A bit over two years ago, I wrote about my initial thoughts on fatherhood a bit after our daughter was born. Our son Théo is now 4 months old and I find it fitting to write a follow-up.
Life with one kid
Life with one kid is easy (in a couple). You’re two adults (well, more-or-less) against one child. Yes, the nights can be rough – in our case, Valérie still hasn’t learned to sleep through the nights. There’s about a gazillion books, blog posts, video courses, self-proclaimed sleep gurus out there, and while some of the advice may apply to some kids, the reality of the matter is that each kid is wildly different (or should I say unique) and will have wildly different sleep patterns. And all that money spent on books and whatnot won’t change this. Judging from what we’ve heard from friends and acquaintances with children, the sleep pattern seems to be in large part hereditary – there seems to be a rather strong relationship between how the parents slept as kids (or still sleep as adults) and how the children sleep. In our case, we hit double jackpot since neither I nor my wife are particulary good sleepers.
Interestingly, the sleep topic is one of these things that everyone seems to have an opinion on – whether or not they have children doesn’t seem to matter. Learning to smile, nod, and keep polite while listening the 30th time to the same line of advice that you know with a ridiculous amount of certainty does not work with your kid is another one of those skills that you need to master as young parent.
That all being said, when you’re two adults and one kid, you can split the nights in shifts. You can easily handle a kid alone, which makes things like traveling and attending conferences okay.
Enter kid number two.
Before becoming father for the first time, I tried to imagine what life would be with one kid. Of course, I failed miserably. There’s a set of experiences in life that you just can’t prepare for or imagine and that you have to live through. Moving from one country to another for example. Or starting a business. Or having a kid, and then having two kids. But boy had I no idea what it meant to have two kids.
Four months in and I can say that at least to me, the jump from one to two is a lot bigger than the jump from zero to one. It’s tempting to think that you can apply experiences learned from having the first kid to the second – in practice however, there’s not that much that can be transferred. Okay, yeah, changing diapers, putting clothes on the baby, singing lullabies, etc. – all of this knowledge can be reused. But see, that’s the easy part. Those are things you can also outsource to grandparents and babysitters.
What you can’t outsource is that there’s no longer the possibility to work in shifts with your partner. You are now two (tired) adults versus two kids (full of energy). So long as kids are young, you can’t just give them away for some time. You now have a constant responsibility for two tiny humans and there is no pause button. And whilst there were some breaks with one kid when it was napping, there’s now almost always one kid awake.
It’s like operating a cluster of 3 nodes versus operating a cluster of 400 nodes. It doesn’t compare. Some of the learnings of operating a 3 node cluster can be transferred to operating a 400 node cluster, but the reality of operating a 400 node cluster brings up a whole new set of challenges that just do not apply to a small cluster setting.
I find that with two kids the concept of family becomes a lot stronger. Our daughter is a proud big sister and is very nice to our son. Seeing them both together, seeing her attempts at showing him things and already teaching him what she has learned is an experience I wouldn’t want to trade for anything in my life.
Routines (morning routine, evening routine) are of paramount importance to keep running and make it through the day. The kids need them and as a parent you need them too to be able to operate on auto-pilot (which is an important skill for those days when there has been very little sleep). What I am still learning is to stick to the same time, and to not let the routine be derailed by work, which is easier said than done.
The next two years are going to be rather busy. I’ve heard multipe times that “it gets better”. In the meanwhile, we now have four coffee machines at home: two aeropress, one Senseo machine and – I hate to admit it, but the convenience in this case beats any kind of remorse for the moment – one Nespresso machine (you literaly just have to put a capsule in and close the lid – and oh yeah, don’t forget the cup). When sleep deprived, the Nespresso machine is extremely helpful.
I’m drastically scaling down my attendance to conferences and the delivery of on-site training, or any kind of on-site engagements, which is to say that I’ll try and do more writing instead.
More on this in two years.