Being a dad is tough. The pressures we face are different than those faced by our fathers. Like them, most of us are working full time, running businesses, working for the man or building a career. Unlike them, there’s an added pressure of increased time at home. There are many positives to this; there are inherently greater and increased pressures too. The demands on our time never cease to end.
I know this journey well. When I was 25 years old, I was a two sport varsity athlete while in law school and believed I was very busy. When I was 30, I was a downtown lawyer and assumed I was tremendously busy. However, by the time I was 35, I had met and married the woman of my dreams and we’d just had our fourth kid! Yes, you read that correctly. At 30 I was not even engaged and by 35, I was a husband and father of four.
My journey into fatherhood was not a delicate one.
Simultaneously, during these same years I was trying to establish myself in my career as a trial lawyer, investing in real estate, staying fit and oh yeah, trying to be an excellent husband and father too.
To be successful in any one dimension (careers, husbands or fathers) is damn tough. To be successful at all three, simultaneously, seems near impossible. It requires superhuman strength.
So, when trying to understand how to be superhuman, there’s only one place to look: The Heavens.
Consider Superman. All day long, people are yelling his name. No matter how much work he does there’s always more. He is always being pulled in different directions. And he saves lives for a living. It sounds a lot like parenting. So, how does he do it?
The answer is subtle to see but critical to understand.
There are two things Superman is always acutely aware of. The presence of kryptonite and his need for the sun. He knows the former can kill him. He understands the latter will energize him. Superman understands that if he is weak, or dead, he can save no one. Likewise, if his energy falls too low, he has to leave those in need, even though they are calling his name, in order to rise above the clouds to draw strength from the sun. He always comes back though. And he is a better, stronger, version of himself.
You see, Superman knows that he has to be Sustainably Super. He understands that he has to selfishly protect himself, in order to unselfishly help others.
Just like Superman has to protect his powers, so too, do you.
Each of us has a kryptonite that kills us; and a sun that rejuvenates us. What are yours?
Your kryptonite won’t be a green meteoric rock. It will be harder to see. It may be the perpetual state of mess in your house and your inability to ever locate things. It may be the money hemorrhaging from your bank account. It can be as subtle as the frustrations born from finishing the Sunday paper, on Thursday. Or, as significant as never having an uninterrupted conversation with your spouse. Ultimately, your kryptonite will stem from some form of lost independence and increased responsibility the epicentre of the transition into fatherhood.
Your sun, will be more fun to find. The joy found in having a hot coffee, by yourself, is immeasurable. The chance to have just one corner of the garage that is yours and yours alone, soothes your soul. A workout on your own, or with friends. A beer with a buddy. Reading the paper, alone, for just 15 minutes. The sun, itself, does wonders. Time outdoors makes nearly everyone feel better.
My kryptonite was feeling robbed of time. In life, I’ve found my greatest strength and my greatest weakness to be the same thing: my neurotic need to be productive. Accordingly, the hardest part of transitioning into fatherhood was not longer days or increased stress, it was a feeling that “I couldn’t get everything done in a day that I wanted to.” And my sun, not surprisingly, is exercise, and you guessed it, being productive. So, I manage them both. Very early mornings have become my friend. I built a home gym and office in the basement. I start my days early, on my own, with a coffee, a workout and a head start on my to do list. I have found that with those things in place, I am a much better version of myself for the rest of the day. I am a much better husband and father. Ironically, I am also a much more physically, and emotionally available one, because I have greater energy and I am happier. Spending time with my “Sun” allows me to give more to my wife, my children and my job.
A happy dad is a better dad. And a better dad has the chance to be a Super Dad. Dads need to fill their own cups in order to be able to pour into the cups of their spouse and children.
There is something altruistically selfless in being selectively selfish.
Find your kryptonite and your sun, today.