Plans so often go awry that I’d rather act impulsively and then be delighted rather than plan excessively and then be disappointed. This is why advanced-planning stresses me out.
Since parenthood is all about dealing with the unexpected, my lack of preparation sort of suits me.
During our first surrogate pregnancy, “preparing” meant buying all. the. stuff. And that gave me tremendous angst. “What if I’m buying the wrong baby bottles? Do I really need this ‘stimulating’ teething doo-dad or am I just a pawn of corporate consumerism? All we really need is food, some diapers and love, right? The rest is just stuff.”
(The only gear I explicitly sought was a slick diaper bag; one stating “I’m a new dad and proud of it.” But all the bags on the market were either quilted and flowery or masculine but hideously unstylish.)
But I digress.
Back to lack of preparation and managing expectations.
The catalog-worthy photo opps with my kids never goes according to plan, even though it seems everyone around me (on Facebook) achieves holiday card perfection on a daily basis.
To wit: I took my adorably-beoverall’d 15-month-old to a wedding. I packed my (schlumpy, unstylish) diaper bag full of wipes, pacifiers, toys and extra snacks. I was ready for anything.
But then he had the soupiest of epic poop blowouts. Because his white button-down shirt was a onesie, I had to lift it over his head, smearing diarrhea up his back and through his hair.
Later that summer, I attended “dads picnic in Central Park” where, almost upon arrival, my kid broke into a head-to-toe rash from…I dunno – the outdoors? (City kids. Eye roll.)
And then there was the Easter service with an impeccably-dressed, and inconsolably perturbed, baby. (Maybe religion’s not his thing.)
I never got my perfectly-Instagrammable picture from any of these ordeals as we left early, despite having “prepared for the unexpected.”
Indeed, “unexpected” is the only reliable constant in parenting; especially within myself…
I didn’t expect to be so frequently bored-to-tears with a baby.
I didn’t expect to feel so nonplussed by poop and vomit.
I didn’t expect to lose my shit over trite stuff like literal spilled milk.
I didn’t expect to be able to function on so little sleep while simultaneously feeling like my core was dismantling from exhaustion.
And I didn’t expect to feel so desperate to do something for myself that I’d start a business at the height of my newborn fatigue while staying at home with a 2 year-old and a newborn.
Yeah, parenting can unexpectedly leave you with a lot of time to ponder ideas and inspiration. “You know what I want to invent…?” was discussed ad nauseum with fellow parents as we sipped wine and tried to keep our 18-month-olds from hitting each other.
My “you know what I want to invent…?” was stylish baby gear for dads. I put out feelers, sought advice from everyone I knew who might have sage advice, and eventually said to myself, “Way dumber people than I am have figured out how to make a company. Why can’t I?”
(I won’t bore you with details, but there’s a story there, for sure.)
Talk about unexpected.
And being slightly under-prepared, but totally able to roll with the punches, has helped me build a business, keep my (relative) sanity, and raise (relatively) calm kids.
Eschewing expectations and “just doing it” brings me to the unsolicited advice I’d pass on to new parents:
A month out from our due date, I worked myself into a tizzy with a co-worker. “What if I buy the wrong diapers? What if there’s a fever and I don’t recognize it’s an emergency? What if I think my kid’s cold but he’s really too hot? What if I confuse gas for early-onset baby menopause?”
And this co-worker, a mother of three, lovingly squeezed my arm and said:
“You’ll know. You’ll just know.”
That’s what I needed to hear. You’ll know.
Yes, I did have the instincts. Yes, I’d just know how to deal with the unexpected when the time comes.
Years later, with a gender nonconforming 6 yo and stubborn-as-hell 5yo, I know that it’s all gonna be alright. On the side, I’m building a lifestyle company catering to stylish dads (and moms!)
I don’t know how to deal with any of “this”, but I’ll figure it out.
Parenting and entrepreneur’ing: I’ll just know.
(And expect the unexpected.)
Gavin Lodge is a proud father of two children, both of whom were conceived with the help of Growing Generations. He is the designer and founder of the baby gear company, E.C.Knox, as well as an actor seen on television and currently in the new Broadway production, Head Over Heels. He and his partner live with their children in New York City. He can be followed on Instagram @e.c.knox and his blog @daddycopinginstyle