Raising kids the right way and the struggle we’re forced to embrace

I write often about money and how to make more of it.

But what about being happy, healthy, a father, a husband, a friend?

In this email I talk about sucking at one of those things and how I’ve dealt with it. If you’d rather listen in podcast format, click here.

Five months ago, the day before my third child was born, I felt like I was on top of the world.

Career was exploding beyond my wildest dreams as I worked less than ever and had more fun and made more money. I hadn’t dropped the fitness habit since college and was feeling strong and healthy. My social relationships were thriving and developing. I was mentally stronger and sharper than ever before and I could go into any challenging deal or discussion with confidence. My hobbies like golf were tough but rewarding. I had stopped watching porn about 6 months earlier and my sex life with the old lady was really rocking in a way I never thought we’d see again.

Shit was really going right and I was firing on all cylinders.

But I’ll be honest when I say the last 5 months have been extremely hard and a serious new challenge for me. I feel like a fish out of water, totally uncomfortable, and like I’m genuinely failing at something for the first time in the 33 years I’ve been sucking breaths of air on this planet.

Because when that beautiful (and healthy) baby girl came home the 2 and 4 year old boys went from being 80% my wife’s responsibility and 20% my responsibility to 80% my responsibility and 20% hers.

I got them up, changed their shit diapers, fed them breakfast, got them changed and off to school every day. I picked them up and brought them home to play and eat dinner. While my wife cleaned the kitchen or nursed the baby I’d give them baths and read them books and put them down for bed.

Every day.

My wife was obviously suffering with the new one – not sleeping. Recovering from delivery. Navigating breastfeeding and still managing our homes, bills, doctors appointments, health insurance and much much more.

But I was struggling and I’m still struggling.

With the new baby to take attention from mommy my 2 year old turned into a monster. He turned 3 in July but potty training hasn’t gone well. He has the emotional stability of a drunk sorority girl and the temper and demeanor of a roid-raging UFC fighter. He’s also super OCD. Has to have the right toy at the right place and everything else has to be perfect at all times.

I accidentally flushed his shit down the toilet (he wants to do it) and he had a 45 minute tantrum that ended with a tumble off the couch and a profusely bloody lip. If he drops his toy in the back of my truck on the way to school or suddenly wants his brother’s toy he bursts out in hyperventilating screams. If I put him in a pair of pajamas that doesn’t match his brothers he’ll scream and kick until he turns purple and nearly passes out.

His now 5 year old brother acts like a 3 year old around him because I think the fits and temper tantrums 20x a day draw him down to that level of “normal” around the house.

My wife told me a few weeks ago:

“You know how you get back from playing golf with some people and you complain that they are grumpy? How their negative attitude on the course brings down the entire vibe, ruins the fun, and hurts your own game? Well I feel like I’m in a golf cart with a grumpy ass player and that player is you.

She’s so right, too. I was grumpy AF and the kids were feeding on the negative energy.

So I attacked the next day – giving myself a pump up talk in the mirror like I do before big podcast interviews or investor calls or real estate negotiations. “You have this Nick. Your son won’t get to you today and nothing can bring down the positive energy. You’re going to be happy. You’re going to smile. You’re going to be the golfer that shanks balls out of bounds with a smile and a shrug while carrying on a lively and fun conversation with those around you. LFG.”

45 minutes later after my kid threw his entire bowl of cereal at his brother and laughed at my face while I tried to have a calm talk with him in the other room I’d lose my shit and go into the garage and curse at the top of my lungs.

We spoke to the pediatrician and a behavioral specialist. Both say it is completely normal and he is totally fine.

Brutal stuff.

Parenting is ducking hard. No matter how much help you get. No matter how many date nights you have. No matter how good the daycare is where you drop them off at or no matter how badass your wife is at being a mother, parenting is ducking hard.

There have of course been great times and I’m improving. I’m getting better at negotiating with the little bugger and the sticker system has really been working. The last week has been.. er… fun?

