Six Months Into Fatherhood: What's Changed?
While most in our business have been allocating attention to all the digital media acquisitions this past week, I’ve had my mind on something else: my first child, Julian, turned six months old on Monday.
I’ll go easy on the sappy details of my ultra-proud reminiscing, and focus on a number of key areas where fatherhood has changed me as a work-obsessed exec in the hectic media and marketing business.
First, let me get the sentimental stuff out of the way: I now walk into work every day with a glow in my eye and butterflies in my stomach -- a high far better than any substance I ever tried in college. Whatever’s going on, I sometimes feel like new brain synapses are connecting and enhancing my mental performance in new ways. I’ve found I can tie anything and everything back to being a parent; in fact, I have a hard time not doing that.
Being a longtime workaholic with too many outside interests, I always considered sleep a scarcity. Well, I had no idea what I was talking about. I’ve experienced sleep deprivation at levels far beyond what I originally thought possible. I never realized how good a friend coffee could become. Diet Coke, as well!
And when your wife is a full-time career woman, the balance of work and home becomes an even greater feat. Each departure and arrival, and every hour at home or work, is a careful calculation to achieve maximum efficiency. Julian, my wife, the nanny and me are completely synchronized, and our daily work calendars must reconcile as well. There is an art and science to all this, and flexibility and patience from all is paramount.
Not surprising, business travel is tough now. Not only is separation from family logistically painful, but it accentuates a new feeling of vulnerability, especially on extended trips on opposite coasts. Please, no client meetings or conferences, unless they’re very, very worthwhile!
OK, so how has fatherhood changed me as a marketing and media guy?
Most significant, I’ve become far more sensitive to marketer abuse and other peoples’ vulnerabilities. Consider the elderly and their loneliness, the poor and their unhealthy eating habits, the uneducated and their ignorance of finances, or the young and their naïveté over what’s real. What is still acceptable and what is opportunistic marketing toward these groups now easily breaks into my predatory zone. I confess, the protective parent in me is unleashed. Enough is enough.
Next, I’ve become more sensitive to media consumption. Partly the protective parent and partly the time-starved working man, I’m encountering media now through an entirely new lens. In addition to becoming more conscious of my own behaviors, I pay extreme attention to those of my son. I noticed the television’s ability to hijack his attention like a hypnotist, and so we’ve removed it from his media diet for the time being. I find myself spending a lot of time researching how kids interact with our evolving media environment, and how it shapes them.
Having a child has sensitized me to the way people learn. I’ve always taken this for granted, but witnessing a small human discover the world for the first time presents many important insights into how adults filter, interpret and respond to stimuli. You really want to learn about engagement? My Julian can teach you, without even speaking.
Next, as underscored by the few examples above, my realm of experience has expanded significantly. I believe my ability to connect the dots across more and greater context has increased. Of course, my sheer status as a parent now offers obvious credibility among that critical and prolific life stage. But the humanity that parenting injects has made me more able to connect with all other people -- period.
Finally, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to maintain a weekly column, let alone a blog -- two activities that intersect heavily with my marketing and media life. Where can one find the time? But I’ve found that the benefits of both are more important than ever. The fact is that writing and expressing one’s self in such venues has the valuable effect of forcing you to focus your mental capacity and consolidate your ideas, while keeping you discoverable and connected to other people in a very efficient way. It’s also therapeutic.
Now put all that aside. The truth is, I’m still brand new at this parenting thing, and I’m winging it day by day. Do you have any words of wisdom for a guy like me?