Today, my daughter turns one, which means I complete one year of being a Papa-preneur. Somewhere in these 12 months, combing my daughters’ hair and watching over her while she sleeps became my favorite ways to spend my time.I smile the most when I’m around her. Every day, I look forward to spending time with my daughter. I consider each day I spend with her is a privilege. I remind myself of how grateful I am to have her in my life.
They say that all advice is Auto-biographical. Which means, all these words are meant for the Abhijit of 1 year ago. Here are some observations, realizations and learnings I have had over the past one year of being a dad.
Babies DO NOT break
Up until I became a father, I could never hold anyone’s child. I used to fear that I won’t be able to hold them the right way. After considerable hours of watching Youtube Videos on how to hold babies, and practicing on cushions – I mustered the courage to hold our baby daughter. It took a lot of time to get it right. At the end – I realized that babies do not break. We can hold them tight – just, let’s not try and drop them :).
Become Awesome at Swaddling – It’s good both for you and the baby
Put buffers in your schedule
Everything takes longer with a baby involved
Smiling is a universal language
When she was only a few weeks old, she could express her happiness by means of her smiles. No one taught this tiny little thing how to smile.
There’ll be tears
The first time she was administered vaccination, she was in my lap. There she was, smiling and cooing when the needle went in. It took her a minute to register the pain she had experienced; but she couldn’t cry, even though she wanted to. Her face turned red, and she gasped for breath. We both cried that day.
Making way for the baby!
Over the last 12 months, I’ve given away a lot of stuff that used to be a part of my work. Stuff like routers, switches, my play station, cables, etc are all gone to make way for her swing, her walkers, her toys, etc.
One of the many thoughts I had when I held her in my arms – was a determination to bulk up one day, and become huge; to act as a deterrent to any boys who would want to be friends with her. Still ambivalent whether I’ll go through with it though.
Portray an image of strength in front of her
I observed that if I ever fake a wail in front of her during playtime, she’ll start crying inconsolably. She expects strength from me at all times; I’ll try and live up to that expectation.
Don’t wear button-down shirts when lying down next to the baby
One day, she rubbed herself against my shirt buttons when sliding down my chest. I think the buttons rubbed against her eyebrows. No injuries – but since then, I made it a point to change into a Tee when next to her.
Get a phone with a good camera and ample storage space
Once you become a father – You’ll be clicking lots of pictures when capturing moments.
You’re the man!
I realized that, despite how hard a day I’ve had at work – my responsibilities do not end when I come back home. I owe it to my family to spend time with them, listen to them, love them, appreciate Aditi for the hard work and commitment she puts in to raise a good child.
How the mothers’ Priorities change
Aditi’s changed completely since she became a mother. Her life now revolves around Hazel. If we’re travelling, her handbags contain Hazel’s stuff – and not her own. When getting ready – getting Hazel dressed is her priority. That said, Aditi still finds time to work on our startup by waking up early to close her To-Dos.
Even a small interruption when working can seriously impact productivity as the mind takes a lot of time to get back into flow.There’s a sign on my home workdesk that says “Please do not disturb if the light is on”. I’ve told everyone at home, that if this light is one – not interrupt me unless the matter involves fire or blood. Aditi doesn’t have that luxury when working. She’s constantly interrupted by the baby and she has to cater to her every need.
Ideal gifts for new parents
When all my friends became parents, my gifts used to comprise of toys for the baby. I’ve now realized that out of all the things we received, the items we’ve used the most this last year are:
- A Soft, warm Blanket
- A ‘Rye’ pillow for the back of her head
- A ‘Baby Bather’
- A Kangaroo pouch
My parents are the happiest I’ve ever seen them
Every day I see my parents laugh gleefully at Hazels’ silly antics; and she comes up with something new each day. There’s this new thing she’s started doing – where, to demand attention from someone at the dinner table, she tilts her head sideways at a 90 degree angle and smile the most infectious smile. Attention Seeker! 🙂
It’s an amazing feeling to see them so happy. Hazel’s first words, BTW were DaDa (GrandPa).
Books to the rescue
One of the most overwhelming aspects of impending parenthood, I’ve discovered, is the infinite amount of advice people would like to give you. These range from “the advantages of making the baby taste honey the moment they are brought out of the nursery” to “Why women should smear Ghee / purified butter all over their heads and keep it that way for 40 days”. Reminds me of gym buffs talking Bro-Science on the “new all-natural way to gain muscle mass”. It’s difficult to sieve out fact from opinions.I spent time reading a few books on parenting which gave science based advice based on brain development research and neuro-science. The one I’d recommend the most to all soon-to-be parents is “Brain Rules for the Baby” by John Medina. You’ll learn about actionable ideas such as Why staring at television screens uptil the age of 5 can stunt brain growth; or why Avacados and other fatty foods are good for the baby’s brain development, or how raised voices can impact their brains.
