So this is going to seem like a stream of consciousness, mostly because I don’t know if there’s a good way for me to really get us all out. There’s been something I’ve been struggling with for the past… well as of the time of me recording this… since about 5 months ago. To the observant that would be the birth of my son.
I am so incredibly happy to be a father; nothing really equates to being a father. It’s quite possibly the best thing that’s ever happened to me that wasn’t me meeting my wife Jennifer. That doesn’t mean that nothing is necessarily wrong or right about how I feel, and within the past few weeks I’ve come to terms with what these feelings are.
The whole spiel about this… well… I haven’t decided this point if it’s going to be a video or just audio, or even just a post, but if I really think about it I guess the way that I would title this would be “From A Devoted Gamer To A Devoted Father”.
I struggled for quite a long time with what it would mean to be a dad, and not just any dad. Honestly there’s a lot that goes into being a father that isn’t just you know doing the normal thing like getting up in the middle of the night to rock him to sleep, helping my wife with changing diapers… that stuff doesn’t even faze me. Some days are easier than others, but when it really comes down to it, I love being a father so… what’s the best way I can put this… over time I started noticing that a lot of the things that I enjoyed doing, I stopped doing, and for a long time I was putting that on Jennifer because every time she got frustrated with me for me not helping her, more I got defensive I got.
I don’t know if everyone goes through this. I don’t know if this is a common thing, because it’s certainly new to me. One of the things that I really struggled with was that Jennifer needed my help, and obviously her needing my help should be a no-brainer. Like, just help her; you’re an idiot, just help.
So that’s what I did.
It took me a while honestly, and it was hard because I don’t like fighting, and my instinct as a husband is to just stop and cave. I can’t even stress this enough, though it’s a completely different discussion about marriage, but the last thing you need to do in an argument is just give up. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but giving up often doesn’t solve the problem because in a healthy marriage or relationship, you find a resolution. You don’t just give up, and most of the time it’s a little bit on both sides that require some compromise.
Like nobody is 100% in the right usually (though there are exceptions), but with Jennifer, when we have disagreements you know she’s not looking for me to just do what she wants. She wants her and I to reach an understanding. So when we started having trouble with the way things were going with Malcolm, with her having trouble getting him to bed and whatnot. At the time what was going on was she would go and put him down for bed and I would just hang out in the game room. While I love my game room (I mean you know I got everything I love in here), she would go and do the responsible thing. She would be feeding him and rocking him to sleep, and I would just be here doing my own thing.
While I know for some relationships I’m sure that works, but for ours that doesn’t, and it was a hard thing for me to break because part of what makes me functional as a person is my time to just pursue a hobby. My hobby being, you know, writing. Whether it’s for Falcon Game Reviews or creative writing, or I’m just making videos (as terrible as they are).
After one of our bigger fights, I really over-compromised; far more than Jennifer asked me to, and for probably over a month I was totally neglecting myself. That’s really difficult because for me as a person, everything about me is about my marriage to Jennifer first and foremost. So to me it felt like my choice was to either focus on my relationship and my role as a father, or have hobbies.
It was a really hard thing for me to get past, and it was something Jennifer never asked me to do; that was all me. I was crafting my own sword for me to fall on. I cannot explain how dumb that was, and it really doesn’t make sense when you think about it. Over time it just became this little pressure point that kept getting bigger, and I ignored it like an idiot.
I went with a routine that involved me just hanging out with Jennifer while she was feeding Malcolm to get him to go to sleep. I would just sit at the end of the bed until it was time for us to go to sleep, and sometimes I would come back to the game room after everything was settled, and go return later. I wasn’t really present mentally, as I would still be just staring at my phone or watching videos, but I was physically there… In my head, that counted.
Eventually I got into being a volunteer moderator for a YouTuber/streamer, which also included a status as some kind of tech person on his Discord channel. Though I did enjoy my role for the most part, there came a point where I realized what I was doing, and instead of me being the husband and father I needed to be, I was focused on a hobby even more. My problem wasn’t having a hobby, but I remember fighting with Jennifer again a few times, actually about my hobby. Looking back on it, her issue with it wasn’t that I had something I wanted to do, but that I was putting all of my effort into that, and leaving little for them.
It goes without saying that it isn’t fair for me to be devoting more time to side-projects than the people most important to me. My sincerest and best advice for someone who is in a relationship with a child or multiple children is to make sure that you’re not giving everything towards something that isn’t the loved ones in your life, because they need you.
