My first request (hopefully not my last) has come from Simon, he of the monkey herding. He has asked for a bit of writing about Balance. About being a new dad, a husbandular object, an improv playa, a wanna-be writer, and general human. Here's the deal, Simmers.

I can only imagine how the topic came to Simon's mind because the life-changing event of a baby (he's the father of a one-yr old) doesn't change you like being turned into a frog or suddenly making you twice as tall. In fact, I'm more or less the same person (it's hard to judge oneself in these things). I don't personally feel changed. What has changed was how I spend my day and my priorities. I don't think my spending time with Ben is a change in me, but rather an additional priority that was previously absent, and a good one for that matter.

I do have a large number of things that I need to balance. A quick list might be useful here:

  • Wife
  • Baby
  • Work
  • Improv troupe
  • Sunday night improv (outside of the troupe)
  • Magic: The Gathering
  • Reading books
  • Writing a book
  • My blog
  • Playing video games
  • Watching movies
  • Playing sports
  • Social butterfly (I keep close acquaintance with a large number of people)

A few of these items have been entirely removed from my list of things. The Sunday night improv, which I really had a blast at, is now not possible. A 4 hour absence on a weekend (when I should be helping at home) is not feasible nor is it desirable on my part. Playing sports is a plausible activity but none are available to me at a convenient time. Curling on Sundays seems to be a good bet but it doesn't look like it'll be regular and it's not exactly the most demanding sport. Wife and baby join me at the rink and while she would like to join me out there, we end up taking turns (when she isn't falling on the ice and giving herself ugly bruises).

Playing video games is still happening. It's an activity that can be done while on baby duty. Perhaps my choice of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City may show an effect upon my child's development, but for now, as he sits under his toy laden arches batting at all manner of mouth-bound objects, I can take a golf club to a criminal's head with only minimal disturbance. I'm also playing Viewtiful Joe which is fun but not as much as I'd hoped. Bonus points for getting wife time while playing Final Fantasy X which we play together. I love my wife a great deal but playing video games with her is the coolest part. Watching movies probably falls under this category as well. This blog is only if I have a really urgent need to say something or if I want to write something short because I have no time to edit the book. Ben's blog comes under this, too. These activities can be done while holding or amusing a baby. Perhaps not very well but it can be done on occasion.

Reading. I usually have to give up something to get some reading in but I find that as I'm writing I avoid reading so as not to overly colour my own writing. I'm in the middle of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell which is a great book but I daren't write in my own book for fear that it's period language may yet affect my own hand.

Writing. The first draft of the book was complete as of Dec 31. I meant to have a second draft by Dec 31 of this year. There are 18 chapters. I have revised five, four of which were complete before the birth of my son. I vow to complete my task. I can do it if I apply myself and I think I've gotten a good hang on this parenting thing to give me time to do it... on my lunchbreak at work.

Improv Troupage. I've greatly reduced my workload in this regard. I no longer have a hundred tasks like poster making, poster pasting, webmaster, gig contact, etc. I thought I may have to give it up entirely with the baby's arrival but I attend one workshop a week and we only have one show a month which I can make. However, coming next month are weekly shows. I will probably not do more than two shows a month and I'll probably drop a workshop to do it. Usually, the workshop is in the weekday evening, which gives my wife a chance to visit her parents who gladly help with Ben in my absence.

M:tG. I still collect. I still play weekly games with the old gang though I think it may be dying out. We used to regularly get 5-8 people and now we struggle to get 4. Some have moved away. Some have become parents. Others are finding school or love eating their time. I still love it and seeing as the group always got together at my place, it was only interrupted for one week, the week Ben was born. No pressure to learn the game, son. Heh heh. My wife has been very understanding about this and while I try to help as much as possible, she usually ends up with the baby for a good percentage of the night. The guys have been good about helping out and not giving me a rough time about leaving the table to go change a diaper. Besides, there's always the Nameless Game.

Social Butterfly. While I used to use M:tG to see most of my buddies, it's not quite the same. I try to take Ben away from Tash for at least 2 hours every Saturday morning (usually more like 3-4) so she can sleep in or go out, free from any baby duties. I wish it could be more but as long as Ben is on the mommy juice he can't be away for too much longer. During this time, I go visit friends who are amenable to cooing over a baby. We hang out for a while and then we go home to mommy. I see my improv gang at improv, my magic gang on Saturday nights and I try to squeeze everyone else at the occasional baby-friendly party.

Work. I go. I come home. This is also my only exercise as it's a 15-20 min walk to and from work. It's not exactly super engaging but it's not totally tedious either. Every so often I get a task that is actually difficult but more often than not, it's test, test, test. Meh, pretty repetitive. It eats up a lot of my day but the people are cool, the hours are flexible, the walk is short and the money pays da bills. Who could complain?

Here's the big two. Wife and Baby. My wife and I take turns with the munchkin. We both love playing with him but as my wife is the non-working one, to her it falls the task of eternal baby entertainment. She's a trooper but Ben can be difficult. We're now thinking that he's being overfed and underslept so we're going to try and see if that will make our squalling tempest into a dulcet charmer. When he's in a good mood, he's a delight but woe betide they who waken his wrath. So if we can get Ben happier we can get Tasha happier.This is our current task.

As for how we three spend time together. I get bathtime with Ben plus I'm on baby-duty when I get home from work unless I have chores to do (which aren't quite getting done as they used to; which is bad news if you saw how we lived before). Then weekends are split. So I get a fair shake with Ben though I always feel like I could help more. Being at home with a baby can quickly feel like you're trapped with a baby. Her playgroup and visiting her parents has been a big help. Once Ben's asleep, that's when daddy gets in an hour or two of gaming or reading.

Tash n I are very independant people and we both hold alone time and personal projects in high regard. As an indication, we've both said in the past that we'd be willing to try separate vacations if we had to (say for scheduling reasons) but we've never actually had to do it, we always manage to travel together and I can't say that I can see it happening now with Ben. I try to give her as much time as I can so she can go recharge her batteries and she lets me wander off to do my thing.

As for time with each other, this is the thing we both agree we could be doing better. We're both exhausted by the end of the day and we're both recharged by doing our solo activities so it often ends up that we're in different rooms of the house when we have leisure time. This doesn't disturb us because it's pretty much how we were before Ben arrived. We always make time to go out for groceries or play a game or watch a movie or she'll sit in the bathroom as I bathe Ben. It's the alone time that is not exactly abundant. But we knew this going into baby-making and we're prepared. We've had 7 years of marriage and 5 years of dating before that to have us time. After 3 months, we're not exactly going crazy and the drips and drabs we do have are keeping us going. I'm sure we'll be able to make more space in our lives for each other as Ben gets more independant but for now, we happily surrender ourselves over to him.

For all the hard work we've put in so far, I've never found any that has brought us closer together or any so rewarding.