It’s only been two months, but I’ve noticed a significant difference in the way Toma interacts with me compared to Nina at that age. I’m no child psychologist, but I think I can draw a direct connection to the way I’ve interacted with him and the steps I’ve taken recently to become a happier person. I wish I’d figured this out several years ago, but at least it wasn’t several years later!
Toma seems to like being around me a lot more than Nina did at the same age. He smiles more – although that might have something to do with the fact that I’m often the one to burp him or bounce him when he has gas. He watches me as I move around and he tries really hard to talk to me. He laughs when I play with him and sometimes fusses when I leave his sight. Nina was much more of a mommy’s girl at the same age.
Nina has changed her interaction with me, too. More than just growing up and becoming progressively more interactive, over the last several months, she’s become much more excited to spend time with me and play with me. There are certainly a variety of reasons for this change, but I believe that one is that I’ve become a much happier person over the past few months and this has dramatically impacted the way both children respond.
What’s Changed Around Me
In many ways, I face a lot more stress than I did when Nina was an infant. My job is much more intense now – I’m in a position with actual responsibility and there is a lot of pressure to conform to the idiotic overtime practices at my workplace. (So far, I’ve resisted).
There is also the matter of having two kids. When it was only Nina, then when she went down for a nap, we had some free time. Other times, we could take turns watching her to give each other a rest. Now, there is always at least one child needing each parent’s attention. But while this makes me busier, it has actually decreased my stress levels to some extent. Before, I expected a break at regular intervals and got a bit ornery when that didn’t happen. Now, I know that I am going to be constantly present, and I’m completely OK with that.
I have also changed with the experience. Neither Sawa or I worry so much about every little thing this time around. For a lot of the things we faced the first time around, we now know how to respond if we see the same things again. For everything else, we’re blisfully unaware, but we’ve also made a lot more friends with children who we can turn to for advice.
What I’ve Changed
External stress is up in some places and down and others, but the biggest change – and the one I had the most control over – has been the way I reevaluated my priorities and goals.
Up until several months ago, my goal was to become a writer, specifically a fiction author. I’d been working on it for several years (as of writing this post, I have gone 910 consecutive days of working on one of my fiction novels each day). But I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere and the writing community is anything but supportive and encouraging. The writing advice that I consumed made it sound as if you had to get 100 things just right, and get lucky to boot, or you’d never make it.
So, my hobby was stressing me out like crazy on top of everything else.
But why did I really want to be an author? I wanted a creative career that I could practice at home and that would be a way I could have a lasting, positive impact. And I’m pretty good at writing (non-fiction writing, not including blogging), so I wanted to use that.
I realized that I didn’t have to become an author to do that. A few months ago, I found the Smart Passive Income podcast and discovered a whole world of other creative, writing-based career possibilities where I could work from home and make a difference. There’s a lot more agency than in writing and best of all, the people are positive.
I’ve replaced my writing advice with entrepreneurship advice and within weeks, my attitude changed. I get most of my advice from podcasts, but where writing podcasts and interview subjects are constantly talking about how impossible it is to “make it”, entrepreneurship podcasts interview people who talk about how they can’t believe they’re making a career out of doing stuff they love. They’re upbeat, too, and since entrepreneurs come from a variety of backgrounds- from business, to teaching, to fitness and health, I learn a lot of other great stuff that I can apply to my life.
One of the most significant things, in terms of my interaction with my kids, was a podcast episode that covered the importance of smiling at work and at home and how it affects your moods and the people around you. It actually works. I’ve been making more of an effort to remember to smile (something people who know me will know is a bit of a struggle), and it’s easy to see the effects.
I smile more. My kids smile more. And I am genuinely happier now. It all started with a change in the content I consumed and the benefits haven’t stopped yet. I’m not super-dad yet, but I believe that I can be.