In having lunch with a friend some time back, he remarked that we hadn’t seen one another in person for over a year. It’s true. The last time I got together with this bloke was before Adalynn was born and, as you can imagine, the transition to the WAHD life really did take over the entirety of my existence. He then asked me a rather simple question: how has my life changed, if at all, since becoming a full-time work-at-home dad?
This may be of interest to all my fellow freelancers, entrepreneurs and small business owners out there, particularly those of you who do work from home and share the relative luxury of a flexible schedule. Running your own business and looking out for your bottom line each and every day can already be exhausting, but when you’ve got a helpless infant crying for your attention around the clock, the challenges are further exacerbated and it’ll break your heart.
What is the difference between the WAHD life and the child-free freelancer life? Let’s break this down into a few general life categories.
The Professional Context
One of the greatest freedoms of freelancing, as I’ve discussed so many times before, is the freedom of time. While I do have some daily obligations with certain clients, much of work can be completed at just about any time of the day on almost any day, as long as I meet the deadlines. It doesn’t matter if I write up this feature article at 10am or 10pm, noon or midnight, as long as it gets done. This is a double-edged sword, of course, because it also feels like I should be working all the time and there are endless opportunities for procrastination.
Since becoming a dad, some of that has stayed the same and some of that has changed. More and more, it’s becoming difficult to find time to work. I end up working in fits and starts at sporadic times of the day. The door to my home office is always open, for better or for worse, so I always feel compelled or obligated to participate in “family life” whenever I can.
This makes it much harder to get work done while the kid is awake and playing, but the dynamic has also improved my focus while she’s napping or sleeping. I know I only have X amount of time to get a certain task done, so it absolutely has to get done during that time. Nothing is more motivating than a looming deadline.
Health and Wellness
Much to my shame, I’ve never led a particularly active lifestyle. The last time I kept up a relatively regular schedule at the gym was over ten years ago when I was still going to university, but my youthful metabolism has largely been able to keep me in check. That started changing before Adalynn arrived, but the role of full-time father has further diminished my activity level.
Thanks to the freelance lifestyle, I used to go out for walks in the middle of the day. I’d go to the coffee shop, visit the library or run a few errands. If nothing else, it got me outside of the house and onto my feet. I don’t really do that anymore, partly due to time constraints, partly because going out with the kid is far less convenient than strolling around alone. I don’t blame her, of course; I blame me and this very obviously needs to change for the better.
A Social Life of Leisure?
Much like my inactive lifestyle, I have also never been much of a social butterfly either. Even so, I would get together with my Dot Com Pho buddies almost every week for a bowl of noodles. We would go out to watch movies and do other social things every now and then. This has also changed.
Date nights are a treasured rarity; I think we’ve gone out to the theater three times in the last 15 months. For the first several months of Adalynn’s life, we didn’t go out to eat very much either. Now that she’s a little older and far more interested in her surroundings (she loves going out and seeing people), we are starting to explore our culinary curiosities once more. I have found that I watch far less TV than I did in my pre-baby days and I don’t follow sports at all anymore.
Realistically, our social lives now revolve around our daughter. A good time might consist of story time at the library or her first series of baby swimming lessons. This will surely evolve as she gets older and her choice of activities start to broaden. Where she’ll take us next is anyone’s guess.
Life’s Little Rewards
Becoming a father and getting fully ensconced in the WAHD life has easily been the most profound of life changes I have ever experienced, far more than graduating from school, getting my first job, buying our first home, or getting married.
It’s hard and it’s all-encompassing. I’m challenged every day, but as much as I might complain about my circumstances, life is good… if only because I get to share in magical moments like unexpected pecks on the cheek from my one-year-old.