Four months ago, I felt like I was on top of the world. My career was exploding beyond my wildest dreams, I was working less than ever, and I had more fun working than ever. I’ve stayed fit since college, was feeling sharp and confident, and I found my new hobbies like golf both challenging and rewarding. My social life was blossoming, and my marriage was incredible. One day later, my daughter was born.
The last four months have been extremely hard; I’ve felt like a fish out of water, totally uncomfortable, and really failing for the first time in my life. When my daughter came home, my two younger sons became my responsibility. I get them up, change their diapers, take them to school, bring them home, play with them, feed them, give them baths, and put them to bed. My wife has been taking care of our daughter, recovering from labor, and managing the house.
I’m still struggling. My 2-year-old turned into a monster when the new baby started taking attention, he’s become very particular about things and throws temper tantrums. My 5-year-old acts like he’s 3 around his brother because he thinks this type of behavior is normal. They’re angels when separate, but a real source of stress when they’re together.
Last week my wife pulled me aside after dinner. She talked about how I complain that grumpy people on the golf course can bring down the vibe and make my afternoon less fun. She told me that she feels like she’s playing golf with a grumpy person, and that person is me. She and the kids are feeding off of my negative energy.
This opened my eyes, and I attacked it the next day. I gave myself a literal pump-up talk in the mirror, the same thing I do before a big meeting or talk that I’m nervous about. That morning, when my youngest son threw a tantrum over breakfast, I went into the garage and cursed at the top of my lungs.
The doctors tell us that both of our kids are acting totally normal, which was tough to hear. I wanted to be able to blame someone, or something, for my frustration.
Parenting is really freaking hard. There have been great times, and I’m getting better as a father. The past week has had more fun moments than not fun moments, I haven’t screamed at my kids in weeks, and I’m less grumpy with my wife. We try to take a moment to separate the kids now which is a ton of fun when we can.
This has all been a humbling experience, and it’s the kind of kick in the ass that I needed when I started to get cocky and think that I could dominate this life. I’m growing, and my wife and I are talking about how we can make things easier.
Growing up, I never understood the stories of parents who complained about their kids, fathers who would mow the lawn to stay away from their kids, or working late just to avoid their family. Now, I understand it. I’m not going be to selfish enough to act this way, but I understand it.
I love the life that my wife and I are building together. I love the sweat and tears behind the life, and we’re still hoping for more kids. We have the same goal, and that’s to bring more people into the world who are value-adds and give them the opportunity to succeed.
My parenting style makes things hard for me. I want my kids to learn to struggle with grace, so I don’t give in to their demands. I’m not going to let them grow to become spoiled brats, I’m not going to raise entitled kids, and I’m not going to bail my children out in the future. I’ll be there for them, support them, and love them, but they’ll learn that life is hard and that you can’t always get what you want.
Every night I tell my kids all the things I love about them. That I love how fast they are at running, how good they are at building legos, and how helpful they are when they stir the pot for mom. It’s become our favorite part of the bedtime routine, and their eyes light up when they hear me talk like that.
My life goal is very clear to me, and it doesn’t involve money or storage facilities, or vacation homes. My goal is that as an old man I’m sitting comfortably in a chair, with a bride of 50 years next to me, while my kids and grandkids are creating chaos all over my house. I’m surrounded by people who love me, and that’s living the dream for me. That’s how I’ll know if I did my job or not, and everything else is extra.
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