Author Topic: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy  (Read 3553 times)

ReadySetMillionaire

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Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« on: July 26, 2019, 09:45:49 AM »
My son is just over four months now. He's a pudgy and happy little guy. He eats, sleeps, and plays well. Honestly I feel bad posting because, outside of some issues in figuring out how to feed him early on, he's been a remarkably easy baby.

So perhaps I am just finding something to complain about, but the one thing that has been bothering me is losing a bit of my sense of autonomy. Perhaps more to the point, I just feel this constant sense of guilt for doing anything other than coming home and spending time with my son. It seems like everything non-mandatory seems like a "it's this social thing or my kid," and picking the social activity just makes me feel like crap.

For example, today, I am getting lunch at 1:30 and calling it quits.  But instead of going home, I am going golfing. I just texted my wife about it and I can kind of tell that she is disappointed, as she thought I was going to be home early.

Similarly, I started a blog about solo law practice a couple months ago. I really try not to bring this home at all, but my wife knows (because I am remarkably open with her) that I work on this for about an hour a day at the office. Again, sometimes it just feels like I am picking writing a voluntary blog over being home with my kid sooner.

There's obviously other things. I've declined meeting up for beers because I didn't want to pick that over my kid. I've declined trips so as not to leave my wife at home alone. I've declined a lot of stuff just to come home and be with my son.

It's always a balancing act. I don't think my wife resents me at all, although sometimes I'm sure she's frustrated, as she is the primary caregiver (still breastfeeding, still puts him to bed every night, etc.), while I'm out on the town having a jolly time.

So how do you maintain your autonomy, and more importantly, how do you avoid categorizing every hobby you do as a decision between you and your kid?
« Last Edit: July 26, 2019, 09:57:07 AM by ReadySetMillionaire »

LiveLean

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2019, 10:23:17 AM »
If golf is your one thing, fine. Play one round a week. That's four or five hours. Big chunk of time. But, again, if that's your one thing, fine. But if you want to go out for beers, write a blog that presumably will be just a labor of love, and do other things to "maintain your autonomy," that's drifting toward being a self-centered douche to your wife. You're a dad now. It's a full-time gig for the next 18-plus years.

Here's an idea: Get up early and work out. Beers and golf aren't going to improve your health at all and you'll end up rocking a serious dad bod. Not a good look. You want to have the energy for your kid, especially if you're new to this in your 30s or 40s.

Here's another idea: Do stuff with your kid. You can take a 4-month old to baseball games (I did). Go to the zoo and aquarium; they love that stuff until about the age of 7-8. Enroll in daddy-and-me swim lessons (I did when my kid was 6 months old.) Kids are entertained up until the age of 4 by something as simple as Costco shopping. I never found it comfortable to run with a baby jogger, but a lot of guys (and gals) do. If you're not reading to your kid at least an hour a day, shame on you.

Autonomy? Geez, buddy. Newsflash: it's no longer all about you.


bogart

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2019, 11:02:13 AM »
My DH and I pretty much take turns.  So for example, he gets 1 weekend day to play golf, I get 1 weekend day to do my things (go for a long hike, for example).  He gets 1 night out, meaning he takes off when I get home from work (see below), I get 1 night out, meaning I don't come home from work until I feel like it (basically on our nights out we each get to stay out as long as we want, obviously others might prefer a different approach).

My DH is RE and I'm not, so he's the primary go-to parent.  Our kid is now in middle school, so DH gets a lot of flexibility in his daytime schedule (he plays golf 2 or 3 weekdays per week, for example), but he manages the home and the childcare and I don't.  I do recognize that having him on call is really valuable, so for example, sure, he gets to play golf many weekdays but if our kid is sick on a day I work -- guess who has to deal?  Not me. 

Personally I'd way prefer to work than spend hour upon hour with a small child (this is less true now that our kid's a middle schooler, but it was certainly true when he was younger), so I would definitely never claim (or believe) that DH should have less "time off" than me.   

Nick_Miller

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2019, 11:05:56 AM »
OP, welcome to dadhood! I mean that sincerely, not in a sarcastic way.

But...yeah. Your autonomy is going to take a MAJOR hit, especially for these next few years. It gets better when they hit elementary school age, but still expect a kid-centric existence for a long time.

I think we're all entitled to pick one or two things just for us, and I'd strongly suggest you figure out what fun things are most important to you. But let's face it, most of your hobbies/fun things are going to be very limited. I spent a summer with my little ones when they were 4 and 1, and WHEW I was ready to get back to work in the fall. It's emotionally draining taking care of little ones, and your wife probably feels like the cavalry has arrived when you walk in the door. And we all only have so many hours in the day. So yeah, when you choose a fun activity, you are effectively choosing it over the option of Go Home to Kid/Wife. It will force you to make some tough decisions.

Quick story and I will shut up...

