December 5, 2013

Fatherhood and Identity

I have written and rewritten this post so many times, I just decided to start over.

I have written and rewritten this post so many times, I just decided to start over one more time. I think the worst part of this post is that the information got stale each time I sat down to write it. The first version was prior to the birth of my first child and focused on fatherhood, almost seven months prior to taking that step. The second version was before her birth, after I found out that I would soon be without a job. The third was just after her birth. The fourth is now, just over a month after her appearance and a month of being unemployed or being a stay-at-home dad, depending on the way you look at it.

Lexi and I like to make life changes in hat-tricks; not like normal or logical people would, slowly and one at a time. Now, keep in mind that we don’t often choose to do these things at the same time, the dates simply fall close together at random. I’ll give you an example since this is probably a bit confusing when discussed generically. About five years ago, Lexi and I planned our wedding for December 27th. Prior to that date decision, we had known that Lexi would graduate from college about a week beforehand. These two things alone constitute a lot of planning. What we didn’t know was that I would be offered a job that would start just after our honeymoon. The job was in Indianapolis, a place where neither of us had connections of any kind and Lexi would not have a job lined up. I count the above situation as three life changing events, but really, it was more than that drawn out over the course of many months. I bring all this up to discuss our most recent situation. On November 2, 2013, Lexi and I had our first child, Eloisa Florence. She is beautiful, a month old, and doing well, though she has a slight cough that is heartbreaking to listen to. On November 1, 2013, as is our norm, we added to our life changes when I was abruptly laid-off from my job.

Over the last month of unemployment or being a stay at home dad, I have attempted to refocus myself to define what is really important to me. I have realized that my child has taken precedence over blogging and staying up-to-date with the technology field, especially given the fact that being a stay at home dad is a full-time job in and of itself. I have posted less and been less interested in the drama of the tech community. Case and point, we spent the week of Thanksgiving (Black Thursday) with family in Chicago and I looked at Twitter twice during that time; this was surprising and confusing since, prior to my child being born, that would have seemed abnormal if not downright insane. In addition, the content of my reading has changed due in part to a recent newspaper subscription and the purchase of an e-reader. Suddenly, I am reading more long-form and not necessarily content that I would normally share on my blog. Nevertheless, sharing things on my blog and writing have always been the way that I enjoy thinking through things.

There have been a few blog posts that have given me a starting point for thinking about my current identity and how fatherhood might change (and has already changed) that. In addition, I have had a number of existential questions regarding my professional future, now exacerbated by the loss of my day job. Given the fact that these two subjects often overlapped in content, I strove to write about both and how one might affect the other over time, often hitting roadblocks in my ability to think objectively about a subject so personal. Of course, I have been itching to write about fatherhood in general since I found out I was going to be a father in March. As such, I have written about a number of items over time that are near and dear to me, as I venture into the unknown of fatherhood.

Fortunately, my fatherhood and identity questions have led to a singular conclusion in my mind: I enjoy supporting people. Never mind the fact that I have chosen a career in technical support, my day job of caring for my child has made abundantly clear that I have chosen precisely what I am good at. As a father, I am constantly caring for my newborn, very similarly to how I would care for customers in a normal day job, with the added bonus of the fact that I can work from home. Exhaustion aside, I have felt innately prepared for the position of father, more so than my friends and family assure me I should feel. In other words, whether it is cooking, changing diapers, or answering technology questions, I know what I am good at. I also know that confidence is a strange feeling when dealing with unemployment issues, whereas most people would struggle with the question of identity after being laid-off.

I have been doing some consulting work in the interim that keeps me in the technology field and helps me to stay focused on the goal: to find a job that I will enjoy, something that keeps me learning and challenged, while allowing me to fulfill my needs of helping others and empowering users through the use of technology. In addition, as my child grows, I have a deep-seeded excitement about learning new things with her, whether learning to read or play musical instruments or something I have yet to think of. As her curiosity grows, so too will my excitement of what things I can introduce her to and how I will be able to support her long-term. I will admit to being antsy about some of her toys; when something says 3+ months, I groan that it can’t come soon enough and Lexi groans that I am being impatient.

One point of interest: now that I am not employed by any one place but am still looking for a job, I feel that I am unique with my ability to live-blog, so to speak, my efforts to find one. Although I do not get much time to myself these days, I hope to post updates to my job search here if for no other reason than to help others navigate these murky waters. A post over at Marco Arment’s website gave me the idea because of how terrible the process can be. On a lighter note, as my child forces me to learn new things about fatherhood and the growing process, so too will I post updates about that decidedly less terrible process.

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