Tuesday, January 30, 2018

1 yr of parenthood

My son is almost 1 year old now and we had a small celebration over the past weekend with family. I thought it's a great time for me to reflect on life as a parent in the past year or so. Here are some thoughts about it:

1) Loss of control of personal time

When we go from one stage of life to another, there will bound to be inevitable changes. From singlehood to dating couple, to married couple and eventually to parents...all these are major milestones in life. As a married person without a kid, I think it's basically an extension of singlehood. I had been in that phase for a very long time and had grown used to doing my own things, and spending time with my wife. With a kid in tow, all the energy and attention is now focused on the kid. There is very little personal time. Whatever time there is, usually it's spent resting or just doing some low energy work like watching tv.

Took my some time to get used to the new routine. There's even some frustration built up in the earlier part of the year when the baby is just born. I think a huge part of that frustration comes from the transition in roles from a husband to a father. I'm glad that phase is over, but I guess it can be a root cause for depression episode. The feeling is like you have things to do and yet the baby still refused to sleep or eat or just disrupts your flow.

How I got over it is to live in the present. Once you have a time limit in baby activities, like wanting to have only 30 min to tuck the baby to sleep, or 15 mins to feed the baby, the frustration builds up. It's just not going to be that structured anymore.

2) Introduction of randomness to life

Having a structured life means there is less randomness involved. Day to day living becomes very routinized and there's not much surprises or shock. Without randomness, my mood is just a flatline; there's no extreme unhappiness or extreme happiness. Is that a good life?

With a baby, everything is turned inside out, upside down. You are reading a book, quietly enjoying a cup of tea. Suddenly you hear a wail and you look around and see the baby had fallen. OR you are tired from a day's work, wanting to just have dinner and go to bed early. Suddenly the baby crawls over and hugs your leg, tried saying dada and gives you a megawatt smile. All your tiredness and fatigue instantly vanished.

I'm not saying structured life isn't good and a life full of randomness is bad. I'm just noting the difference before and after baby. I think having a structured life as baseline is good psychologically. You can't keep on doing greater things if you can't be sure whether there is a roof over your head or wondering whether you'll have something to eat for dinner. Upon that structured life, build in some randomness to it to disrupt your life, to jolt it out of becoming a living dead.

Mindfulness helps me in handling the downside of the randomness, those disruptions to my flow or those sudden rush to settle the wailing baby. Just concentrate on the task at hand and don't think of putting a time limit to the task. As for the upside of randomness, I'm enjoying every little moment simply by observing the little developments that is happening to my baby. That's how I handle the randomness.

3) Changes in life reveals character

I think I'm a better person after being a father. For one, I'm much more patient. I thought I'm already very patient but apparently that's just a self limiting belief. That, combined with the new perspective that every one started off as a cute baby, makes me infinitely more patience with my students. So that's something good that spills over.

I also realised that I have a lot of love to give. I thought I'm the deadpan emotionless engineer kind of person, but I'm surprised that I feel chirpier and a little crazy when I see my baby. I think my wife is also surprised how come her husband is like that. Now when I see a baby while outside, I'll just shout out to my wife and perhaps make some funny noise to make the baby smile. Little things like these makes me realise I'm happier with a kid than not.

I already had the epiphany that money is not the most important thing in my life way before being a parent. Now, that idea is reinforced further. It was unheard of for me to put aside time for family, because as a self employed that means I will lose income. I wasn't as shocked that I did that, but more of how I didn't even think twice about it. And of course, there's always things to buy weekly and monthly, like diapers and milk powder and such. While I try to take advantage of discounts and all, generally I don't really bother about the increased expenses. That sounds sacrilegious as a financial blogger haha

4) Practicality trumps over idealism

There's a lot of fantasy involved when rearing a child. Firstly, I thought I wanted to initiate a rule that they should not be anyway near hand phones and tablets. There's not happening. It's a war of attrition out there to see who have more energy. Sometimes I'm so tired and drained out, that switching on a tablet and letting my baby listening to some songs is a good way to distract him. At least I'm not using the tablet while feeding him. Yet.

Secondly, I don't want him to sleep in those baby sarong; those automatic vibrating net that the baby sleeps in so that he can sleep longer. I thought it's dangerous and not needed. But I caved in eventually and my life is much better because of it.

Those are the battles that I had lost over practicality. But there are some that I won, at least up to today. I didn't want a pram, and I don't have it. I didn't want to buy him excessive stuffs, so most of my things are hand me downs. Probably only bought him 1 or 2 pieces of clothings. The rest, like the baby cot, clothes, toys, books, containers...all these are hand me downs. 

I think the issue here is that we can read all the books that you want, but until you actually do the deed, you don't know shit. Be open minded and get ready to change when the facts change.

5) My zen master

I'm a disciple of my zen master. Who is he, you ask? It's my son! I've learnt so much about life from him. Here's a few lessons:

This is back a few months ago

a) How to let go: He shits even in his sleep, you try letting go while lying down.
b) Move on from set backs by look forward: He knocks his head and cries, but when a toy comes along, he stops crying and starts playing and enjoying himself
c) Never hold grudges: I knocked his head, he cries. I mock 'throw' him up and he giggles. I don't ever think he hold grudges
d) Focus on humans relationships, not material goods: I'm very proud that between a tablet and humans, he chose humans. At least for now
e) Communicate without language: A look on the eye, a smile, a hand to hold, a warm heart to beat. That's all. You don't even need to speak a single word.

Overall, it was the best thing that happened to me. Yet I wouldn't wish I have a kid earlier. Why? Everything that happened, happened for the best. I don't think I'll be that ready for the kid until now. I could be a very kan cheong parent that will relocate the entire family to move to a property near Bishan in order to secure a great primary school for the kid. But now? I'm too chill about this. Once upon a time, I'll be happy that there's no genetic defects and the baby is born healthily.

Let me not forget that simple contentment.


Singapore Man of Leisure said...


You are having fun!

la papillion said...


My happiness level is certainly up :)

Anonymous said...

The baby look GG

la papillion said...

Hi anonymous,


Patty said...

Lemme introduce you to this reality series called "Terrible Two". And it's sequel "Terrible Three" and "Terrible Four". Tiagong the sequels is many many and some people get so addicted they go back and re-watch everything from start.

But I can tell you for sure that you end up being a much better person at the end of each season. Still... some people don't count the ability to say "fuck-it" and "si geena" as an achievement. But I really do. ;)

la papillion said...

Hi Pat ge,

Wah, sounds like it's a must watch for me :)

I know what you mean about being a better person! I feel I already am! haha