When my oldest was like 2 months old, I got invited to a football game. And like an idiot, I went. Oh my goodness, when I walked in the house my wife was in tears. It had been a hard day with our daughter, and my wife reaaaally resented me going to the game, even though she had said she was "okay" with it when I called earlier, and even though I was only gone for like 4 hours. I never dreamed it was such a big deal, and I was like, "Are you freaking serious?" at her reaction (I thought that, I did NOT say that), but it was legit to her.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2019, 11:09:48 AM by Nick_Miller »

mrsnamemustache

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2019, 11:17:26 AM »
Most important: make sure that your wife has MORE time than you for fun kid-free stuff. She needs more away time than you since you are away at work all the time (I say this as the one who was the only working parent for a while). That is the right thing to do and will help with guilt when you have your fun. If she is resistant, be adamant. She'll have to work around breastfeeding, but it is doable.

Take kid to brewery with you when you meet friend for beer (while wife has her fun kid free time). Not as fun as alone, but better than alternatives.

You'll have more autonomy and less guilt as kid gets older. For now, suck it up to some extent.

Khaetra

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2019, 11:51:41 AM »
Most important: make sure that your wife has MORE time than you for fun kid-free stuff. She needs more away time than you since you are away at work all the time (I say this as the one who was the only working parent for a while).

I was going to ask this: do you give your wife time to do things that she wants, even if it's just private time to be alone and soak in the tub?  There has to be some fairness, as you are out with other adults daily and she is home with a tiny human who demands so much more than probably your boss.

I get you want to keep up what makes you 'you', but you are a dad now and you need to put more time into that and making sure your wife gets breaks instead.  Golf, blogs, etc. will always be there but your little one will only be little for so long.

TVRodriguez

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2019, 12:15:19 PM »
I have two friends who are also lawyers, who are married to each other, and who have two kids.  Neither one was the SAHP (they had a nanny for the infant years).  The way they handled a similar issue was that each parent was responsible for bedtime every other weeknight.  That way, each one got some "outside fun time with friends" without feeling guilty.

I'd say your situation is different because your wife stays home, so if I were her and if you were only responsible for bedtime every other night, I'd be pretty ticked off.  That is not a balance, IMHO.  But you can find a balance that works for both of you.  What if you ask her what her suggestion would be for you?  Both parents should be happy, ideally.

I am reminded of an aunt of mine a SAHM of six, who told me that when she had her first baby, at the end of each day, when her husband would come home from work, she would hand him the baby and his dinner plate (she had cooked) and she would leave the house for a while.  Could be 20 minutes or 2 hours.  It was the only way she could keep her sanity, she said, after spending all day with a baby.

In our house in the infant years, DH just came straight home from work, as did I (after picking kid up from daycare).  I would go out with friends about once a month or so, usually for dinner on a weeknight.  DH is a real homebody.  His "thing" is going to the hardware store (and then working on things at home), and he could take the baby with him, which was glorious for me.  But he didn't stop working on his hobbies.  They just took place in the house.  And I didn't stop seeing all my friends--but I definitely cut back a lot.

mrsnamemustache

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #7 on: July 26, 2019, 12:39:55 PM »
One more thought: do stuff more after kid goes to sleep. This may be easier as baby gets a bit older and bedtime is often 6:30-7:30. I  plan drinks with my friends for 15 minutes after kids bedtime.

Captain FIRE

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2019, 12:47:07 PM »
I agree with what others have posted and will add - plan in advance.  It's easier to mentally plan ahead that DH will be out X night if I know in advance.  Part of it may be setting mental expectations, but I'm sure part was that I could prepare ahead (e.g. plan an easy dinner for the night, plan to do the laundry/dishes the night before so I didn't have to do it all that night).  It's harder to roll when it was suddenly dropped on me that DH had to work late/wanted to go out with friends.  Also recognize there are just some days that are really tough at the office - and at home.  Try not to ask on those days.

And try to do things more around the kid's schedule.  Go home on time and write the blog after the kid is asleep.  I still do this - I try hard when I have to work late to do it after bedtime.

You need you time for your own sanity, but it's more limited while they are little.  And +1000 to the person who suggested you make sure your wife gets more her-time than you, particularly considering she's a SAHM.  From my unscientific look at my friends, I've noted that the men seem to get more away time than the women, often a lot more.  This can lead to resentment and burnout.  Perhaps self-inflicted in part, but you can at least encourage her to get out.  That makes for a better grounded wife/mom, and you for a better parent.

I'm still deep in the trenches, but it does get better.

marble_faun

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2019, 12:57:28 PM »
Is your wife getting an equal chance to maintain her autonomy?

This could be the start of a long build-up of resentment unless you take the time to balance your schedule and give each other breaks. 

nessness

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2019, 10:24:52 PM »
Is your wife getting an equal chance to maintain her autonomy?

This could be the start of a long build-up of resentment unless you take the time to balance your schedule and give each other breaks.
Yes yes yes to this.

One of the hardest things for me as a new mom to a needy, breastfeeding baby was feeling like my life had been totally transformed, while my husband's life had hardly changed. It sucked, and we had some of the worst fights of our marriage over it. Thankfully, we worked it out, and had a much better balance by the time we had a second baby. But please try to address this issue before it gets to that point.

It's true that your wife can't just take off for several hours if she's exclusively breastfeeding, especially if she's not pumping, but she can take a walk or go to Starbucks for an hour while you watch the baby. She can have a friend over or read a book while you take primary care of the baby, only bringing him to her to feed when needed. Those kinds of things are SO important for mental health.