After becoming a dad, I had the realization that my career is no longer about my own path – but about what I’m going to leave behind for my kids. For the first time, I felt that there was something more important at stake.
Time Management is my friend
“You’ll only get to see your children growing horizontally”
A business acquaintance cracked this joke when I’d broken the news of my impending fatherhood. What he meant was – I’m so busy in growing my business, given my work hours, I’ll only be able to see my child when she’s sleeping. This scared me. I didn’t want to be the guy who isn’t around to see his child grow up. But at the same time, I have a company to run. My work schedules were extensive, and the travel is exhausting. True Story – One day, after having lived out of the suit case for over a very tiring week (travelling between Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Aurangabad), upon waking up in a hotel bed, I couldn’t recollect where I am. I had to flip the coasters under the glasses to see which city i am in.
I decided to make changes so that the company goals are met and so that I can spend time with my daughter. These changes involved – waking up at 5:15 AM every day, following the GTD method of prioritizing my day, maintaining a Bullet Journal to track my work days, following pomodoro timers to induce stress to finish work faster, etc.Zindagi’s office is walking distance away from where I live. These days – I try and finish off work early in anticipation of spending time with my daughter.
People wasting my time
It’s a sad feeling when people waste my time by inviting me to marathon meetings, or meetings where I can’t add value, or where I’m made to wait for meeting which have a pre-scheduled start time. It’s sad because of the realization that this time could have gone into my having worked on either growing the company or spending time with family.
Of course I look silly playing Peek-a-boo. I do it any way!
When talking and playing with her, I carry no inhibitions. I vary my pitch, use facial expressions and use a sing-song voice when I talk to her. It’s wonderful to see how she responds to my baby talk. When she listens to me so intently, I half expect her to respond with an intelligent remark. Well, maybe ‘Aat, aat, aat’ is just that – in a different language that I don’t understand.
Take care of myself
Be it while driving, your diet, risk-taking – I’m trying to become extra careful. I joined a gym once again – I couldn’t “find time” for workouts after becoming an entrepreneur. I realize that she’ll need me for a long time. Being a healthy and happy dad is the best gift I can give to her.On the point of exercise – you’ll need to work on upper body strength a lot. There’ll be a lot of lifting, carrying, swings – Shoulder Presses guys!
Re-learning and rehearsing nursery rhymes
Your little girl falls asleep on your arm – all softness and need. And you understand that for all your sacrifices and changes, there is no better place in the world for a man to be in.She loves it when I sing her nursery rhymes and lullabies. I always give myself a pat on the back when I can make her fall asleep while singing. Here are the lullabies that my mom sang for me, and the ones I now sing to Hazel.
- Hush, Little Baby…
- Twinkle Twinkle Little Star…
- Five little ducks…
- In the jungle…
- You are my sunshine…
- When Johnny comes marching home…
- Old McDonald had a farm…
- Oh my darling Clementine…
- Row row row your boat…
- Do Re Me…
- This old man…
- Yankee Doodle…
- London bridge is falling down…
- If you’re happy and you know it…
- Que Sara Sara
She doesn’t need constant entertainment
It took me time to realize that she doesn’t need to be entertained all the time. As long as she has her toys around her – most of the time she’s fine fiddling around with them. In fact, I realized that boredom leads to creativity. One day, I saw her figure out how to drop the shapes into the openings in the cylinder.
Occasionally, I like humming songs from old Hindi movies. She’s enamoured by these songs. She’ll stop every thing she’s doing to listen to me sing. This, despite my being a horrible singer :).
Keeping your mobile phone away
I try not to take calls when I’m around my daughter. However, this is not always possible. The call could be from a customer about something urgent. Or it could be from a prospect I’m pursuing who’s responding to my sales calls.
Multi-tasking while putting her to sleep
There are times when I need to research and prepare for a client meeting the next day. If the baby is demanding lap time – I multitask. The “Text To Speech feature” of the eBook reader on my phone can speak the text out to me. Alternatively – I can consume content on Safari Books, Youtube and Udemy at 2x speeds – streaming into my ears while I hold her in my arms and swing side to side.
Hold on tight, and do not blink!
I get frustrated at times when I’m trying to work and find her asking for my attention, yanking my headphones, protesting for me to lift her in my arms. It’s at these moments I remind myself that while the days may be long, but the years are too short. This phase will soon be gone. She’s growing up so fast that I’m too afraid to blink 🙂
They say that fathers are their daughter’s role models; that girls look for a reflection of their fathers in the man they wish to marry. That puts a lot of responsibility on me to prepare her for the world, and to show her by example what it means to be ‘Good’, at home, in business, in my actions towards others. My daughter is too young to know about her father, but I’m hoping that if nothing else – my life would teach her that it’s never too late to start out and pursue your dreams; and that if you do what’s required, your actions will help you fulfil that dream.