Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Shift of focus

The one thing I was told repeatedly, and that I always wanted to avoid, was that your conversations as an adult change dramatically after you have a child.  I’ve run into a lot of new parents in which the only things they can talk about after the birth of their child… is their child.  Whether it’s something cute that they did, some new illness to watch out for, or any number of things, I was always wary of speaking to people with children.  I found myself wondering why that was all they seemed to be able to talk about.  Now I am a parent myself.  Guess what?  Yep… I find that all of my conversations revolve around my daughter.

The reasons for it are pretty obvious though, once you’re in it.  As the stay at home dad, there is literally nothing else for me to talk about.  Many of my previous interests and hobbies have to be put to the wayside in order to focus on my daughter.  In order to make sure she is healthy and happy, anything else that I was interested in, at least for the first few months, are inconsequential.  I find that any time I would try to pick up these hobbies again, something would come up with the baby that would break my concentration.  She’s hungry, she needs her diaper changed, she needs attention, she just wants to cry… I don’t know about you, but I hate doing something in starts and fits.  I like a focused and continuous time period to do anything, and anyone with a child will know that it’s near impossible with a newborn.  Hell, from what I’ve seen from my friends with kids, it’s near impossible until they move out of the house.

That being said, the content of my new conversation, at least lately, centers on the least appetizing part of being a parent.  Poop.  Seriously… poop.  That or pee.  That’s about it.  I’d say roughly 80% of my conversations with other adults recently is how much or how often my daughter poops or pees.  And it’s very frank and blunt conversation. I won’t go into details, as really, you don’t need or want to know them, but these conversations just get strange.  The funniest thing is that when you talk to other parents about it, they will happily engage in that conversation.  You will get commiseration, funny anecdotes, factual data, or just knowing nods, but other parents of children (primarily babies) will gladly involve themselves in conversations about your child’s waste extermination without hesitation.  Sometimes it makes me wonder about the sanity of parents during those first few months.  Since I’m currently engaged in it though, I try not to dwell too much on it.  I already know I’m a bit loopy… might as well not add to it.

Now, after all of that, you must wonder if I’m actually for or against having a child.  “He sounds like he’s kind of miserable, since he’s complaining about talking about poop with other people.”  Admittedly, there are times I sit there after a conversation about said topic and scratch my head.  Then I return to my daughter, and she proceeds to pee or poop herself, and she’ll make a face.  Of all of the faces that I have made or seen in my lifetime, I find hers the funniest.  I probably can’t do it any justice by description, but her eyes tend to cross, her face sort of elongates, and she forms a small “o” with her lips and just generally looks really confused.  Anyway, I see this, and I just burst out laughing pretty much every time.  Then I realize, “Oh… this is why people like kids.  It makes them happy.” 

It’s a stupid realization to make, and I make it basically every time, but it’s a welcome break from my usual downer state of mind.  She consistently makes me smile, even after she’s spent a full day crying, fussing, and generally causing me a headache.  There is something healing about the look a happy baby gives you when she sees you as the source of her happiness.  And I realize that’s why that’s all parents can seem to talk about sometimes is their kid.  They fill up so much of your heart that there really is no room for anything else.  Nothing else is really important comparatively.  I don’t think it’s something that can be understood until you have one of your own. 

(As a caveat, be sure you’re ready to have one, and not having one just because you want something to love you unconditionally.  They’re a LOT of work, and if you’re not ready to give of yourself, you won’t get anything back)

I’m watching her sleep right now, and maybe it’s just cause I’m tired, but in all honesty it’s probably just because I love her so much, but I teared up a little.  It amazes me just how strongly I feel for her, and how much I want to make her happy.  Yeah, there are times I want to put her out on the balcony when she’s crying for no discernible reason, but when I come back to my senses, I realize that she does that because she needs me, and it makes me feel good about myself when I can actually serve that need and make her happy again. 

Anyway, the point of all this was that since having her,  I’ve fought against falling into the conversation trap that is being a new parent.  It has caused some problems for myself and my wife, as being torn between being an individual and being a parent can lead to serious friction.  I’m working at being better, but there are always dips.  Ultimately, her happiness should be my goal, and anything else on top of that is just icing on the cake. 


  1. Hello~
    I found your blog through your wife's blog today. I left her a similar message to what I will be writing to you, but I think if I ask on both fronts, I'm more likely to get a response soon (which I would absolutely be grateful for!). I just found out today that I am pregnant and I, too, live in Fukuyama. On your wife's blog, she mentioned that she found an English speaking doctor here in Fukuyama. I would be SO thankful if you would be willing to send me the info on the doctor because I would very much want to have a doctor I can 100% understand taking care of me since this is such an important thing. If you have the time, could you please email me the name and any information such as address or phone number that you can about the doctor? My email is lagclover @ gmail.com (removing the spaces, of course). Thank you SO much!

  2. Ooh… been there done that. Wrote a blog post about it too. It doesn’t last too long, and after a while when your child grows in abilities, you’ll have stories to share that other people find funny too. Also, finding other parents to talk to is pretty key to staying sane.

    Do you have any other SAH dad friends to talk to? My husband is in a similar position to you, though with an older child.

    1. Unfortunately, I don't have any SAH dads to talk to. I'm the only one I know who is in this situation. Gets kind of lonely because it's hard to connect to SAH moms in the same way. It just seems to be a very different experience when the gender is different of the SAH parent. Not to say it's easier, but I think there's a certain expectation placed on the person who stays at home, and depending on your gender, you are raised very differently when it comes to those expectations.