In the golf example, it sounds like you just told your wife you were going to do that, rather than asking her opinion. By telling your wife you're going golfing, you're de facto telling her that she's solely responsible for a tiny, needy human for the next several hours, when she may have been looking forward all day to getting a break and/or some adult conversation. Don't do that. Ask, and better yet, offer something in return, like getting up with the baby in the morning so she can sleep in a bit.

"But wait!" you say. "That sounds like the opposite of autonomy!" Yep. Deal with it. There's no way to bring a helpless baby into the world without losing your autonomy, except by foisting the care of that baby onto someone else.

Your baby won't stay 4 months old forever though. You've still got several years before he can stay home alone, of course, but he'll get more fun to hang out with and take places, and he'll develop a more consistent schedule to where it's easy to plan things while he'll be sleeping.

Tyler durden

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #11 on: July 27, 2019, 08:43:26 AM »
You either want to be a parent or you donít

gatortator

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #12 on: July 27, 2019, 09:44:23 AM »
so many feelings on this topic, but I am resisting the urge to say too much without more information.
 
So as others have asked, 

how much time does your wife have away from your son? 
Is she breastfeeding?
How has her diet had to change since since becoming pregnant/giving birth?
Has she had pre or post depression?
How have her activities changed?

also you may want to read this interesting article....
https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/6/eaaw0341
or it's synopsis
https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/06/study-marathon-runners-reveals-hard-limit-human-endurance
Quote
In a second finding, the authors report that human pregnancyóthe energy expenditure of which has been measured in earlier studiesódemands about the same level of energy as long athletic endurance events. It is also governed by the same metabolic constraints. ďTo think about pregnancy in the same terms that we think about Tour de France cyclists and triathletes makes you realize how incredibly demanding pregnancy is on the body,Ē Pontzer says

What are your thoughts on the sentence in bold?

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #13 on: July 27, 2019, 10:42:55 AM »
Thanks to those who gave thoughtful and well-intentioned feedback. My post was limited to my hobbies, and my feeling guilty about pursuing those hobbies while having a kid. Itís a weird feeling Iíve obviously never had before.

While a limited few made incredibly negative assumptions about my role as a spouse, I appreciate those who wanted me to fill in the missing information from my original post as to how my spouse fits in all this.

I get up every morning at about 6:15/6:30 to watch my son so my wife can work out. She will usually handle feeding him again at 7:45/8:00.

I watch him whenever she wants me to. Today she is going to a gender reveal for a couple hours. Tomorrow she is going to a bridal shower. I will be watching my son both times.

In terms of housework, I do everything except laundry (which she insists on doing). I do the dishes, take out the trash, do all the landscaping, make the bed/tidy every morning, etc.

Lastly, I am the primary income earner. I work about 50 hours a week and am on pace to make about $150k this year. My wife works M-W-F and will make about $35k this year. My business and work has basically allowed her to have zero stress about money and enjoy being a mom.

So, I think we have struck a really nice balance. My wife gets frustrated sometimes (as all new parents do) but things have been going well.  I really do appreciate the advice to let her get even more autonomy, and give her some breaks. She works M-W-F, so maybe I can come home Tu-Th for an hour or so. I should also encourage her to see friends more and do something similar to my golfing.

What I was getting at was my own internal struggle. Iíve heard from multiple parents that you have to keep being you, and that ďyou were somebody before you were a dad ó donít lose that.Ē Iím trying to find the balance between this and being there for my son.

Again, everything seems like a me versus my kid thing. And Iím struggling to deal with that.

Mrs. D.

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2019, 02:12:03 AM »
This hits home for me and DH. We have a 3.5 yo and 1.5 yo. I'm the SAHM parent who breast-fed exclusively and rarely got a break from the baby.

Your time is zero sum, no getting around it, but it sounds like you get a lot of time with your son. Do you feel that is quality bonding time (as much as is possible with a 4 month old - eye contact, hearing your voice, handing him toys, reading books, etc.)? I struggled with feeling guilty anytime my son was in a bouncer or on a play mat while I did chores. I found I could ease the guilt by setting a timer for 15 minutes and giving him my undivided attention (not looking at my phone!) a few times a day.

If you are being a supportive partner to DW (which it sounds like you are) and spending time tending to and bonding with your baby (which it sounds like you are), then you can carve out a few hours per week to tend to yourself. I think planning for that time and quantifying it (4 hours/week for example) might help you resolve your guilt. You're not choosing X over the baby; you're taking 4 hours/week to do self care and giving many more hours to your wife and kid. As others have said, making a plan for your wife to get that time is just as important. And ditto that the worst feeling as a SAHP is when you're anticipating another adult's arrival and then that adult doesn't appear. It can be crushing. Planning ahead makes all the difference there.

But, yeah, you lose yourself a little. Your priorities change, how you want to spend your time changes. Sometimes the logistics are so complicated it becomes impossible to get time away (my DD didn't take a bottle so I was pretty much within arm's reach of her for the first 10 months of her life). Around the time my first kid turned one, I found I could be away from him without feeling guilty. It gets easier once your child doesn't seem so helpless and you and your spouse are in a sustainable groove. (Then you'll get lulled into having another baby and things will get complicated all over again!)

