinner and cleaned up, it's easily 10. I know that many folks try to get in a few hours of work before bedtime, but sadly, I've been terrible at doing this. On a good night, my gf and I get in a 30 - 60 minutes of Netflix before one of us passes out. This has also had a pretty serious impact on my fitness routine and, sadly, I've begun to fall into 'dad bod' territory.

I work with several new parents and, from our discussions, I know that I'm not alone. We all feel the challenge of working in positions with semi-frequent spikes in workload and we all have a hard time taking our work home with us. As I've lamented before, living in the Bay Area necessitates existing in a two-income household, and I have no idea how some people can maintain the work demands of a postdoc or academic position without some form of extra-party solution [1]. I know that having local family available to take care of the baby once-in-a-while would make a huge difference for us: we've only hired the services of a babysitter once in the past 12 months, and it was wonderful.

We knew that having a kid would be a life-changing event. But, depending on where you live and your support situation, I think that it can be far more 'life-changing' than expected. Regardless, things are looking up, and our son seems to be falling asleep a little bit easier and sleeping a little longer (those 5:30 am mornings were awful). 'Fingers-crossed', but in a few more months he may actually be able to tell us what he wants, leading to fewer struggles to make him happy.

Now our attention has shifted from simply keeping him alive to seriously thinking about the future: if San Francisco and its surroundings continue on their current course, no reasonable amount of two-person income may get us to where we want to be in terms of living conditions, and unfortunately, we may have to begin considering alternatives.

[1] One extra-party solution that I've seen quite regularly is that of the 'au-pair' babysitter. This requires providing room-and-board, so it's not doable without a multi-bedroom house or condo. But even if we had the appropriate conditions, I'm not sure how I'd feel about the whole thing in general. You feel bad enough sending your kid to daycare without having a "substitute mom" around 14 hours a day.