★ ★ ★ ★
By James Prenatt
I used to think I worked hard. I worked at a moving company, lifting boxes and furniture from anywhere from five to fifteen hours a day in any weather conditions so that I could pay for and make it through college. Before that, I taught martial arts and trained almost every day, sometimes two to three times a day. I wasn’t a wiz in college, but because I had aspirations to become a writer, I assigned myself reading and writing outside of class. I took other random jobs here and there, my favorite being childcare just for one semester, but for the most part I did manual labor. Upon graduation my life wasn’t so figured out. Any twenty-five-year-old of my generation knows the job market is saturated and a four-year degree just doesn’t get you far. I had to go through a temping agency to find professional experience and all the while kept up with my writing.
It’s all nothing compared to now. A year ago my wife and son moved in with me and since then everything’s changed for the better. When first faced with the idea of taking care of a kid almost 24/7 I thought I’d never have time for anything, that everything else would have to go on hold or be prioritized differently. This was only sort of true. Currently I work a part-time job at a golf course as a landscaper. It’s not ideal and it can be difficult when the weather gets harsh, but it beats lifting furniture and it allows me the time to drop my wife and stepson off, come home, refresh and shower (maybe get an extra half-hour of writing in, god willing), and do any chores that may need be done before picking them up. I also have to allot time to search for other jobs.
I used to write on my own time, just when the mood struck or when I had the energy. I’ve set writing schedules for myself for years, but I still got to do it pretty much whenever I wanted and if I missed a day, no biggie. Now that’s not the case. Now I get up a half an hour, sometimes an hour before I get my wife and stepson up, to drink my coffee and have that time alone before the day starts. I always thought with my life this busy that I would get less work done. The truth is I get more done now that I ever did when I was younger. I figured out I’m a person who requires routine a long time ago, but its importance became lost on me after a certain point.
Then of course there is the actual parenting work. It’s getting easier now that he’s getting older. There are fewer tantrums and he requires less supervision, though now he’s become more aware. And with awareness comes a lot of questions, some of which are hard to answer. Part of being a parent is re-familiarizing yourself with the world, thinking about things that are actually strange when you put too much thought into it, trying best to explain the unexplainable. Most of the time, it’s quite fun.
I hear from a lot of parents that they don’t want to do many of the things they have to in order to ensure their child’s well-being, happiness, and safety. Indeed, I don’t always feel like doing bedtimes, playing, getting lunches and breakfasts ready, but I’ve no resentment. I think a lot of parents start to put all their self-worth in being a parent and if they don’t feel like they can provide, they lose that self-worth. I feel this way often, as my own job doesn’t bring in much money (or pride) and my writing doesn’t pay the bills yet, if it ever will. But my wife reassures me that emotional support often outweighs financial. Kids don’t care how much money you make. They care about being loved. They also know the difference between a parent who doesn’t contribute much beyond working and one who plays with them, helps with homework and other things after work. We have an earlier schedule and are usually home by around four. This gives us ample time to play, eat, watch TV and enjoy each other’s company. Just as importantly, he gets to see a happy couple interact, which is an incredibly important part of growing up in a good home.
Are there times I still wish I could write until 4am and sleep it off the next day? Hell yes. But would I trade parenting for anything else? Hell no.
James Prenatt lives in Baltimore, MD with his beloved wife and stepson, who tells lovely stories about bunnies and crabs. He writes fiction and poetry along with contributing to blogs such as Everything for Dads and Parent.co. He likes punk rock, good movies, and bad coffee.