Also your wife is exercising everyday at 4 months postpartum? Damn, I am impressed. Good for her.

Candace

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #15 on: July 28, 2019, 07:07:06 AM »
To paraphrase the cheesy but sometimes on-the-money Dr. Phil, if you want to take care of your son the best way you can, sometimes you have to take care of his father.

That goes for your wife too: she has to take care of herself as well.

It sounds like you're each doing a good job taking care of each other. We folks on the internet aren't really in a position to say whether your division of labor is "fair", whatever that means.

I think if you each take the approach that you're responsible for 51% of the work, (and you have a realistic idea of what the work consists of) then you can feel good about being a good spouse as well as a good parent.

I like the suggestion above of quantifying your "you" time per week. Like a budget, or an allowance. You know how much you get. If it's a reasonable amount, then you can be satisfied within that boundary. But don't fall into the trap of thinking you need as much as the spouse who stays home, and breastfeeds. They are more intimately, constantly tied to the baby, as opposed to being in the world of adults where you get more time "to yourself", i.e. time to concentrate on your work, go to the bathroom without worrying, and time without another human being literally feeding off your body. So they need more concentrated "me" time than the parent who goes to work. Just my $0.02.

Best of luck to the OP. I'm sure it's not easy making the adjustment, and he is putting a lot of thought and effort.

gatortator

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #16 on: July 28, 2019, 10:07:26 AM »
Thank you for addressing several of the questions I had.  I admit I was kind of probing to see where you were emotionally.  Your feelings on the situation are normal and you and your wife are doing fine.  It sound like you are both raising a fine and healthy child.  Keep it up.

Now I may get a little stream of consciousness. apologies-- this is something I often think about but have never put into words (I am also a STEM PhD so I am more used to technical writing).  Ok caveats done-- onto the content.

Back in high school,  I was an exchange student for a year.  Prior to departure to my host country,  the culture shock curve was presented to my group as a way to mindfully prepare us for the emotional roller coaster we were standing in line for.


source:http://abitofwanderlust.blogspot.com/2012/06/culture-shock.html

I often think about this curve when I read case studies about switching to a frugal lifestyle or people wanting to convert their significant others(SO).  They effectively want to change cultures-- from a consumer based one to a frugal based one.  They get to ride the same roller coaster I had to as an exchange student even though they never leave home.  I have wanted to tell them this as way to prepare them for the road home and to encourage them as well to stick it out for the dips and turns ahead.

Your original post (OP),  reminded me that parenthood could also be seen as a culture change.  And you are now on the same roller coaster and are going through the same dips and turns.  Based on what you posted, you are firmly in the first downturn-- frustrations/annoyance at your new everyday.  Every emotion you are experiencing is normal-- be kind to yourself on the road ahead.   You have more to experience before the road gets straight again. 

Another way to look at this is the Kubler-Ross Change Curve (something you may have seen in your workplace).  It is similar though slightly different to the culture schock curve.


source https://www.cleverism.com/understanding-kubler-ross-change-curve/

The emotions of new parenthood could also be seen as a way of grieving the loss of something (freedom.. autonomy....independence.... can't think of the best word here.. others may have better suggestions) and you are now on the grief cycle.  Again,  change is hard and all of your emotions are real and valid.  Since your OP is how to deal with the changes in your life,  this might help...

You are not alone..  both you and your wife are adjusting to your new normal and it will take time.  Give yourself that. 

I brought up the sciencemag article up for two reasons:
1-  to observe your response if you had one.
2-  to now use a reminder, that your wife is going though the same emotional roller coaster you are.  However,  she is doing it after completing the endurance equivalence of biking the Tour de France.  Yes, you need kindness and respect, but your wife needs it even more.  Your first post did not suggest that you understood this.  Your follow-up post does.

 No clue if these ramblings made sense or are helpful.  But your posts already show you are right path to accepting and succeeding at your new life with your wonderful family.  All the best.

« Last Edit: July 28, 2019, 11:41:39 AM by gatortator »

TVRodriguez

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #17 on: July 28, 2019, 06:58:01 PM »
Thank you for addressing several of the questions I had.  I admit I was kind of probing to see where you were emotionally.  Your feelings on the situation are normal and you and your wife are doing fine.  It sound like you are both raising a fine and healthy child.  Keep it up.

Now I may get a little stream of consciousness. apologies-- this is something I often think about but have never put into words (I am also a STEM PhD so I am more used to technical writing).  Ok caveats done-- onto the content.

Back in high school,  I was an exchange student for a year.  Prior to departure to my host country,  the culture shock curve was presented to my group as a way to mindfully prepare us for the emotional roller coaster we were standing in line for.


source:http://abitofwanderlust.blogspot.com/2012/06/culture-shock.html

I often think about this curve when I read case studies about switching to a frugal lifestyle or people wanting to convert their significant others(SO).  They effectively want to change cultures-- from a consumer based one to a frugal based one.  They get to ride the same roller coaster I had to as an exchange student even though they never leave home.  I have wanted to tell them this as way to prepare them for the road home and to encourage them as well to stick it out for the dips and turns ahead.

