I saw this coming. When I married my wife in 2014, I tucked this into my vows: “I promise that of all the big ideas or big master plans I come up with, we will follow through on at least half of them.” My wife and I are ambitious people. We take a lot of pride in taking on a lot of life. It shows up in our travel plans, our work schedules, our dietary challenges, our hobbies, and our commitment to spending time with family and friends.
But, something’s changed recently. Free time is abbreviated and we orbit around a new gravitational pull. The change is our bright-eyed baby boy. He’s about halfway through his first trip around the sun, meanwhile his parents are trying to live between two worlds. The Before Child, or BC-era Rae and Ty are trying to keep up with the Child Era Rae and Ty, and it’s…well, it’s tough.
The boy is great. Raising him is, and has been, an incredible experience. Rae and I have so much joy and pride in parenting such a beautiful happy child. Some of the greatest moments of my day are watching him get excited when he sees his mother come home, watching him watch his hands move, or seeing the wonderment in his eyes when I move my hands through the air like a jellyfish drifting through the ocean. Our mistakes thus far haven’t had anything to do with him. They’ve had to do with us wanting to stay superhuman.
I like proving people wrong. No, it’s more than that. I need to prove people wrong. I love doing what you either think I shouldn’t or can’t do. For instance, in growing up with an alcoholic, drug-addicted father, I became strictly drug- and alcohol-free for the first quarter century of my life. I’d intentionally listen to music that others wouldn’t suspect from me, because I hated being stereotyped. “Wait, I’m the only person at my company from my college?” Fine, I’ll be ten times better at my job than kids who went to Yale and prestigious school X. I’ve done demanding dietary resets during software go-lives at my company (notorious for all the free sugary, fattening sweets they offer at onsite support centers). “Oh, I’m supposed to have a skinny-fat dad-bod now?” I started working with a personal trainer 4 days after my son was born.
I doubt my method for getting me to do things is healthy or well-adjusted. But I’ve learned to work within the framework. So as my wife’s pregnancy was winding down, the idea that she would need to put her career on hold or that either of us would need to quit our jobs sounded like a challenge. “Maybe other people have had troubles with it,” I thought. “But Rae and I can do this if we plan it out.” We can raise our son, get into the best shape of our lives, and continue to grow our careers all at once.
So technically, we’re doing all of those things. By Memorial Day this year, I was in the best overall shape I’ve been in since I was 19 years old. My wife completed coaching certification, got back to work, got back into the gym, and we’re both back to full-time work and full-time child-rearing. But it doesn’t feel quite like we’re accomplishing anything.
I had this grand ol plan that I’d start developing a fiction novel outline over the course of the 12 months between my 33rd and 34th birthday. 3 months into it, and I’m essentially still on step one. Even this blog was intended to be a weekly exercise…or bi-weekly at least. I told myself I wouldn’t take on too much new work at my job, yet I am in a new leadership position on my team, and I’m implementing a new (to me) software application. Why, Tylor? Why?
Rae is right in the thick of it too. She went from comfortably not traveling and wrapping up work at 4 pm each day to getting thrown on back-to-back traveling trips and late nights and weekends in the office fixing other people’s mistakes. And my patience about it has worn thinner and thinner, to the point I get irrationally upset on her behalf. While she is powering through, I want to yell at the people keeping her at the office or on the road. I see my wife nearly every night and yet I miss her all the time. My friends, we are learning our limits.
We listened to a podcast recently from a couple who are going through basically the same things we are. The podcaster (?) Rachel summed it up nicely: you have to say no. Oddly enough we listened to this podcast a day before we took our young boy to his first Major League Baseball game, only for him to get overstimulated and scream like we’ve never heard before. He then had belly issues, wouldn’t eat, and before you know it we’ve missed 7 innings and our family wonders if they’ve lost us for good. Too much. We’re trying to do too much! But we didn’t want to say no to our family. We want to be superhuman.
My wife is thoughtful and always wants to give everyone her best self. She doesn’t want to let people down, and rarely (if ever) does. I’m much more self-centered than my wife. Saying no to others isn’t too hard for me. I did it to drugs and alcohol (thanks D.A.R.E and addict father), I’ve said goodbye to Facebook months ago… Basically, I can turn away from things. But the uncomfortable area to navigate is our careers. How do I say no to a demanding job that I usually enjoy and get paid pretty well to perform? That’s been the hardest part, and has required the most creativity.
I’ve managed to get involved with projects that don’t require a ton of travel, and have been able to find creative solutions for the ones that do. I also have accepted that while my target job performance is here (I have my right hand pretty high), what I am able to practically give is about here (left hand is slightly lower than my right, but still impressively high in the air). I have to fit 55 hours of work into 45, rather than fit 70 into 55. I’ll probably get a “he’s doing well, but this could’ve been better,” type feedback from some of my peers, but I have to accept it. As the evil corporate couple HHH and Stephanie McMahon would tell Daniel Bryan, I should be proud to be a B+ player right now. Solid B+.
So the next few weeks will involve really breaking down necessity vs. desire. We like juggling a thousand things at once, but we’re going to work it down to a manageable 100 things. There’s so many good things coming our way this year (more family travel, fun home improvements, go-lives, and getting the dad bod I want), but if you see us around town, don’t bother asking us what else we’ve been up to. Just tell us about your lives. We need a break from ours.