As we navigate the season of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I have been reflecting upon what it means to me to be a parent to my kids. If you have received these newsletters for any duration of time, you know that I am extremely proud of my kids. They along with the firm, are pretty much my entire existence. I devote a page a month to them, because I enjoy sharing in their milestones. It also gives me another way to watch them grow up.
As much as I love and adore my children, being a great parent is not something that came naturally to me, and it is a job that I work at constantly to get better. My journey into fatherhood began at the same time the firm was born seven years ago. In fact, the major factor that lead to Jen and my decision to move forward in opening our own firm was that we were going to have a baby and we needed our work life to balance with all the new responsibilities we would have at home. I was hesitant. I mean, I had a good job which paid really well. However, that job kept me on the road three to five days of the week, as I traveled from state to state deposing doctors. One thing that was really important to me in becoming a father, was to be there, physically and mentally present, for my kids. So, I decided Jen was right and we embarked on the journey of starting a law firm.
I grossly underestimated just how hard opening a new business and juggling firsttime parenthood would be. When Brady was born, in September of 2009, it was a tough time in my business. We were getting cases and clients, but as the cases took time, our funds were not great. Jen and I were living on a strict budget to make it, and a new baby was stretching that budget big time. We cut all unnecessary expenses, including going out to meals. In a way, it was helpful in that I really needed to learn how to be a parent.
I had no idea how to change a diaper, or swaddle and comfort a crying newborn. There was bottle making and bottle disinfecting, and the stroller which seemed to require an engineering degree to open. I had read all the baby books, done the parenting classes, and even practiced these things, but when it was time to actually use these skills, I felt like the worst new parent ever. There were sleepless nights and lots of days filled with a lot of tears – both Brady’s and ours. Couple that with 13–15 hour workdays trying to keep the firm afloat, and you have a recipe for flat-out exhaustion.
Our journey into parenthood became even more difficult when we learned that Brady had to undergo a major operation at just 2 months old. I have a hard time recalling a darker time in my life. As soon as we learned of his diagnosis, my role switched to being as much of a rock for support that I could be for Jen and Brady. Inside, I was a mess. I was nervous, scarred, anxious, and in a lot of ways, angry. I mean, I already felt that I was the worst parent ever, and now, my son was going to face a medical challenge more severe than anything I had personally ever had to endure. There were tears, and there were a lot of anxious nights. However, we put our faith in God, that he would watch over our son and our family and pull us through, and he did.
Following surgery, Brady made a great recovery. To this day, he has zero residuals from his operation. During the surgery and his time in ICU, I learned a very valuable lesson – sometimes, all you can do is love your kids and be there. Despite the fact that he was only 2 months old, and barely communicated orally, I knew that by looking in his eyes at that hospital that my son valued my being there to hold his hand. I knew that it gave him strength, and I knew that he would be ok.
In the days and weeks following the surgery, Brady got better and better, and being a parent became somewhat less challenging for us both. However, I must give credit to Jen because she really carried the parenting ball the first time around. So much of Brady’s infancy, for me, was spent at the office, making sure that our firm got off the ground. I wasn’t there as much as I wanted to be, or probably needed to be, and I know I missed out on a lot.
I made a promise to myself that if we had another child, I would make myself more present in their youngest years. Thank God, I got that opportunity a few years later. When Emery was born, I made a purposeful effort to dive in, in a way I don’t think I did the first time around. From changing diapers (which is not my favorite thing to do), to taking some time from work each week to be there for her, I did it all. This time around, I got to experience many more of all the “firsts” that come with a newborn. I also formed a very special and tight bond with my daughter, one that still prevails today.
Being able to give Eme more time always makes me feel guilty that I could not do the same for Brady. However, the sacrifices made during that time have provided them with a wonderful life – one I dreamed about when I was a kid. Today, both Jen and I work hard to balance our responsibilities at the firm and our responsibilities at home. We each take one day a week and work from home, so that we can have more time with our little ones. There is Tuesday pizza night, Saturday and Sunday lunch, and weekly weekend activities that we make sure we all do together. Even better, my son has gotten to the age where he wants to be around Dad and doing what Dad is doing. Right now, you can find us nightly watching the Hockey playoffs, and going over every team in detail.
Today, I feel like a more well–rounded parent and person. My kids are my world, and there is nothing I would not do to give them peace and happiness in life. Still, I am far from the perfect parent, and every day there is something I wish I had done better.
I share my story because there are probably many of you who have felt the same way as a parent at some point in time. For me, parenting isn’t something that has come naturally. I really have to work at it, to be any good at it, and half the time, I don’t even know if that is enough. It’s weird because being a lawyer comes naturally to me, like I instinctually know what I am doing and why. I could figure out a multimillion dollar case, but put a diaper or stroller in front of me, and I was clueless. So for me, it was and still is real work, and it is the hardest job I have ever had.
Thank God I have a wonderful spouse in Jen, who worked with me on my parenting. Jen is my rolemodel for the parent I want to be. Her support, love and patience made it possible for me to get better at it, and I so very much appreciate the same. I think what helped the most was being able to openly share my fears and struggles with her, and not have her judge me. I owe her for that.
So, if you are like me, and you weren’t born a natural parent, take comfort that I, like you, are going home today with a mission and commitment to work harder than I did the day before to be a better parent for my kids. It is a one–day–at–a–time kind of deal, and all you can do is give your love and work as hard at being a great parent as you do anything else. Don’t give up and don’t give in to the self–doubts when they creep in. Being there is half the battle, so if you got that part down, and you work hard at the rest, the odds are you will be successful.
There is one last important lesson I have learned. Your kids love you, even when you think you don»t deserve it. We only get unconditional love in a few relationships in our lives ever. Embrace it, cherish it, and just work to be the best parent you can be.
I am right there with you.