Insights From a Bachelor Turned Stepdad at 35
“I never thought I’d be on the phone with you and hear a baby in the background.”
It’s 6:00 AM.
In a previous life this would mean I’d have another hour or so before rolling out of bed, grabbing something highly caffeinated, and sitting down to write, or scroll, or just chill for a bit.
Today, the house is full of music, or singing, or jumping, or laughing, or yelling, or some combination of the above.
Rachel has already gotten up to grab the kids, so by the time I get out of bed their day is in full swing.
Besides teaching Martial Arts to kids when I was in middle school, I have virtually no experience being around them for long periods of time. So entering into a stepdad role has been a learning experience.
Here are a few things I’ve learned along the journey:
Time management is KEY.
When children are around it really makes you realize how much time you waste throughout the day. I’ve been self employed for over 5 years and always told people that I was “simultaneously never working, and always working” because I could coach people or write at all hours of the day/night, or simply walk away for the gym or a break.
The focus and intention needed to make efficient use of your time is a valuable skill that must be built and cultivated.
I remember hearing once that there’s an average of 38 seconds of action during the typical American baseball game. The milliseconds between when the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand and lands at the plate, for example.
Think of all the fluff.
Reflect on the time that you are REALLY being productive through the course of the day. I’ve had to learn to focus on real result producing activities in the time that I do have, so I can fully be present and enjoy family time.
You know a lot about the world. You also know very little.
A question asked roughly every 30 seconds, all day long.
A question that many times has an obvious answer to anyone who’s been on the earth for more than 5 years.
More often than you’d expect, though, you get blindsided with a question that makes you realize you have NO IDEA what the answer is.
Rachel said to me a few weeks ago: “Imagine what it would be like to be seeing literally everything for the first time.”
This is uber-important to keep in mind when trying to maintain patience and composure during the 500th “why” in the past 30 minutes. Every moment is quite literally a teaching moment. Every experience is quite literally a “first.” Every new piece of information is a new wrinkle in a brain that had no idea this knowledge even existed.
Simultaneously, it is also a learning opportunity for us as adults. Society drills our curiosity out of us as we get older (if we let it), and beginning to WONDER again makes life even richer and more dynamic.
Humans don’t need much to be happy.
Everything around us is pushing us towards “the stuff.” Cars, houses, watches, shoes…
While Rosabella loves her toys, she will also spend hours making crafts or houses for her pet dinosaurs out of a random box, or pretending a paper towel is a cocoon for her stuffed caterpillar.
Liliana is 1, and just wants to be read the same book over and over again.
Our desires and needs get far more complicated as we evolve as humans, of course, but the truth of our biological existence is that happiness is created within and doesn’t depend on material items, status, or wealth.
Being around tiny humans who don’t yet understand these concepts is a refreshing reminder about the simplicity of life’s foundation.
You are quite literally shaping future generations.
We all know that children are influenced by their upbringings and surroundings (everyone reading this included), but you never realize just how true this is until you’re the one doing the influencing.
Children will say what you say, act how you act, and retain everything that they observe. It’s remarkable how alert and inquisitive Rosabella is at 5, and how aware of her surroundings Liliana is at 1 as she slowly morphs into a tiny human.
As a male figure in their lives, it is my responsibility to show them what healthy love feels and looks like, both towards them and their mother.
It is my responsibility as a man to properly love and care for their mother as an equal partner — for her sake and theirs.
Their view of relationships and love will be shaped by the actions their mother and I take and the bond that we build which will serve as a guide for them in the future.
In addition to this, how I choose to treat everyone sends a message. Am I being polite to everyone around me? Always practicing good manners and showing gratitude? Setting a positive example in all areas of life is paramount.
Always dedicate time to what really matters.
For years I have been preaching the importance of prioritizing your significant other. Keeping the romance alive no matter how long you’re together. Communication, respect, love, taking on the world as a team.
Being in a relationship with children involved hasn’t changed my mind on this, it has strengthened my conviction about how necessary it is.
It is so easy to be distracted with the constant activity of daily life that we need to make deliberate time to spend with our partner. Whether it’s some quiet time on the couch before bed, a regular date night, or sending spicy texts during the day, we NEED to stay emotionally connected to our partner.
This commitment becomes multi-dimensional when children are involved, because we also need to make time for family nights, movie nights, fun activities, and making sure the kids feel like you are present and in the moment with them.
No matter what your personal circumstances are, the lesson here is to make sure things that don’t matter aren’t distracting you from things that do.
The passion and perseverance you wish you had is already inside you (it always has been).
Liliana is waddling all over the house now. Just a couple of short weeks ago, we were lucky to get two or three steps in a row.
Watching her learn to walk has been a masterclass in what it means to work towards a goal. For her, there was simply no other alternative but success.
She fell on her butt, fell on her knees, fell on her hands, fell on other people.
But she always, always got back up.
Rosabella loves dinosaurs (maybe my secret obsession had something to do with that…) and she has talked about becoming a paleontologist.
She shows no concern about what challenges there might be, she just wants to dig up dinosaur bones.
Think back: At what age did YOU start losing sight of this drive and creativity? At what point in life did you start doubting your ability to walk if you just got up and tried one more time? Who was it that told you that a life or career path was unrealistic?
Kids give us uncensored insight into what we’d want to do if nothing was holding us back…and the truth is, we can still access this part of our mind if we refuse to accept the limitations that other people have set for us.
The final lesson:
Never, ever, ever, ever consider pursuing a relationship with a woman who has children unless you are 100% certain you’re ready for it.
My loud and public philosophy has always been to encourage the honor and commitment that should be present in any healthy relationship. The willingness to give without asking for something in return. The openness to communicate freely. The dedication to loyalty.
All of it — ALL OF IT — increases ten fold when children are involved.
Not only that, you are committing to everyone in the family, not just a girlfriend.
You must earn your spot, and then you must keep it. A woman who has children is not just looking for a life partner, but a man who can step up and serve as a father figure to her kid(s). She will fiercely defend her offspring against any and all negative influences, both foreign and domestic. This is a whole new level of responsibility that no man should ever take on unless he’s sure he is ready.
Give yourself permission to let go of perfection. Nobody obtains it because it doesn’t exist. You’ll still get frustrated, still lose your patience, still slip up from time to time — everyone does. But the important thing is that you put in the work to keep improving, to be and do better, to show up as a light in the life of your family…never a source of darkness.
If you are ready to step into this responsibility, do not shy away when it presents itself.
The world needs more men who are willing to be positive role models and set good examples for our future generations so they know what it really means to live, and to love.
If we nurture a generation of happier and more connected kids, we’ll create a future of happier and more connected adults.
Just imagine the possibilities.