In the beginning, we lost all connection to reality. It was as if we had entered some portal or space time continuum. We functioned in a fog without precedence as confusion, tears and fast food billowed around us. It felt like existing in a slightly elevated state staring down at my physical body. I watched from above as it meandered through swaddles, diapers and nipple shields. That is the best way I can describe the first few weeks of my daughter's life.
My wife and I welcomed our first child in August. Eight days later we moved. Here's tip number one -- don't do that. Our family relocated to Richmond, Virginia, one hundred and seven miles away from the beach. Additionally, I began a new job in a completely different industry. It all got really real, really fast. As a new family of five (we have two doggos) we had to find our way. Now, five months later, we are beginning to sniff humbly the nectarous aromas of normalcy. We've started routines and our daily life has an identifiable rhythm. I would be remiss if I didn't credit my wife for getting us here. Through sheer power of will and maternal instinct she's casted our little family through the maelstrom and perpetual sleepless nights. She is a saint, our daughter a blessing, our dogs - water buffalos.
During the four years we lived in Virginia Beach before our daughter's arrival I was in or on the water as often as possible. When the fishing was on, or the swell was right, I was there. My surfboards are now collecting dust between sessions and my fishing gear has plenty of time to dry. The ocean has always been something I need, and I miss it. Thankfully it seems we've waded through the thick of the adjustment period, and I've recently been able to venture back. The past couple of months I've gone out a handful of times. However, what used to be a ten minute commute is now about an hour and a half. Needless to say my day excursions are not as frequent, and require a little more planning than they used to. More detailed measures to coordinate and execute a trip are necessary. It's also important to factor in that my wife will be alone at home with the baby and our two overzealous dogs. To make things easier on everyone we've developed a system of guidelines that help us prepare for days with an absent parent. Doing so has allowed each of us some time to ourselves, and minimized burden on the other. I've organized these guidelines into five steps.
STEP 1: COMMUNICATE
Numero Uno. The first step is the most important, and if overlooked can cause a lot of grief for everyone. My wife and I are a team. The last thing I want to do is leave her guessing. When the idea for an outing comes up she and I talk about it. I don't assume or assert anything. It may be Saturday morning and I'm shooting to Virginia Beach to surf, or Thursday evening and she's going to dinner for book club. Whatever the case we make the decision together, and make sure both of us are on board.
STEP 2: PLAN AHEAD
One could argue I'm a smidge obsessive compulsive. By that I mean my pen organizer has a pen organizer. A smidge. I strive to be efficient with everything that I do. Now so more than ever. I don't get as many days out as I used to so I try and make the most of the ones I do. That's where step two comes in. I plan ahead. Deciding meeting times, locations, filling up the gas tank, prepping the coffee machine -- all things that can be knocked out before the morning of a trip arrives. Hammer out the logistics as early as possible and you'll be able to avoid wasting precious time.
STEP 3: ORGANIZE
This step piggy backs a bit on the previous, but is important enough to stand on its own. For example, a day out fishing can require a hefty amount of gear. Especially if you're going in the winter, or planning to tow the camera gear along. That translates to a serious amount of prep time. You've got to assemble the tackle box, and make sure the extra camera batteries are charged, all while laying out enough layers to stay warm for hours on the water. It can be a daunting task to prep (but it's also half the fun for gear junkies like me). Whatever adventure you plan, get yourself ready the night before. Pack your bags and load what you can in the car. Save yourself as much time as possible the next morning, and reduce the risk of forgetting something. 4AM wake up calls don't always provide the most mental clarity, so help yourself out. Organization is also a huge part of strike missions before or after work. The weekend is one thing, but when you're dawn patrolling or ditching out of work twenty minutes early to catch the last bit of daylight, having your stuff ready to go is everything.
STEP 4: HELP OUT
This step is equal parts important and considerate. Help out around the house the day before a trip. Handle some of the small details. Take out the trash or do a load of laundry. We have a baby. That baby eats, and that baby destroys diapers. A lot. Making her bottles the night before and reloading the diaper caddies with some fresh Pampers can seriously help out the next day. Preparing the coffee maker seems like a small thing, but when the baby wakes up hangry and pissed off, making coffee usually falls by the way side. Help your spouse out and potpourri the house with the delightful scent of Caturra beans from the high jungles of Costa Rica. (Pro tip, the olfactory sense is believed to be the quickest at triggering happiness.)
STEP 5: STICK TO THE SCHEDULE
If you say you're going to be gone from 4am to 12pm, then be gone from 4am to 12pm. I appreciate my wife taking care of the baby and the house when I'm away so I try my best not to take advantage of that time. Once we've discussed a timeline I stick to it. It's important to be considerate about your partner's schedule. Likewise, when you get back home be ready to help out. Usually the only thing I want to do after an early wake up call and long day out is take a nap. Don't be that person. The baby doesn't care that you sight casted a redfish or tucked into a head high wave. Be prepared to snap back into the family role and handle your adulting.
Following these steps has helped me find my way back out while relieving some of the guilt and worry about leaving home. Things change. Our responsibilities grow as we age and start families. That's life. Don't let that prevent you from doing what you love, and what makes you, you. Develop a new roadmap. Support each other. Find a way to keep going. Work on solutions that make the best of things for both of you, and when/if you can adventure together take advantage.