Your original post (OP),  reminded me that parenthood could also be seen as a culture change.  And you are now on the same roller coaster and are going through the same dips and turns.  Based on what you posted, you are firmly in the first downturn-- frustrations/annoyance at your new everyday.  Every emotion you are experiencing is normal-- be kind to yourself on the road ahead.   You have more to experience before the road gets straight again. 

Another way to look at this is the Kubler-Ross Change Curve (something you may have seen in your workplace).  It is similar though slightly different to the culture schock curve.


source https://www.cleverism.com/understanding-kubler-ross-change-curve/

The emotions of new parenthood could also be seen as a way of grieving the loss of something (freedom.. autonomy....independence.... can't think of the best word here.. others may have better suggestions) and you are now on the grief cycle.  Again,  change is hard and all of your emotions are real and valid.  Since your OP is how to deal with the changes in your life,  this might help...

You are not alone..  both you and your wife are adjusting to your new normal and it will take time.  Give yourself that. 

I brought up the sciencemag article up for two reasons:
1-  to observe your response if you had one.
2-  to now use a reminder, that your wife is going though the same emotional roller coaster you are.  However,  she is doing it after completing the endurance equivalence of biking the Tour de France.  Yes, you need kindness and respect, but your wife needs it even more.  Your first post did not suggest that you understood this.  Your follow-up post does.

 No clue if these ramblings made sense or are helpful.  But your posts already show you are right path to accepting and succeeding at your new life with your wonderful family.  All the best.

I love your post, and I will likely share that cultural adjustment curve with my oldest soon bc he's changing schools starting this coming school year, and I think he'll find it helpful. So thank you for sharing it!

RSM, I'm sorry, I thought your wife was staying home with your little one. My mistake. I agree with the other posters who mentioned planning ahead. I'd say that planning the week ahead is ideal but at least a day ahead is better than spur of the moment.

And kudos to you for giving her time to exercise!  As a mom I find exercise more important than I did before having kids.

bogart

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #18 on: July 29, 2019, 08:05:28 PM »
Hi again.  Not sure if you (the OP) found my reply annoying or helpful, but having read your thread-level reply, a couple further thoughts -- 4 months is pretty early into this.  It does get better (IMO) in the sense of becoming more familiar and also (obviously) over time -- but a long time -- eventually getting genuinely easier.  Because little kids cannot be left alone at all (in any meaningful sense) for the longest time, which is -- annoying.  And a rude shock, at least it was to me, because somehow, I really truly had actually to be home (not just en route) before DH could leave, and so on, and it was just a sea change for me.  I mean, not that I hadn't grasped that intellectually before becoming a mom (but I'd already been a stepmom to teenagers, and they're just a totally different can of worms), but the implementation was day in and day out, and felt overwhelming.

One final thought:  looking back on my kid's early years, if I could do one thing differently I'd have used more paid childcare.  I'm fortunate to live where good ditto is readily available and reasonably affordable, and of course YMMV, but our kid, an only, loved the socialization it offered, and we loved the flexibility it provided.  And as an introvert, getting time away from my kid and other people allows me to recharge and be present when I am with him (etc.).  So that may be worth considering/bringing into (or more into) the mix.

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #19 on: July 30, 2019, 03:48:48 PM »

What I was getting at was my own internal struggle. Iíve heard from multiple parents that you have to keep being you, and that ďyou were somebody before you were a dad ó donít lose that.Ē Iím trying to find the balance between this and being there for my son.

Again, everything seems like a me versus my kid thing. And Iím struggling to deal with that.

This made me wonder how much you are enjoying the time you are spending on these things?  Are they things that re-energize you and feel like a break?  Or are they a drain on your already limited time?

Could you be feeling torn because you want to spend more time with your son, but you're getting pressure from your drinking/golfing buddies to keep everything the same as before you had a kid?  I think there is still a bit of sexism around where a Dad wanting to rush home to see their children is somehow less dedicated or manly, but no-one would bat an eye if it was a woman making that choice.

I'd see not losing who you were before you had a kid to be the core things that are really important to you.  It's not about keeping up an appearance that your life and priorities haven't changed massively now that you are a Dad. 




chemistk

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #20 on: July 31, 2019, 06:53:33 AM »
This is a struggle I have been dealing with for the last 4 years (oldest was born in 2015).

I, too, find myself deriving little satisfaction in solo activities. I can't remember the last time I did something (not work related) without my wife+kids around and didn't go longer than an hour thinking about them and the time I'm missing with them.

My own rationalization of these feelings has been a long journey and I'm still not fully comfortable yet, in that after extended periods of focusing on only work+family I do crave solo time (as anyone should) and yet when I indulge in that time I feel as though I should be back at home with them.

My mind's borderline abhorrence of personal time is rooted in two things, which are very similar to yours - a strong feeling of guilt that I'm not fulfilling my role as my wife's (who is a SAHP) backup - something she looks forward to most days, and an even stronger feeling of anxiety over knowing that each second spent without my kids is lost forever.

