If you’ve been reading this blog for any long period of time, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been writing nearly as much as I normally do.
There are a couple of reasons for this, one being that I’m putting more time into growing a small side hustle doing web consulting and building WordPress websites for small businesses, called Louisville Web Nerds. The other, and much larger reason, being that my wife and I had a baby girl about six months ago.
As you can tell by that terribly written sentence, my writing skills are also a bit rusty and I’m a bit sleep deprived, but the content must go on. 🙂
Needless to say, things have changed a lot for us in terms of how we each spend our time.
I’ve learned a lot in these past six months, not just about babies and how to get them to chill out (a very useful skill), but also about all of the things that change when you do become a parent. It may be another six months before I write anything else – I’m not really sure – but hopefully you’ll be able to benefit from what I’ve observed about my first six months of being a dad.
You start seeing your time a lot differently
I’ve always been someone who puts a high value on time, but when a baby enters the picture you have A LOT less spare time to go around. Thus, that spare time becomes a lot more valuable, and you inherently become more efficient at everything else you do. Either that, or you just suck at life for a while until you figure out what’s important, which leads me to my next point. 🙂
You start to understand what really matters
Having a baby forces you to take a step back and assess what you’re spending your time on, and what the value those things are to your life, family, and goals. You’ll find that a lot of things that once were your highest priority (like hitting the gym 5x a week to attempt to get swole), are some of the last things you care about now.
Your top priority becomes taking care of that baby and your family.
Assuming those things are under control, you also zero in on how to achieve your goals more effectively. For instance, one of my goals has been to build a side business that I can use to pad my retirement and fund other savings goals (with SEP IRA you can defer taxes on about 20% of side business income for retirement).
Before my baby girl was born I was working on a fitness gear website. It took a lot of time to build and operate, and it was starting to become profitable as I figured things out.
However, it ended up taking WAY too much time and energy to keep up with. Once I turned my focus to web consulting and publishing, two things that feature simple ways to create recurring revenue, I was able to 5x the income I was making with 1/2 of the work (product fulfillment takes more time than you might think).
It’s amazing how that change in perspective forces you to focus.
You start to pay much more attention to your health
While I can no longer sustain going to the gym more than a few times a week (sometimes not at all) I now have a life other than my own who is completely dependent on me. If I fail to take care of myself, I obviously cannot take care of my family.
Once you’ve got someone else who is completely dependent on you being available and healthy, you’ll start to be a lot more motivated to eat clean, get preventative care, get sustainable activity, take care of your body, and maintain your overall health in a much more effective manner.
It’s not always easy to do, believe me, but this is definitely something that’s on my mind now more than ever.
You start to question (almost) every expense
Being the frugal dude that I am, I tend to be pretty selective with what I spend my money on anyway, but the birth of my daughter magnified this need to minimize expenses even further. In the past 6 months I’ve found about $2,000 in annual savings, mostly with some overpriced home and auto insurance that we hadn’t bothered to shop around to get rid of, and a mortgage that we were able to refinance with an increased credit score.
I also put my short-term desire to have a new Tesla Model 3 on hold in place of an old Honda Accord I got from my grandmother. This helped me start off my baby girl’s college fund nicely and helped to pad our emergency savings just a bit more (a baby requires a bit more free cash flow).
You’ll really start to question even the little things, like how much you’re spending on lunch every day, which I would have thought was taking it way too far before.
Tip: If you’re looking to reduce expenses, start with the big things like how much you’re spending on your housing, transportation, and other large recurring expenses such as utilities. This is where you’ll save the VAST majority of your money. Once you’ve done that, focus on the smaller expenses such as food, clothing, impulse spending, etc. Most people do this in reverse and never even make a dent in their financial goals.
You start thinking WAY further into the future (advisors, time, insurance, etc)
Before the baby, I always had plenty of time to do research on our personal finances decisions. However this is a very deep field that can get pretty complex. I ended up coming to three realizations.
- I no longer had the time to keep up with the industry adequately, at least not for now.
