Tom Fearon

Professional communicator in Canberra

How Do Children Change You?

Mar.-Apr. 2015

By Tom Fearon

No one needed to tell me my life would forever change upon becoming a parent. I had already read the books, watched the online videos, and heard it all from excited friends eager to share their wisdom as parents. In the months leading up to my daughter Miya’s birth, I politely smiled and nodded as well-meaning people kept trying to prepare me for fatherhood by telling me the same tired clichés: "Say goodbye to your social life!" or "Get ready for sleepless nights." (Sure, I’ll needlessly deprive myself of sleep to ensure a smoother transition).

While there is plenty of truth to advice for parents-to-be, there are also many other unanticipated social and psychological changes with becoming a parent. Just over a year after becoming a parent, here are 10 ways my life changed.

1. Going home after work

It’s natural to have a spring in your step when leaving the office, but parenthood provides extra incentive to get home sooner. After-work social events come a distant second to playing with a toddler eager to sneak in playtime before dinner. There are few better sights than opening the door and seeing a little person waddle over to you blurting out “Baba” with a big smile.

2. Becoming an anti-social hermit

The death of the new parent’s social life can come quickly or slowly. For me, it was a mercifully swift blow. There are only so many feeble declines you can give to friends’ invitations before you’re blacklisted. It helps to have an extra excuse – like living a two-hour subway from downtown – rather than always relying on people to understand your dramatic life transformation since becoming a boring parent.     

3. Making every minute count

It’s easy to take for granted the concept of “free time” before you have children. After all, your evenings and weekends are full of it when you’re childless, even if you don’t realize it. You don’t give a second thought to binge-watching a season of your favorite TV show or meeting a friend for pint. Being a full-time parent ends the fantasy of doing what you want when you want. It’s not all bad, though. The urge to treasure every minute during that precious hour or so of a baby’s naptime can foster productivity.

4. New perception of kids

Before becoming a parent, interacting with kids was always an awkward experience for me; it didn’t take them long to tire from my cheesy smile and sliding thumb gag. Seeing a toddler on the subway now could hardly be a more different experience. I find myself fighting back the urge to pinch cheeks and ruffle hair.

5. Re-connection with childhood

Being a baby is pretty cool. Everything around you is new and exciting, which allows mom and dad to see things with fresh perspective. Pineapples are indeed giggle-worthy and watching TV upside is more fun. I also reignited my passion for playing with wooden blocks, even though Miya is more content to destroy my creations than make her own.

6. Deeper bond with family

When my parents and siblings came to visit me in Beijing last year, it was no secret the main attraction was their granddaughter and niece. They doted on her with all the affection to be expected of a new family member, but I also benefited from the love fest that resulted in me being seen in a different (and more flattering) light as a dad.  

7. Coping with inseparability

For all the analogies of parenthood, few ring truer than to “have your heart walking around outside your body.” The insecurity of not being able to watch over Miya 24/7 is something my wife and I are still getting used to. Perhaps it’s a feeling that becomes more manageable as kids grow bigger and become less fragile, but for a new parent there is a strong desire to wrap them in bubble wrap and never let them out of your sight.  

8. Chokes aside, the air sucks

For the young and childless, Beijing is an exciting playground with a lively pulse. But when our “smogtropolis” gave us a baby, we suddenly became much warier of playground hazards that left our hearts skipping a beat. As an adult with fully developed lungs, you can mitigate the pollution by wearing a mask or staying indoors to catch a movie. But for an inquisitive infant eager to explore the world, being under house arrest is a heartbreaking reality of growing up in Beijing.

9. Watching Chinese reality TV shows

A slightly more heartwarming reality has been my newfound appreciation for popular Chinese TV shows, especially Where Are We Going, Dad? Maybe it’s the fraternal hormones kicking in, but there is something about seeing men dote on their kids that makes you proud to be a dad – and thankful your corny jokes aren’t being broadcast on national TV.

10. Popularity on Facebook

When I moved to China nearly six years ago, I easily lived without Facebook showing me friends’ cat photos or offering invitations to play bizarre, colorful games. But when I casually uploaded a photo of Miya shortly after she was born, I experienced the intoxicating hits of a more than 100 likes. By contrast, my usual news article or brooding China photo with a hipster filter usually attracts five likes, four of them by family members. I’m aware of the perils of “oversharenting” on social media, but it’s nice to dangle the “like bait” of a daddy-daughter snap every couple of months. 

See the original article here.