Being a parent is, has been, and always will be very challenging. And for the primary caregiver (at least, in my own experience), it's demoralizing at times to watch your spouse go off to work every day. I will admit that there are a significant number of things that compound my wife's challenges with being the primary caregiver but ultimately at then end of the day with the boys she's absolutely drained. Extreme temperatures, rain, snow, illness, judgmental other parents, mean other kids, bad moods, and a whole host of other things can make the day of a SAHP so much more challenging than most jobs. And so, I am extremely glad to take the burden off her shoulders. And when I go off to do something on my own, especially without the kids.....I feel as though I'm failing in my responsibilities as the other caregiver. Just as she feels the same way whenever she goes somewhere and leaves the kids with me.

And when I'm not feeling like I should be home to relieve her, I feel like I should be home with my kids. To watch them play, learn, grow. I've watched my 4yo, who was only recently a chubby little infant, turn into a little boy with boundless energy and humor. And I feel anxious because these moments are fleeting, especially since he's going to be in school soon and in 9 years he's going to want little to do with me and my wife. Time moves faster and it's impossible to not feel like I'm on the losing end of creating memories.

We're dealing with our challenges in our own way, and some people just don't feel the same way. Some people have no issue leaving, for a few hours, for a weekend, or (in the worst cases) forever. And others don't care about spending those early childhood years with their kids. So, it's difficult for a lot of people to relate to what you're feeling.

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to this internal struggle. I've allowed my hobbies and interests to take a backseat for the time being, at least as long as my kids are too young to enjoy them with me. I've learned to better embrace my role as a father and incorporate that into my identity rather than it be an annotation in my self description. Doing this has eased the guilt a bit and allowed me to discover that some of the things I thought I enjoyed doing really aren't enjoyable anymore.

This is all going to shift again (as it probably will for you) when all my kids are in school. My wife will "have her days back" and I'll not feel so bad when I decide to take a Saturday morning for myself. But ultimately, what keeps me centered is the thought that, when my kids are graduating high school, I don't want to watch them and regret never learning to enjoy my time with them. If that means fewer beers brewed, fewer photos taken, fewer games played then so be it.
« Last Edit: July 31, 2019, 06:56:33 AM by chemistk »

Mrs. D.

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #21 on: July 31, 2019, 10:25:14 PM »
This is a struggle I have been dealing with for the last 4 years (oldest was born in 2015).

I, too, find myself deriving little satisfaction in solo activities. I can't remember the last time I did something (not work related) without my wife+kids around and didn't go longer than an hour thinking about them and the time I'm missing with them.

My own rationalization of these feelings has been a long journey and I'm still not fully comfortable yet, in that after extended periods of focusing on only work+family I do crave solo time (as anyone should) and yet when I indulge in that time I feel as though I should be back at home with them.

My mind's borderline abhorrence of personal time is rooted in two things, which are very similar to yours - a strong feeling of guilt that I'm not fulfilling my role as my wife's (who is a SAHP) backup - something she looks forward to most days, and an even stronger feeling of anxiety over knowing that each second spent without my kids is lost forever.

Being a parent is, has been, and always will be very challenging. And for the primary caregiver (at least, in my own experience), it's demoralizing at times to watch your spouse go off to work every day. I will admit that there are a significant number of things that compound my wife's challenges with being the primary caregiver but ultimately at then end of the day with the boys she's absolutely drained. Extreme temperatures, rain, snow, illness, judgmental other parents, mean other kids, bad moods, and a whole host of other things can make the day of a SAHP so much more challenging than most jobs. And so, I am extremely glad to take the burden off her shoulders. And when I go off to do something on my own, especially without the kids.....I feel as though I'm failing in my responsibilities as the other caregiver. Just as she feels the same way whenever she goes somewhere and leaves the kids with me.

And when I'm not feeling like I should be home to relieve her, I feel like I should be home with my kids. To watch them play, learn, grow. I've watched my 4yo, who was only recently a chubby little infant, turn into a little boy with boundless energy and humor. And I feel anxious because these moments are fleeting, especially since he's going to be in school soon and in 9 years he's going to want little to do with me and my wife. Time moves faster and it's impossible to not feel like I'm on the losing end of creating memories.

We're dealing with our challenges in our own way, and some people just don't feel the same way. Some people have no issue leaving, for a few hours, for a weekend, or (in the worst cases) forever. And others don't care about spending those early childhood years with their kids. So, it's difficult for a lot of people to relate to what you're feeling.

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to this internal struggle. I've allowed my hobbies and interests to take a backseat for the time being, at least as long as my kids are too young to enjoy them with me. I've learned to better embrace my role as a father and incorporate that into my identity rather than it be an annotation in my self description. Doing this has eased the guilt a bit and allowed me to discover that some of the things I thought I enjoyed doing really aren't enjoyable anymore.

This is all going to shift again (as it probably will for you) when all my kids are in school. My wife will "have her days back" and I'll not feel so bad when I decide to take a Saturday morning for myself. But ultimately, what keeps me centered is the thought that, when my kids are graduating high school, I don't want to watch them and regret never learning to enjoy my time with them. If that means fewer beers brewed, fewer photos taken, fewer games played then so be it.