I haven’t raised my voice at them in a few weeks. I took what my wife said very seriously and I haven’t let her see me get grumpy since that day.

We’ve made a plan to separate the kids from each other and when we’re able to do it they are angels and we bond. But we can’t do it often because then my wife is 2 on 1 with a baby that doesn’t sleep at night and a kid who has a ton of needs as well.

It has been a humbling experience and just the kind of kick in the ass I needed when I was starting to get cocky and feeling like I could do anything and do it well.

I’m not perfect. I’m improving and will be an excellent father but I’m not there yet. I think I’ve finally talked my wife into a night nanny so she can actually sleep, get up at a normal time, and feel happy and healthy.

This entire experience has also made me realize how badass my wife really is and how hard being a stay-at-home mom really is. I can’t believe these folks don’t get more respect in our society.

For the longest time I never understood the countless stories of angry parents who screamed at their kids and were complete monsters to be around while their kids were young. I never understood why fathers would do house work and real work on Saturdays or Wednesday nights just to get away from their kids and leave their wives try to keep their head above water solo. I never understood the guys who said with all honesty they worked late and did more deals just so they didn’t have to go home for dinner.

I understand it now. I’m not going to let myself become selfish enough to do that, but I understand it. I actually GET it. It isn’t that crazy that someone would do those things.

Because this stuff is HARD.

It is challenging me, making me better, and keeping me from becoming a rich asshole who doesn’t know how to suffer with grace, which is my biggest fear in this life.

I hate it but I love it. I love the life my wife and I are building together. I love that there will be a lot of sweat and tears behind the life we get to enjoy when we’re 60 years old.

We’re going to keep having kids. My wife is already on board for the next one and if the delivery goes well we’ll try for 5 or 6 I’m sure.

Because at the end of the day my wife and I have the same goal. To give our kids a ton of opportunity and bring more folks into the world who are good people, know how to add a lot of value to those around them, and can suffer with grace.

I think my parenting style is on “hard mode” because I make it that way on purpose. I’m already trying to teach my boys to suffer with grace. I never give in when they make irrational demands or act like brats. I don’t mind when they cry if they aren’t really in danger or pain.

I’m not going to let them become rich spoiled assholes who take from the world more than they give and feel entitled to a life of ease because of what their parents did or what their last name is. Who bitch out a server at a restaurant because they didn’t see the water was running low. I’m not going to make that call to get them off the hook if they get a DUI or get in trouble. I’m not going to call the coach to complain about playing time.

I’m going to teach these kids how to struggle with grace. They’ll understand life isn’t easy and they’ll know how to fail and get back up again on their own. They’ll understand life is hard and they won’t always get what they want.

I talk to both of my boys for about 5 minutes each night while holding them really close and kissing them all over their faces. I tell them all the things I love about them. How fast they are at running. How kind they are to their friends. How helpful they were when they stirred the pot for mommy while making dinner. How good they are at building legos or making a puzzle. And they light up.

I ask them each night if they want to hear the big bad wolf story or all the things I love about them and for the last 30 nights in a row they have both said they wanna hear all the things I love about them.

My life goal of exactly what I want to accomplish in this world is very clear to me. It doesn’t involve money or storage facilities or vacation homes or bottles of rare bourbon.

I can picture it now:

I’m an old man sitting in a comfortable chair with my beautiful bride of 50 years. It’s Christmas.

Crazy grandkids are running everywhere. 20+ people I love around me. Total chaos.

That right there is living the dream and how I’ll know if I did my job here on this planet or not.

Bonus points if the bourbon in my hand is rare, I have a son or daughter interested in working in the real estate business with dad and we played a round of golf the day before.

But those are just details that aren’t that important at all.


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About Me

I started the Sweaty Startup in December of 2018 because I believe the Shark Tank and Tech Crunch culture is ruining the real spirit of low-risk entrepreneurship.