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In 2012, I found myself responsible for a tiny human being. For various reasons, my child’s mother was in and out of the picture and I found myself nearly completely responsible for taking care of her.
As an entrepreneur running two businesses in New York, I was now faced with the prospect of changing nappies nine times a day, feedings every few hours, baths multiple times a week, frequent doctors appointments, several walks around the block at night to get my baby to sleep, and about a thousand other little things that had not previously factored into my life.
Terror would not be an inaccurate description of how I felt. But I made it through the tough years in the beginning (albeit with less sleep then I can ever imagine living on again) and my daughter is a wonderful little person.
I now share custody with her mum, which allows me to work and sleep a bit more despite missing her immensely when she is not here. I rationalise my emotional pain of missing her by being grateful that my daughter can experience two parents in her life. All things considered, it could have ended up worse.
Describing years of solo parenting time in a few sentences doesn’t give justice to the challenges I faced. Simply put, it was the toughest best job I’ve ever had (and continue to have).
But that’s not what this article is about. It’s about life lessons that I learned by facing the challenge of being a single dad. Life lessons that surely made me a better man than I was before.
Watch: Radio presenter Ben Fordham shares his experience of being a first-time dad. (Post continues after video.)
1. “Stuff” became unimportant to me.
Certainly “stuff” never should have been important to me, but through much of my adult life it was. I liked the latest and greatest gadgets, expensive clothes, pricey club memberships and dinners out. I had a fancy Manhattan address and split my time between working on my businesses and socialising.
All of this changed when I became a single dad. As an entrepreneur trying to run two businesses while also taking care of a little baby around the clock, my businesses suffered. While some people may be able to be a full-time parent and run their businesses at the same time, I was not blessed with that ability. In a year’s time, most of the “stuff” that I thought was important was gone (including the fancy address).
While most would find this devastating, I was surprised to find it oddly freeing. My daughter looked at me with the same love in Brooklyn as she did in Manhattan. My friends all remained friends and many became closer. I didn’t wear fancy clothes anymore, which was good because everything I owned was covered in baby spit anyway. I worked when I could and cousins and grandparents helped with hand-me-downs and toys. In short, we had nothing fancy but our basic needs were met. And we were (and are) happy.