This is such a thoughtful and well-stated picture of parenting young children. I admit as a SAHP I'm often counting the minutes until nap time, bed time, another adult to be there to take the pressure off, etc. I enjoy my time with them, but I still feel it as work. I sometimes have a sense of unease that I'm going to watch them at high school graduation and regret that I was always counting the minutes until my next break. It's an interesting emotional and psychological challenge for me to both take my job as a parent seriously and enjoy my kids as though they aren't work. You've given me something to mull over. Thanks, chemistk!

chemistk

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #22 on: August 01, 2019, 05:55:32 AM »

This is such a thoughtful and well-stated picture of parenting young children. I admit as a SAHP I'm often counting the minutes until nap time, bed time, another adult to be there to take the pressure off, etc. I enjoy my time with them, but I still feel it as work. I sometimes have a sense of unease that I'm going to watch them at high school graduation and regret that I was always counting the minutes until my next break. It's an interesting emotional and psychological challenge for me to both take my job as a parent seriously and enjoy my kids as though they aren't work. You've given me something to mull over. Thanks, chemistk!

Don't mention it! It's not an easy journey and it has been rife with plenty of emotions - from both of us. It's easy to think you're alone in your struggles but your spouse is often going through the same things in a different way, and there are plenty of others silently, secretly on the same journey with the same struggles. The issue today is that we all cover it up with curated snapshots shared on social media, so that none of us believe the others could possibly be struggling as we are.

Something that really galvanized my heightened awareness of the fleeting years of infancy and early childhood: I was at a company picnic one day, probably a year or so after my oldest was born, and I was chatting with our group's VP (a nice, personable guy) and we got to talking about our kids. His were in middle school at this point, and I was sharing how much I enjoyed spending time with my son, and I looked forward to spending many evenings and weekends with my kids as they grew. His mood got instantly heavy. He shared with me that one of his biggest regrets was that he had missed the majority of his kids' early years because he was working his way up at other companies to get where he was. He never really got to spend much time with them as infants - preschoolers, and I could feel the sense of regret he was carrying.

I made it a point then that I would never, for an extended period of time, sacrifice my presence in my kids' early years so that I could 'get ahead'. Turns out that helped me put FI in perspective, which was an added bonus.

DadJokes

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #23 on: August 01, 2019, 06:56:39 AM »
Well put @chemistk

I have chosen to maintain at least one hobby since the birth of my son, which is board games. I play with a group for roughly six hours every Saturday, and I use it as my time to unwind from the week of work. That's a huge time-suck, but everyone needs something in their life that they can use to clear their heads.

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #24 on: August 02, 2019, 02:37:12 PM »
Just to give an update, this week, I made it a point to work less on Tuesday and Thursday (the days my wife is home). I went in later and came home earlier. I brought her Panera on Tuesday which is a big treat for her since she does not usually have time to make something nice with the kiddo at home. I will probably have to come in tomorrow (Saturday) to make up for lost time, but oh well, my wife really appreciated it.

The one thing that really struck a chord: "I've learned to better embrace my role as a father and incorporate that into my identity rather than it be an annotation in my self description." @chemistk

I *think* I've struck a nice balance in that, when I'm home, I'm dad all the time. I'm really involved. I do not come home and need "down time." I jump right in and spend as much quality time as I can with my son. I also watch him every morning when he's at his most alert and we have a blast together. I find myself enjoying him more and more, and a huge part of me thinks that's because I went from being 100% work/father to re-implementing my own hobbies to maintain my well-being.

I agree with @DadJokes -- everyone needs a hobby. Mine is golf and this little blog of mine. Golf is great exercise (I walk), great socialization, and lets me outside (I have an office job). The blog is an outlet of sorts, much like this site. I like to write and I'd like to educate people. I also plan to do an Ebook and product launches if it ever catches on, so it's a possible second source of income.

Again, I seem to be in a better overall mood. I also seem to be enjoying my time with my son more. But still, I have this feeling of guilt. It's hard to explain.

I appreciate all those who are sharing their similar experiences.

Fru-Gal

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #25 on: August 02, 2019, 02:49:16 PM »
The guilt is a sign you are a good parent. It possibly never goes away completely.

Luz

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #26 on: August 30, 2019, 03:26:27 PM »
What does "being there" for your son look like in an ideal world, and what does it look like for you right now? It sounds like there's a dissonance between the two. Part of this might be cultural. Expectations in raising kids have changed in the past few generations. The amount of time parents spend with children (directly entertaining them rather than going about one's business with them underfoot) has doubled in the past 50 years despite a huge increase in double income-earning families. Yet it seems that modern parents feel more guilty than ever.

I'm a little confused about you and your wife's division of labor. Why does your wife get frustrated? You stated that you work more (double?) than she does and do nearly all the housework. I'm not sure why she'd be frustrated with that set up, unless she is responsible for nearly all the childcare (and even then, that sounds pretty nice). How many hours a day are you each devoting to earning income/commuting, child care, household chores, household management (finances, doctors appointments, house maintenance, etc) and alone time? I've found it helpful to detail it out completely to get an objective sense of things, kind've like running the numbers financially. I'm not asking these things to lay blame or judgment, I simply need more details to give you feedback on how to find a better balance/address the guilt.

