My mom, who stayed home with me until I was in high school, gave me some advice: The things you do in your first week become habits.
As my last day of work approached, I wrote down some goals. These baby steps would become habits that would put me on the path to self improvement and creative fulfillment. I would do all these things in my first week, then brag about them in this blog.
Two months later, I’m finally blogging about my progress. One change: I’m calling them objectives instead of goals. Objectives sounds more videogamey.
Objective 1: Climb a mountain
I live just a few feet away from the largest municipal park in America. Phoenix South Mountain Park boasts more than 50 miles of trails, and most of them go up the sides of mountains. Hiking them is like StairMaster with way better views.
But after living in this spot for two years, I could count on my fingers the number of times I’d actually been on the mountain. I blamed my job. Not enough hours in the day, and all that. The stupid sun was going down too early.
Between heavy rain and holiday-related family gatherings, I nearly whiffed on this objective during my first week at home. Then I rallied my wife’s aunt and uncle for a quick hike on their way out of town. Here’s how I looked:
Objective 2: Eat something healthy
Eating complete garbage is another thing that’s easy to blame on the 9-to-5. I shouldn’t say complete garbage. Fact is, I was eating these huge, awesome sandwiches once or twice a week from a local downtown Phoenix spot. Delicious. The nutrition info isn’t available, but I wouldn’t be surprised if each one came in around 1,200 calories.
That’s the calorie estimate for the days when I was picking up a quick lunch by myself. So I came up with a simple objective. Didn’t want to get overly ambitious. Here’s what I had for lunch on my first day at home:
That’s a can of tuna mixed with chipotle mustard on 100 percent whole wheat, with two huge carrots and a Dr. Pepper Ten (manly). I was so pleased with myself, I tweeted about it.
Unfortunately, I didn’t fall into a rhythm with this one. I’m trying to prepare more healthy meals at home, but I’m still cutting loose at restaurants way too often. Status: In progress
Objective 3: Be completely surprised
OK, this was a softball one. Champ was going to do something cute, and I would follow up with a nicely packaged blog post about how special it is to be a father and wow and oh my God, for real, you guys.
Or I could take a different route. Something along the lines of, “I can’t believe something this little pooped this much!” We could have a good laugh. About poop.
No. Here’s what’s really surprising me right now:
Leading up to my last day of work, I had this lingering fear that I was making a mistake. Can we get by without my paycheck? Is it fair to my wife that I get to stay home? Do I really want to take care of a baby, or am I more excited about hiking up mountains?
In my first couple weeks at home, that fear went away. Then the Champ stopped sleeping at night right as Mom got crazy busy at work. The new situation: Exasperated mom, fussy baby and a dad who feels like he isn’t helping either of them.
So — surprise! — a bunch of my initial fears are back. All I can say for certain is I’m enjoying 9 to 5 much more than I was. I love taking care of this baby, but now I worry I’m slacking off when his mom’s around, which in turn makes it harder for her to support our adventures when she isn’t.
I’m the type of guy who’s always giving himself a break. It’s been a hard morning. F yeah I deserve a large sandwich. That kind of thing. New parents don’t get breaks (although that sandwich does sound amazing right now), and trying to take one just shifts responsibility to someone else.
Whoa, that objective got way too serous. I don’t have time to dwell on it anymore. I need to make my wife a healthy sandwich. She has to work while I’m climbing mountains tomorrow. Status: Feeling better