I was talking to a friend of mine recently. In the past year, he became a father and was noticing the things that change. Energy levels. Time. Willingness. Drive. They’re all down a notch or two as the implications of fatherhood sink in. Those super long training rides followed by a beer? Forget it. 6 training sessions a week? I don’t think so. Driving all over the country at whim? Not if you want your relationship to last. He’s not complaining; far from it. He loves the challenge of fatherhood and I suspect (know) he’ll be a cracking Dad. But nonetheless, those early days are tough, as your old lifestyle drifts into the distance and the realities of your new one take hold. It’s hard to break the habits of a lifetime.
I remember those first days of fatherhood so clearly. I tried to shoehorn it all in. Work. Post grad study (as a part-time student). Changing nappies. Riding hard. Dropping off at nursery. Squeezing in a training session. Giving some respite to my tired wife. Forgetting to give some respite to a tired wife. Recovering from a deserved scolding. Getting tired. Getting tireder. And even tireder…And on… And on…. Ad infinitum. Lifestyle changes came slowly but surely and a new regime was forged. You get used to it, despite the saggy eyelids. My long runs or rides, became shorter faster ones. I commuted on foot with a rucksack and stole moments in my lunchtime. Not as much activity as before, but enough to scratch my sporting itch (and besides…..it’s only a bloody hobby).
But whilst the sports appearances may suffer, the active parent can take solace from the total satisfaction provided by the gradual transition of the sporting baton, and an enduring period of sporting overlap. I might find it less easy to hop in a car to the Lake District and disappear for four days, but I now get to coach, watching new talents nurtured and seeing myself in others. I might not be able to do a 3 hour mid-week mountain bike ride, but now I share a Taekwondo class with my daughter (and she can laugh at the sight of her father trying to stretch). I can no longer go open water swimming very often, but boy do I love a game of piggy in the middle with a water polo ball (and my daughter? She leaps like a salmon. Just like her Dad). And when it comes to my own bit of competition? The bit of me that comes out to play during the cross season or in the odd 24hr race? Put on the 1000 yard stare, give it a bit of a yip-yah and see what happens. There’s no separate category for 40 year old working dads, but there’s a lot of us out there enjoying it nonetheless.
So I guess the message is there’s never any need to feel torn, divided and pulled in different directions. With a bit of planning and accommodation, parenting has the capacity to be the most binding and rewarding experience you’ll ever encounter.