Thanks to the combination of starting this blog and helping my wife pack our hospital bag for child number three, I can’t help but feel pensive and reflect upon how being a Dad has changed me as a person. This is yet another manifestation of the Dad Effect, it doesn’t just shape children but also parents.
In order to understand how I’ve changed, it is important to understand where I came from. I became a Dad quite young (just after my 22nd birthday) and quite suddenly since my eldest is actually my step-son and he was 18 months old when I met my wife. Go back another four months and I was still a 21 year old university student (in my final semester of study) living at home with my own parents in the same house that I had lived in my entire life. I had my own car (a 2005 VZ Holden Commodore SV6) with about $15,000 outstanding on it and about $5,000 in savings.
I was the picture of success (or so I thought) because I had a full time job secured for immediately after graduation, I could easily afford the car and I could also comfortably afford to go to the pub each week with mates and save for the next snow trip. I was vaguely interested in certain boring adult things such as finance, investments, superannuation, real estate, etc but they were all things I’d get to “one day,” and without a compelling catalyst for action, I did nothing and ordered more beers.
Fast forward a few months and I had moved 1500km away from home to start my job and was living by myself and loving it. This was a period of self discovery where I found the confidence to be my own person and think my own thoughts free of the opinions and baggage that sullies your perspective when you have spent your entire life in the same town surrounded by the same people. By the time I met my wife I was a different more confident person, but my world view was fundamentally unaltered, in fact I had just booked the next trip to Queenstown (New Zealand) to party over New Year’s Eve.*
By the time we had been together for six months something profound had happened, we had just got engaged and were now trying to pay for a wedding. Not only that, but I still had the car to pay for and I now also had new expenses such as paying back my student loan and also covering the costs of day care. Along with wedding planning come discussions of family planning and discussions of home ownership. These things were all very important to both my wife and I and while I don’t believe that the wife should have to be a stay at home mother, it was important to me that my wife had the option (not the obligation) to pursue that path if she wanted to rather than basing the decision on finances. We also agreed that we didn’t want a large age gap between the kids and since we already had one it meant any others would have to follow quickly.
This series of rapid changes to my priorities stirred me to action and I decided that before I could seek professional advice I first needed to educate myself to such a point that I could reasonably distinguish between valuable advice and incompetent or worse corrupt advice (spending my late teens in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis and observing the carnage it caused had made me wary of blindly following expert advice). So I set about raiding the local book store for every personal finance/business book I could find. I read it all, property books, books about share trading, books about starting your own business, books about the psychology of success, etc. I was obsessive, and still am, every time I pass a book shop I have to check out the selection in these subjects. It has become such an obsession that as much as I love reading fiction, I struggle to because it feels unproductive.
Four years later (and five years after I first left home), we have just moved into our own home, have paid off the car and the student loan. With our third child just about here and our golden Labrador Nala the transformation is just about complete. I have gone from a beer guzzling (make no mistake I still love beer but I don’t go to the pub at 10 am anymore) university student living at home with my parents playing Xbox in my mate’s shed to a boring suburban husband and father who gets excited about reading finance books and saving money on my home loan.
The changes in my outlook have been profound and I wouldn’t change a thing. I have far greater responsibilities now and that is exciting in itself. I have confidence to navigate my way in the world and to try and provide a good life for my family in the process. This puts a sense of adventure and creation into the life that my wife and I are building together and it never would have happened had I remained the same carefree snowboarding, pub frequenting guy I was before. That guy still exists but he is no longer my driving force.
Becoming a Dad forced me to re-evaluate how I was living my life and many things that had previously been important, just weren’t anymore. The biggest change to occur in my life since becoming a Dad has been intrinsic to my character. Even though I was legally an adult, I didn’t truly grow up until I became a Dad.
What has been the biggest change in your life since becoming a parent?
*By the time I went on the Queenstown trip it no longer seemed like the awesome get away I thought it would be, so I flew home early to spend New Year’s Eve with my future wife and I don’t regret it for a second.