As I’ve got older, and wiser-ish (maybe), I’ve realised a fair few things along the way. Particularly since becoming a dad. One of the most obvious things being that no matter how hard you try and how many times you’ve done it before, you literally cannot put a duvet into a duvet cover without losing the corners at some point (not including the tiny cot duvets, they’re actually fine, without trying to sound like ‘Billy Big Bollocks’, I can probably successfully de-cover and re-cover a 36”x 54” cot duvet in approx. 16.5mins. I know… what a guy!)
Another thing I’ve also realised is that life is full of LEVELS. Loads and loads of levels. Levels which are reached only by evolving, progressing and trying to push further and further on. We find ourselves making our way through life forever wanting to achieve the next level as quickly and efficiently as possible. Like Sonic The Hedgehog, spinning his blue spikey arse into as many golden rings as he can, as fast as he can. Impatient little hog.
We just want more, like Sonic we strive to be at that next stage, take that next step, or next leap, however big or small it is. The levels for me have become particularly prominent in recent years. Large, tangible events have clearly represented visible changes in levels. Things like landing a decent job, meeting Mum Of Mad Lads (or Emma as I knew her back then), buying our first apartment, getting engaged, getting a puppy, getting married, buying our second home, having kids. These are significant levels we’ve reached, achieved and completed. Each time we’ve hit one we’ve been looking to get to the next one. They’re pretty conventional things, general life progression really, but they are levels nonetheless. It doesn’t stop there though, these things all have their own levels within them too. Like the kids for example. We’re constantly monitoring their milestones, their levels; smiling, laughing, eating solids, sleeping through (hahahahahahahaha), sitting up, crawling, walking, talking, reading, writing, learning Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures off by heart to the point that they can recite an entire series without dropping a single word. You know the normal stuff. Is it just programmed into us to always want to get to that next level? Even as a kid? Do we just have this desire to keep rising, keep achieving more, keep bettering ourselves? To constantly strive for the next step? To always want…
It must be built into our DNA as humans. I mean I’m really happy with where I am in life but even right now I find myself thinking about how we can get to that next level. We have a pretty good life. No, in fact, we have a fucking great life. We are lucky enough to generally be able to do what we want when we want (to a degree) and live a very happy and fulfilled family life. We want more though don’t we? We always want more. A better this, a bigger that, a few more of these. When do we ever have enough though? When do we have the best this, a big enough that and plenty enough of these? Can we ever get to a level where there’s no more levels? I really don’t think we can! People often say “live within your means”, but so many people will live way beyond their means because they want that next level so bad and just can’t wait. Can you ever quench the thirst of wanting more in life? Levels are a part of life. I just feel like sometimes we might not actually embrace and enjoy the levels we are already at for long enough before trying to achieve the next stage. Emma and I are certainly guilty of this, it could be viewed as a little ungrateful for all that we have but it could also be viewed that we are just ambitious people who never want to stand still. Like Sonic if we’re still for too long we put our hands on our hips, tap our feet and keep shaking our head just waiting to move on.
Maybe that’s just us, but I don’t think it is. I reckon most people can relate to this feeling. Being contented seems to be a really hard thing to experience for a significant length of time before we find ourselves wanting a little bit more. I don’t want to sound at all unappreciative of what I have in life because I’m really not. I have an amazing family, incredible people around me, a great job and I own many things that make me very happy. I’d be lying though if I said I wouldn’t enjoy even more… A bigger house with more space for the kids to enjoy and more space for all of Mum Of Mad Lads’ stuff (mainly coats, that girl has an absurd number of coats). A more prestigious car because, well because I just really love cars. Going on more holidays with the family to make more memories. More treats for the kids, more treats for Emma, more treats for me etc. etc. Why do people play the lottery? Even people that are very wealthy and very happy? To get to another level. There’s always more to be had.
So as well as levels (for the 10,857th time, hopefully that’s the last time I say that word now, sorry) I’ve come to realise that life is also a lot about BALANCE. All forms of balance. Right/wrong, good/bad, seriousness/fun, ice skating, tightrope walking, perching my fat arse on one of those minuscule kids’ chairs at nursery parent’s evening. Balance is definitely something we need to try to find in order to successfully navigate our way through life. Since becoming a dad an old clichéd phrase has become more evident… you know the one… “work/life balance”. This has got to be the most common phrase thrown around in regards to balance (unless maybe you’re into acrobatics or wing-walking or something) and for good reason, it’s so important as a parent to truly understand the importance of balance.
I’ve come to realise now that it is particularly essential to try and find that neutral ground between working and spending time with your family. One thing that kids most certainly are is expensive. It’s been no surprise to us that we’ve had to part with a lot of dollar dollar bills y’all since having the kids. It’s another one of those classic clichés; “kids haemorrhage cash!” We knew this was the case when we made the decision to start a family. Both Emma and myself had decent jobs so we were in a position to just go for it without too much concern. We made that decision over four years ago and since then we have both seen the balance alter, not only in our bank account but also in our lives. I have to travel a fair bit for my job which means nights away from my family. I don’t like spending time away from them but travelling is an imperative part of the work I do. Do I have a choice in this? Sure, there’s always the choice for me to travel less, but not in my current role. It’s taken just shy of ten years of really grafting for me to climb to the level I’m now at in my industry. Shit I just said it again, 10,858th… Sorry! So I have to suck it up and endure the days and nights away from the family so that we can all continue to enjoy and benefit from what I ultimately get out of it – paid. The time away from Emma and the kids also makes the time with them even more special. Especially that moment when I get back home from a trip. Whether I’ve been away for a day or 5 days, that first embrace when I come through the front door is golden. Every cloud and all that. It also works the other way though. For Emma, getting back to work was a big deal too, even just for a couple of days a week. A work environment actually offered her a break from a hectic home life with two young mad lads and presented the opportunity for more ‘adult interaction’ which all parents with young kids really do need. We’re also very lucky that we have amazing grandparents who can look after the kids for us, helping Emma to get that work/life balance back in place too.
It’s a tough juggling act for most parents to find that balance but we’re all just trying to do our best for our family and you’ve always got to take the rough with the smooth. Home life really is a great thing but it can be tough too, especially with a young family. Spending lots of time with your little ones is lovely, getting to watch them grow and seeing them hit their milestones is mega. Sometimes it’s not so great being stuck home with the kids though when they have those ‘off days’ and nothing can snap them out of a monstrous and hysterical mood where they just want to smash the house up and send you into your own meltdown! On the flip side, going off to work is a necessity but it can keep you from your family too, potentially missing out on those special moments and quality time. It’s all about just finding that balance and doing what’s right for you and your family; a healthy work/life balance.
So yeah they’re a couple of things that I’ve really noticed over the past few years as a dad; levels and balance. 10,859.