Today, I’m happy to feature my first dad perspective! Andrew Tan takes on the elusive work-life balance we all seek. Not only does he reminisce a bit, but discusses how to handle a little one, newborn twins, a spouse, work, and his hobbyist pastime.
Walk on his side of life for a moment…
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As I write this, my shirt is festooned with baby spit-up. The air around me is rancid and sweet. I haven’t decided if I like the smell; maybe it’s endearing.
I’m a Dad now. More than that, I’m a father to a 2-year old daughter and twin newborn boys—three children in less than 3 years.
Life is different. Not better, not worse.
Different, as in the grass is greener over there, but I’m not looking over the fence to check. I used to be an avid hobbyist, in the sense that I used to spend all my time with miniatures and scale models. What exactly do I mean? Check out my site and you’ll see immediately from the photos. As an art form, I created and made miniature worlds.
This is my hobby desk (hours spent here).
Now, the “miniature me” has taken over—and as I cradle him in my arms I wonder how I’ll regain my work-life balance again.
The World Before Kids
I remember the quietness of nights. I could listen to a podcast, audiobook, watch television, or simply gone out an visited a friend. My wife and I would have long dinners on weekdays no-less!
If my phone rang, or I got a text, there would be no juggling act. You just whizzed away a few words or held onto a conversation for minutes…hours with nigh a second thought. Time was time, and I had a lot of it!
But, life had a simplicity to it. By my age, my wife and I had worked out a good routine. Without kids, a single day went from A to B. Alas, my job (work) and life fell into a dynamic balance. You worked to live.
Now that we have newborn twin boys (!), our life-bearings all point to two words: “survival mode”.
My favorite movies are about the castaways who survive on remote islands after a shipwreck. With limited supplies, these protagonists learn to live without the luxuries of normal life.
Here I am. A Dad without the time to enjoy the luxuries of normal life—things like going to the bathroom for more than 10 minutes or being able to sit at my work desk to punch out a work e-mail.
Indeed, I used to work quite a lot from home. I’m an academic scientist, a fast-moving job which is itself mentally demanding, and quite logistically challenging. Scientific progress doesn’t wait for Dads. Or, does it?
Hobbyists Know How to Get Things Done
As a miniature hobbyist (and a career scientist), I’ve learned how to accomplish hard things efficiently.
For example, I’m great at analytical puzzles: if “Baby A” needs to drink 3oz of milk, and takes 15 minutes to finish the bottle, do I have time to take a 20-minute shower and check my emails before “Baby B” wakes up from his 90-minute nap?
The answer is “no” of course.
My 2-year old is a wildcard. A veritable jack-in-box ready to poop on my logical plans. This is fine though because I’ve also learned how to survive abject failure, like a bench experiment that doesn’t go right or spilling a pot of modeling paint all over your lap.
Well, here I am wondering how I’ll write my next blog post and get it ready for publication.
Win Small to Win Big
It’s a miracle I’ve learned how to manage my time. Staying organized is the best way you can make solid progress in any creative endeavor. Before kids, I planned projects ahead of time and included margins to buffer against distractions.
If I’m writing a paper or working on a freelance painting with a tight deadline for delivery, I’d plan ahead. I’d schedule my daily routines to make the best of my time. But importantly, I’ve honed how I compartmentalize and think about projects (i.e., see how I’ve thought about speed painting miniatures).
To work efficiently, you need to think efficiently. It takes practice. The mind-space it takes to work quickly under challenging conditions is enormous!
I’ve read somewhere that to maintain mental endurance for a specific task over extended periods of time the best thing to do is break a large task down into small pieces. Focus on the small pieces. Enter the flow. And, by accomplishing the small bits as quickly and as confidently as you can, you eventually wake up to find your huge mountain… conquered.
Now caring for two newborn babies at the same time, who barely sleep longer than my favorite movie, “Titanic” starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo Dicaprio, is hard work. Of course, while my mental acuity drains with every lost minute of sleep, My Heart Will Go On.
The Art of Surrender
I’ve got a backlog of projects I want to complete; unfinished blog posts, unpainted models and scale miniatures. They all sit on the virtual shelf in my head, begging me to revisit them. Finish me, they say.
Well, despite my lamentations of parenthood, I’m the happiest Dad ever. Never in my imagination did I think I would have family quite like this. Busier than a swarm of bees, buried under a pile of stinky diapers—wearing the aroma of milk-vomit. The wet-stains on my shirt are shaped like Barney the Dinosaur.
But, I’m content—The purest form of satisfied.
I’m filled with a sense of accomplishment. I’m actually doing the Dad-thing.
The puke I wear, I wear with pride.
(Though, maybe I shouldn’t have gotten a dog.)
Andrew is a loving father (of three), a neuroscientist, freelance writer, and miniature hobbyist. He enjoys the discovery of a good book, a movie (preferably science fiction), and watching his children grow.
He is an avid writer and blogs regularly about his experience as a miniature hobbyist. His site is a daily journal, a lab notebook, and a sketch pad. It is a collection of ruminations written in the quiet margins of life (much noisier with kids!).
If the miniature hobby has taught Andrew anything, it’s that anything worth doing is best done with other people. Miniatures and scale models are mediums that allow him to see things from a different perspective. Through unique miniature pieces and places, he shares how he views and thinks about the World—a place where his kids will live.
If you’re looking for a Lifestyle Blog for Dads with hobbies, or simply want to check out some fun articles about parenthood, visit his site.
And grab your freebie on how to Get Lost in Your Child and really engage with them even on busy days. (I’m off to spend the day with the girls before brother gets out for the long weekend.)
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