I mean, Jennifer doesn’t need me in the sense that like she wouldn’t be capable of functioning without me. In fact there are some days where I honestly believe she would be perfectly fine. On the other hand, I would be a mess without her. Sure, I know she would be sad, but she’s just the strongest person that I know. She would just keep on truckin’
Where was I anyways? So about my hobbies…
Again, coming back to the issue of me basically overreacting. It got to a point where I was getting really pent-up. I quit working on the Discord channel and helping with the streaming/YouTube channel, for a number of reasons that weren’t just limited to my worries about neglecting my family, though some in the community felt that was the only reason I suppose.
What ended up happening is I quit and then put everything towards Jennifer and Malcolm, and I think it was a mistake. Hear me out.
I’m not saying me focusing on my family was a mistake; that is probably the best thing that I could have done. What I screwed up with is I tried to only focus on them. I neglected the things that I enjoyed, and so it boiled over eventually again, and we fought… again. That was probably the worst fight that we’ve had in a very long time in our marriage, and it took me several days to get over it. Because again, my initial reaction of all of it was to pull back and stop trying to fit my time in again. She never asked me to stop, just like I think my problem has always been that I (this probably isn’t a word) over-anticipate what people expect from me. While someone is asking me to help them with something small, I feel what they’re really asking me for something big. That’s been a common problem with me.
So three days passed, and I told my wife again that I would give up watching YouTube videos, making posts, playing games, and working on videos and other side projects. My focus would be on trying to find a hobby that didn’t involve anything that I enjoyed, and she just let me do it. She’d tell you it wasn’t her intention to let me figure things out on my own, but I feel like she knew that I would find a good answer eventually if she just let me ponder. I know she knew what the right answer was, but she let me find it for myself and I think that really helped me. Obviously, I’m not perfect, right? I know she isn’t either, but by helping me find the right answer on my own, I owned it.
The key to what makes me happy isn’t that I get to operate on my own without being a husband and a father. You know, like staying up all night playing video games and watching YouTube videos, and essentially acting like I’m single. That’s not what I wanted, and I don’t think there’s any room for that now as a husband and father. There’s also the fact that I have responsibilities that extend beyond that too, like owning a house meaning that I can’t not take care of things around here, and obviously I have a job. I can’t sacrifice my job to pursue a hobby that doesn’t pay me.
I know it’s cliche since everyone talks about, that they grew up playing video games. Still, I’ve been playing video games since I was a kid, and that’s just my passion right now. It’s true for me too, and though I’ve been playing video games for pretty much my entire life, it doesn’t define me. It’s not the entirety of who I am, but it’s a big part of me.
I’m a huge damn nerd. It’s a significant part of Jennifer and I’s past. We met as a result of this hobby, and I can’t ignore that. My nights before I met her were usually me staying up until one or two in the morning playing games like Splinter Cell Conviction or World of Warcraft for hours. While I sucked at World of Warcraft, I loved playing it because there was a huge social component to it. It was my thing, and getting married and being more responsible… obviously you know a lot of that took a backseat. Granted, it became more of my life when I was working at GameStop because video games were my career in a way at that point, so I mean it was not necessary but it was easier to make it a bigger part of me and still retain a job. Looking back, I hated working at GameStop.It was an awful job, and I would never do it again, but it gave me the freedom to really explore gaming as a hobby.
Being a parent changes that (or it should). Obviously, children take time of yours; it’s not like you can just set your kid down on the couch, put on your headphones, and zone out for eight hours straight. I need to help Jennifer; that’s just the fact of the matter, and I’m okay with that. It’s just that making that transition was difficult for me.
Jennifer explained it to me in a way that I didn’t consider. She told me that when she was pregnant, she came to terms with the way that her life was going to change, and something about that really stuck with me. Jennifer told me that she anticipated having one or two children by this point in her life, long before she met me. During our entire marriage, we put off having kids because we didn’t feel we were ready. We didn’t feel we were in the right place, and so while Jennifer would have been enormously happy to have a kid right after we got married, it was something that I wanted to wait on, and I knew she did too logically.
So when we found out that she was pregnant, she was getting her dream. The one thing that she’s wanted almost her entire life, and so when she started contemplating what changes would happen, she knew like she always does, that things were going to change. I think that’s what was hard for me, because the day that Malcolm was born, it never really occurred to me what would change. That’s kinda sad for me not to come to that realization. It’s amazing that it took me until the birth of my son to understand that my son was going to need me, and here’s the thing: I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Malcolm is an amazing little boy. I love him so much that I would give up anything. I mean obviously I know it would be hard, but I would. I think the way I put it with Jennifer is that upon realizing what I was doing, I told her I didn’t want to end up in the same situation that my father did.
