No, not at all. It all stays the same. It all stays this perfect little no-obligation-no-responsibility world that we all live in. It all stays the same because miraculously kids just arrive and take care of themselves. So I still get to go out until 2 a.m, sleep until 12, not worry about work because I’ll always find another job and I can spend my money however I want to. I still shop at Lacoste and not worry and still look amazing. And if I get kicked out of my house, I’ll move in with a friend. More importantly, I can sit in the bathroom as long as I want in peace.
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP (that’s how my alarm sounds) or its BABA BABA BABA – MILK! (that’s how my daughter would demand at that golden 2 a.m. hour while my lovely but crazy wife is travelling yet again). And, then I wake up – wide awake – overwhelmed with ambition and elation and then pop – the balloon just shrivels up and drops to the floor (oh wait, I better pick that up before my kid puts it in her mouth!).
I wrote this when my oldest, Saffiya, was just over 2 years old while we were in Qatar. And, I remember writing it, sitting wide awake one evening after a friend of mine had called to see about atleast being able to go out just this once (it was a very trivial attempt because he knows all too well what the answer will be – after I breathe a long sigh into the phone and tell him “Sorry habibi, I’m home for the night”).
I remember those days. I remember that freedom of just living and working and being able to buy my apartments back home and feeling so proud but also with little obligation in where I was. Remember when you could buy anything you wanted? Remember when it was no issue to decide to go somewhere when you had time off? How easy it was to hang out with friends or at the very least, sleep the weekend away?
Then I had a child. All of that happiness and joy and whatever else shows up turns into the craziest of nightmares. What do I do with this thing? She keeps moving? She is not moving. Is she cold? No, she’s hot. Should I have gotten my medical degree instead? Wife is convinced she has a tumor and needs to stop looking at Google. Why do we keep checking on her to make sure she is breathing? When does my wife stop looking like the living-dead? When was the last time I showered? Do I really need to be concerned with formula? They want me to put the thermometer where?
Why is it so damn difficult to adjust? I thought it was all suppose to be natural and I would be so happy. We would be this picture perfect family you see on postcards skiing in the Alps, teaching their genius child to play piano, watching them graduate and win the Nobel Peace Prize. But it wasn’t. In fact, it sucked. I was a stay at home dad (for the most part at this time – working nights a few days a week), watching my wife over the first 2 years of our first daughters’ birth become more and more miserable in a position at her work that she hated (Hamdoola that changed!). She retreated, didn’t feel like a mom or a wife. I was absorbing every part of parenthood because that was my obligation. But even more than that, I was starting to feel that I was losing me. I was educated. I was social. I had a life and within 9 months – it just evaporated. I became responsible for this little thing and this wasn’t going away.
Where was my wife? Where did that relationship that was so passionate and loving and fun go to? My money revolved around keeping my previously mentioned apartments maintained and buying pampers. And the last time I slept in past 7 a.m. was when my wife was off work and I was granted a pitiful reprieve. And, for heavens sakes, do I even own a shirt anymore that doesn’t have some unknown stain or toddler ‘fluid’ discolouring it? Does this child understand what Lacoste actually costs?!?!
I dropped into an abyss during this time. Like a rabbit hole that never ended and there was no way to dig myself out. We made this choice the second we conceived – whether we planned on it as early as we had thought or not- that was our choice.
Thankfully, my wife saw the light and ‘regained consciousness’. And she finally quit looking like she was ready to jump off a building at any time (and if truth be told, when we did talk about this, she was thinking the same thing about me).
We made this choice of dropping into the abyss. But one thing I found out is that the adjustment just plain sucks. That adjustment, whether its 6 days or 2 years, that adjustment is probably one of the worst things on the planet when you have to pull yourself apart to give everything you are to someone else – and it’s not a spouse kind of pulling apart – its literally pulling a part of your soul away. That adjustment starts to come when you would literally die to save your child and not some love song saying it – that you would wish to God to give whatever pain they feel at that moment over to you and think of any way in your mind to pull it from them – that your life would end if anything ever happened to them. That was the adjustment. That was finding my way through the rabbit hole.
To this day, I have to make 5000 more choices every day than I ever did before (especially because my simple-going-out-having-fun mind rarely had more than 2 a day). I also found a lot of joy in things that I found completely ridiculous (and most other men in this part of the world still find a bit stupid).
I make the choice to spend time with my child (now children). I find ways that is going to excite them or make them learn. I want to know what they are thinking. I really do find humor trying to find a shirt without as many stains (and it certainly isn’t Lacoste as regularly anymore). I pride myself on knowing exactly which diapers are the absolute best for a newborn or a toddler. I also know what each cough means. I know that when she tells me she loves me out of nowhere, I know that this tiny little child has more meaning into those 3 garbled words than anyone in my lifetime will ever be able to express.
I also know that we are stronger as a family unit. I still miss my wife and trying to carve out time where it’s just us and we can actually have a conversation is now becoming a well timed appointment. But, I’m good with that. I adjusted. And dads that don’t, its too bad. Because this is really worth it. This is really what it’s about. Spending those extra 2 minutes with your child in whatever way and whatever chunks that is, is actually kind of self-appreciating because you actually get to say you had a hand in it (unless your child turns out to be a serial killer – then you might want to reconsider).
So yes, life changes after you have kids. I’m not going to give you a cliche and tell you “Ohhhhh, it only gets better and its all puppies and kittens”. But I will say, there are times when you would give your left ‘whatever’ to keep this memory alive. There are times when you would wish to forget it. There is more love than you will ever experience in a lifetime and more frustration than you ever signed up for. And those puppies grow up and bite and those kitten teeth can be like razor blades down your arm.
But you get an opportunity to choose to make this change in direction from whatever path you had originally thought you were on, into something even better.
One last thought, find that Lacoste shirt you love and just turn it into the burping cloth while you still can (trust me!)- it’s a lot easier to accept when you just rip that bandaid straight off.