Lifestyle CrampsWhen you decide to become a parent, you realize that sacrifices will have to be made. It isn't until the baby shows up, though, that you understand which forfeitures you'll feel most. Some are big: freedom, spontaneity, time. But other sacrifices still smart. Many dads mention the shock of missing hobbies, sports, going to concerts and movies, sleeping late, even reading the newspaper. Call them quality-of-life casualties.
"I put on thirty-five pounds in three months after my first child was born," says Everett DeMorier, a father of two and author of Crib Notes for the First Year of Fatherhood: A Survival Guide for New Fathers. "I had no time for any sports, and my physical activity plummeted. Then I'd wake up at three a.m. with the baby and eat a burrito grande. I tried playing tennis after work, but I felt guilty about not being home. Eventually, I settled on going to a health club during my lunch hour."
Feit vowed not to let Trevor hinder his movements, but the first three months, he and his wife, Holly, hardly took their son anywhere. "Then we got braver and started packing the car as if for a camping trip when the only place we were going was the local diner," he says. "By seven months, I wouldn't let him slow me down. I'd strap him to my chest and go to a ball game. No problem."
The isolation and cut-off feeling can be dire. "Sometimes parents fall into a rigid routine-frenzied workday, rush home, deal with screaming baby all night, rush back to work, etc.," says Marcus Goldman, M.D., author of The Joy of Fatherhood: The First Twelve Months. "This unyielding schedule squelches creativity and piles on pressure. It can lead to irritability, miscommunication, lack of interest -- three traits that don't jibe well for three people trying to live together."
As a result, some couples end up disengaging. Never varying your routine zaps the joy and makes parenthood all about pressure and obligation. The two of you have to mix it up. Shift duties, get out of the house every day, and give each other small freedoms.
Schaus and his wife, Audrey, made a pact. Each got to choose one hobby/entertainment outlet to maintain. He picked sailing on Sunday mornings. "The twins were a huge amount of work in the beginning -- still are -- and when you're forced to make a decision on what to give up, you quickly see what you really love. This goes for sports as well as friends, job, everything." The majority of dads won't be heading out to the boat for four hours at a time -- they'll be looking at a couple of hours during the week at best. They should be sure to make the most of it.