New Parents: Failing at Everything

February 26, 2018
written by Daniel Coyle  AngelList | LinkedIn | Email | Twitter

For expecting parents there are a slew of classes, books, and videos that are ubiquitous and, more-or-less, make us feel like we’re preparing for what lies ahead. Admittedly, when we were expecting our baby boy, the only reading I did was a courteous skim of something my partner forwarded me. We were bookends of two extremes--she read it all, I did not.

But, I know enough about what’s out there to say this. There’s nothing that prepares new parents for the feeling that they’re failing at everything. As you probably know by now, I write about my own personal experience so, as usual, I’ll be attributing my experience to all of humankind, with the vast assumption that what I’m experiencing is pervasive (insert sheepish grin).

There’s so much joy and affection that comes with a new baby--and I was ready for that. Neverending sleepless nights and piles of diapers, laundry, bills--I’m very comfortable with those things. Giggles, tears, winces, new teeth, first steps, cuddles, and hair pulls--all expected, even without reading a book.

Aside from all of these things and, from what I can tell, what you’ll read in most pregnancy books, you’re going to feel like you’re failing--on all fronts.

I’m a very ambitious, sometimes perfectionist, always quick to get in the middle of something I don’t know very well and figure it out, love my work kind of guy. In the past what this has meant is endless hours of joyous toil.

Another thing that this used to mean, is that I could always put in more time. When I supplanted myself front and center in the middle of something I didn’t have the experience to solve, I could always put in more hours and figure it out. Up against a hard deadline? I could pull an all-nighter and brute force my way through it.

These things become more and more impossible as a new parent. There's no such thing as “extra time”. What used to be your down time is now work, baby, bathing, feeding, laundry, dishes, playtime, pickup, dropoff, doctor, etc, etc. Usually there’s just nowhere to pull extra time from.

What does this mean? Well, sometimes it means that you’re consumed by work and feel like a bad, neglectful parent. More often than not (for me at least), it means you’re waist deep in baby time, baby prep, or baby fallout, and feel like a slacker. Like you’re the only one not doing everything you can do for your company and the work that you enjoy.

So, parents and parents-to-be of the world, this is not a post that’s offering an answer--but it is an acknowledgement. Having ambitious career goals and holding yourself to (sometimes impossible) high standards is hard. Having a baby and trying to be everything that that little one needs and wants is rewarding, but exhaustively challenging. If this sounds like you, when you’re making the list of things to prepare for, don’t forget to mentally prepare for all of the insecurities that you’re about to encounter.

That said, this is the most gratifying and inspiring moment in most of our lives--embrace it (he says to himself...over and over and over).

If you have any thoughts, comments, suggestions, or questions, feel free to email me.