setting up the baby room.

Somewhere along the way, it struck me: We were setting up a room for a person who does not exist yet. We were pouring our time, effort, care, creativity, and love into building a safe haven for our child — about seven weeks before we’ll meet him, name him, and hold him for the first time. It was the first time in ages that I’ve been struck with a completely new feeling, and it was the most intensely paternal feeling I’ve experienced yet.

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Our child has no aesthetic preferences at this point, so the room is really all about us. We’ve chosen furniture that suits our tastes, bedding that amuses us and fits our aesthetics, gear and accessories that match the early parenting choices we’ve made, and (of course) a bunch of adorable toys. The room is filled to the brim with our intentions and anticipation, and also the generosity and love of our families and friends, as we’ve bought almost nothing ourselves.

Our kid will inherit the 0-3 month wardrobes of both his older cousins, our nephews, whose wonderful parents sent us a giant suitcase full of clothes. Along with the clothes we’ve received from other friends and family, they have been carefully folded and put away in the drawers of the changing table.

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That deeply paternal feeling hit the hardest while we were folding all these clothes; they just felt impossibly tiny in my adult hands. These miniature outfits revealed just how small and vulnerable this new human is going to be.

I never need an excuse to be anxious — I’m worried about ten different things even on my best days — but it’s clear this kid is going to introduce me to a whole new universe of anxiety. I welcome it, of course. Otherwise we wouldn’t have tried to have a kid in the first place. I just hadn’t felt the beginning tinges of that worry until I visualized our little guy inhabiting these tiny clothes.

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After the clothes were squared away, we sorted everything else into major categories — toys, books, bathing, feeding, changing, outdoor gear, etc. Of course, we went out and bought some adorable bins to store all the stuff.

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The room is all ready to go. Last night, Lauren caught me standing in the doorway and staring into the room. “I do that sometimes,” she said with a knowing smile.

I think we’re ready too.

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on work/life balance.

My job is all-consuming. I run an ambitious nonprofit organization with a small budget and global aspirations. Most of my work occurs during normal business hours, but there’s the extra hour or two of emailing and catching up on relevant political news while I wake up, and there’s the hour each night I spend following up on any issues left dangling when I not-so-completely shut down for the day around 6pm. There are the few hours each weekend that I spend wrapping up the week’s projects and preparing myself for Monday morning. All told, I probably average 60 hours per week, and that’s when things are relatively calm.

It’s conventional wisdom that work/life balance is important, and that Americans are generally overworked, especially those of us who engage in some degree of remote, internet-based work — because it’s that much tougher for us to establish reasonable boundaries. Well, what about those of us who really love our jobs, and who thrive when we aren’t saddled with excessive amounts of free time? Is it truly unhealthy to love what you’re doing 12+ hours a day?

Sure, I could put my free time into hobbies. Remember that time I was in a band? The thing is that I don’t really know how to do music as a hobby. For me, music has always been an outlet for my industriousness as much as my creativity. There is always a concept for an album, an associated marketing plan, and tour dates, whether I’m writing songs about my own personal experiences or pretending to be a magical tree. I don’t have time for all the extra stuff that comes with it, so it’s difficult for me to feel motivated to work on music.

As it turns out, executive leadership at a nonprofit like the HPA requires both industriousness and creativity, in nearly equal measure. Every day I find myself using the same general skillset that I used as an independent touring musician. Frankly, I’m at my worst when these skills aren’t being put to use. When I’m not hatching an ambitious plan and building it from the ground up, it’s likely I’m either doing nothing or doing busy work. Either scenario results in me being depressed and unfulfilled.

I love my job, so why not focus on it? Even with 12 waking hours dedicated to the best job ever, that still leaves me with around 5 waking hours for everything else. That’s plenty of time for hanging out with Lauren and the cats, eating, doing chores, and catching up on our favorite TV shows. There are really only a few earth-shattering, life-altering things that could happen that would render this time allocation unsustainable.

Like having a baby.

I’m not kidding when I say that I have the best job ever. Exhibit A: we’re a small nonprofit with a modest budget, and yet we offer eight weeks of paid leave for new parents in the case of birth or adoption. I intend to take all eight weeks of paid leave that are available to me, and I am committed to ignoring my work inbox and staying away from all ongoing projects for the duration of that leave. It may not be easy, but this is an incredible opportunity that I don’t want to take for granted. Despite my genuine passion and enthusiasm for my job, I don’t believe I’ll have any trouble focusing entirely on getting to know the baby once he’s born.

I’m a bit more worried about what’s going to happen after the leave is over. How will 60 hours of work per week jive with being a parent? Will I find myself wishing I had an office away from home, or will I be so caught up in being a first-time father that my awesome job will lose its luster?

I’m pretty sure this will be a frequent topic on this blog as things progress. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from other parents with full-time careers: how do you balance work with parenting? Please tell me your secrets in the comments below!