- Hiring a professional might uncover strategies I’m not thinking of
- Hiring a fiduciary who is completely unbiased and unemotional about my money will likely yield better long term results than I can achieve myself. This is where the most value with a fiduciary is achieved, in my opinion.
If you would have asked me 5 years ago if I would consider hiring a money manager, I would have never thought in a thousand years I would, but again, with my baby girl being completely dependent on my wife and me, we needed to raise our level of certainty about our financial future.
This also meant considering additional types of insurance, such as an increase in life insurance as well as umbrella insurance. We’re still working on these things, but they’re absolutely much more at the front of our minds now.
Also, for the first time in my life, I’ve started to think about my own mortality. As I age I hear more and more stories of people passing away in their 50s, 60s, and 70s, all of which I’m basically halfway there if not more. I’m only 34 as I write this post, so I’ve got plenty of life left to live, but I am starting to think about how I can live life with a little bit more fulfillment for my remaining years, as well as how ot make sure my family is taken care of when I’m no longer around. These are all difficult to think about, but certainly necessary.
You start to really appreciate your own parents and their love for you
As sappy as it sounds, it’s absolutely true that the love you have for your own child doesn’t compare to anything else you’ve ever felt, not even for your spouse or parents. Even as I write this sentence I’m getting butterflies thinking about giving my baby girl a million hugs after I’m finished. It’s truly an amazing feeling.
This really makes me appreciate the love my parents have for me, even well into my 30s. I now completely understand and appreciate that feeling my parents have for me and am doing my best to make them a priority. I don’t always succeed with this, but it’s definitely more important than it once was.
You care much less about things, and much more about people and memories
People like spending money, even me, but one of the things I’ve noticed is I care so much less about new things now (aside from a few large and long-term black friday purchases). Actually the baby takes up so much space, I’m trying to get rid of a lot of my extraneous possessions, haha. It’s crazy how much stuff a 6 month old requires. I had to move furniture to put up my Christmas tree! Haha.
The first 6 months of our baby girl’s life have gone by incredibly fast. It blows my mind to think that I will never get to experience that again, and there are only 35 more 6 month periods in her life before she likely leaves home.
My wife and I have both put a much higher priority on creating experiences such as spending time with family, taking photos, and making sure we do things together as a family. I’ll admit I can do a much better job at this, especially when I’m feeling a bit tired and worn out, and will continue to focus on that as an area of improvement.
Most of the time, you can fall asleep pretty much anywhere
You get a lot less sleep when you have a baby, even if she is a good sleeper. Your freedom to go to sleep when you want to and wake up when you want to is all but gone, so you develop the skill to fall asleep in about 90 seconds pretty much anywhere.
I used to have nights quite frequently when I would lie awake for hours trying to get to sleep for work the next day, mostly because my mind wouldn’t turn off or I was otherwise not feeling well. That has happened all of twice since our baby girl was born, due to some unnecessary stress I was putting on myself.
While losing your freedom of sleep is a big suckfest, the ability to fall asleep more easily makes up for this a bit.
Pro tip: Apparently babies need routines to teach them to sleep effectively. My wife and I are going through this now with our little girl. Start researching baby sleep routines around the four to five month mark if you want to gain back some of your sleep freedom.
You spend a lot less time with your friends, and you (mostly) don’t care
Lastly, my wife and I have barely seen any of our friends in the last 6 months. I’ve played golf a few times and we’ve managed to get a couple of hours with a few close friends here and there, but most of our focus has been on raising our baby girl, and honestly I haven’t missed them all that much, haha.
This isn’t because I don’t like my friends. I actually have a great core group of them that I’ll be close to for the rest of my life. It’s just been because we’ve felt so attached to our baby girl that our friends have become an afterthought.
I know this will change over time as we all age and get used to the changes that our mid thirties bring, but for now it’s definitely something to manage. I certainly don’t want to lose touch with some of the most important people in my life, and neither should you.
So there you have it. After writing this blog for 7 years, I finally wrote a baby post. You may see more child related posts in the future, as this is obviously much more on my mind that it previously was.
Talk soon. Be well!