I don’t talk a whole lot about my family situation.
My father worked nights, and he worked his hands to the bone at a grocery store job, back when you could get paid a decent wage to be a grocery store manager. He would go to work in the middle of the night to stock shelves and manage inventory, then come home and sleep during the day. He did what he had to do to support us. Now I didn’t have a deep relationship with my father when I was a kid, at least before he split with my mom.What scared me recently was that I realized I was going in the direction that my father went. However, where he was doing it out of necessity, my dad was working nights because it was the only way that he could keep a roof over our heads.
I was doing it out of choice; I was choosing my hobbies over my family, and I didn’t want my relationship with Malcolm and Jennifer to suffer because I wanted to stay up late playing video games.
I can’t say that I have all the answers. This is still pretty new to me, and I just recently found a way that I can reconcile to myself making time for these things again without feeling guilty about it, but I will say one thing… probably more than one thing, but you get the point.
What I’m saying is that the most important thing I found that I should do as a father and a husband is that I need to balance my time, and as inconvenient as it is sometimes to drop what I’m doing, whether it’s a diaper changer or putting him down for a nap, I can put it on hold because I’ll be able to get back to it later. You know you see the memes about kids trying to explain to their parents about pausing an online game, but you know what as a parent you don’t get that option. There’s no “Hey, just 20 more seconds. I’m in the middle of a match. Can you just handle him for a little bit longer?” If my wife is asking me for help, it’s an immediate thing; if she’s asking me for help, she really needs me.
I guess my transformation from a devoted gamer to a devoted father isn’t that it means that I give up gaming, give up my hobbies, it’s just that passion I have, I can use that passion and devotion to better myself, and to be a better husband and father. A transformation isn’t easy. It’s an adjustment that takes time and it’s something I’m still working on, but I will say I’m really glad that my wife was patient with me and helped me find a way to define that balance.
I’m not in any way qualified to give you advice, but here’s what I would say if you are someone who has something of a hobby that you’re passionate about, and you know somewhere down the line that you’re going to be a parent, remember that a hobby can wait. In a relationship meaning a father or mother that really can’t you can’t put people on hold… well you can as someone working a phone service or something… What I mean is you can’t pause people, just like you can’t pause an online game.
When they need you, they need you.
I want my son to grow up knowing that no matter what I’m doing, whatever I’m focusing on at the time, that if he needs me I’m going to stop whatever that is, and I’m going to pay attention to him.
I only get one chance to be a father to him. There aren’t save states or restarts. He’s growing up and learning, and I get one opportunity to have him grow up knowing who I am, and what I am to him. I don’t want to be the father that puts him on the back burner. I want to be the father that he goes to because he knows that I’ll be there for him. I don’t want to be the husband that’s confused in 17 years when his wife wants to split after their child leaves the house.
So my other piece of advice is just be the father or mother that you would want to have. Put yourself in your child’s and spouse’s shoes, and think “if I needed me, would I want to have them make me wait?”, and what my relationship would look like with that person. I want to have a relationship with my son that doesn’t involve neglect or regret, and I want a relationship with Jennifer that doesn’t involve me being checked out, but that’s a story for another time.
In the intervening time from Jennifer and I’s recent problems to now, we’ve found a good balance between me taking time to play games (as well as wasting time on foolishness), and spending quality time with the family. It sounds so easy in retrospect, and I definitely created most of the problems that cropped up, but that’s kinda my thing. We’re still working all of this out, but everything has been much better over the last couple weeks than they were before.
This has been me talking about my struggles lately, and some of the realization that I’ve had. I would love to discuss this topic with anyone. I’m pretty active on Twitter, and I do have a Discord Channel that I don’t really use so that would be a good place for that too. Just find me on Twitter, or this post; just hit me up in the comments section. Anywhere you want to discuss this; your stories, your questions for me, your rants about something… I’m cool with that.
So anyways this is me rambling, and I hope you enjoyed listening to me. Thank you for taking the time to read this. If you’re interested in a little more, Jennifer and I recorded us discussing the topic. It’s about 35 minutes, but it’s just sound, so you can listen to it without worrying about losing anything to not seeing it.
Be forewarned though, Malcolm is on there too, so you’re going to hear a baby at some points, and he loves the mic.