I'm very calculated about how my husband and I divvy things out so the total work we each contribute to the family (in terms of the categories I listed above) is balanced. As long as he's putting in his hours and covering his bases, I don't care what he does with the rest of his time. In fact I tell him, "go have fun, you're not needed here". Spelling it out means we avoid the majority of the resentment or guilt that would otherwise creep in. Though it sounds like your guilt is less about carrying the load as it is about spending time with your son (which again, makes me wonder about your childcare hours).

You can also do a lot around a baby's sleep schedule. I'm the stay at home parent for now and do my self care/hobbies after bedtime, in the early morning, at nap time and when my husband is on duty (4 month olds still take loads of naps). My husband is on duty for smaller chunks on weeknights since he works full time and goes to school. But on weekends, I leave the house for a long chunk when our toddler goes down for a nap since my husband's there to hold down the fort and then watch her for a few hours when she wakes up. He and I also set aside time for the two of us (weekly date night and connecting for a bit each evening) and for spending time together as a family (the three of us have a short dinner most nights and also go on an outing once a week). Aside from time for our marriage and family, we tag team. There's no reason to both be on the clock when we could be out nurturing our autonomous selves.

A note on the bedtime routine: getting involved now is important, so your baby will be used to either parent putting him down. That way your wife can attend evening events that might start a bit before the baby goes down.

cats

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #27 on: September 09, 2019, 10:16:30 AM »

I'm a little confused about you and your wife's division of labor. Why does your wife get frustrated? You stated that you work more (double?) than she does and do nearly all the housework. I'm not sure why she'd be frustrated with that set up, unless she is responsible for nearly all the childcare (and even then, that sounds pretty nice). How many hours a day are you each devoting to earning income/commuting, child care, household chores, household management (finances, doctors appointments, house maintenance, etc) and alone time? I've found it helpful to detail it out completely to get an objective sense of things, kind've like running the numbers financially. I'm not asking these things to lay blame or judgment, I simply need more details to give you feedback on how to find a better balance/address the guilt.


Not the OP's wife, but speaking from my own experience, I'm guessing wife may sometimes simply be frustrated at how much time a young baby demands of the mother (and only the mother).  No matter HOW awesome your husband and your division of labor is, it's just frustrating.  You go from being very autonomous and having total control over where you go, what you do, etc., to having to be on call to breastfeed every 2-4 hours.  Even if someone else takes the baby to give you some time "off", you still have to figure out when you are going to pump milk, etc.  Your body isn't really your own any more, it's become someone else's food supply.  You can't say, well, I don't feel like doing this feeding, I'm going to skip it, baby will deal.  The only option for getting around this is formula, but if you aren't actually having problems with supply...that doesn't feel like a great option.  So basically, you just feel kind of stuck and frustrated and you're jealous that your husband has the ability to just go and play golf for the afternoon (even if he rarely exercises this ability and then comes home to do a ton of housework right after), which for you would suddenly become something that required a lot of planning and effort.  Being a new mother and breastfeeding exclusively is just a big adjustment, and sometimes that's frustrating.  It sounds like the OP is doing a lot to help ease his wife's transition, but still...it's huge.

mm1970

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #28 on: September 09, 2019, 11:30:02 AM »

I'm a little confused about you and your wife's division of labor. Why does your wife get frustrated? You stated that you work more (double?) than she does and do nearly all the housework. I'm not sure why she'd be frustrated with that set up, unless she is responsible for nearly all the childcare (and even then, that sounds pretty nice). How many hours a day are you each devoting to earning income/commuting, child care, household chores, household management (finances, doctors appointments, house maintenance, etc) and alone time? I've found it helpful to detail it out completely to get an objective sense of things, kind've like running the numbers financially. I'm not asking these things to lay blame or judgment, I simply need more details to give you feedback on how to find a better balance/address the guilt.


Not the OP's wife, but speaking from my own experience, I'm guessing wife may sometimes simply be frustrated at how much time a young baby demands of the mother (and only the mother).  No matter HOW awesome your husband and your division of labor is, it's just frustrating.  You go from being very autonomous and having total control over where you go, what you do, etc., to having to be on call to breastfeed every 2-4 hours.  Even if someone else takes the baby to give you some time "off", you still have to figure out when you are going to pump milk, etc.  Your body isn't really your own any more, it's become someone else's food supply.  You can't say, well, I don't feel like doing this feeding, I'm going to skip it, baby will deal.  The only option for getting around this is formula, but if you aren't actually having problems with supply...that doesn't feel like a great option.  So basically, you just feel kind of stuck and frustrated and you're jealous that your husband has the ability to just go and play golf for the afternoon (even if he rarely exercises this ability and then comes home to do a ton of housework right after), which for you would suddenly become something that required a lot of planning and effort.  Being a new mother and breastfeeding exclusively is just a big adjustment, and sometimes that's frustrating.  It sounds like the OP is doing a lot to help ease his wife's transition, but still...it's huge.
A few miscellaneous comments in this old thread.

1.  What cats said.  I would add that being at home with a baby is exhausting, and I could TOTALLY feel, intensely feel, your wife's disappointment in thinking you'd be home early to find that you went golfing.  I still feel that when my husband's work flight is canceled and he's rebooked the next day.  You look forward to a break and it's not there.

2.  This too shall pass.  Around age 3.5 to 4 (unless you have another kid), is when I felt like I could function again.  Back to my old self.

3.  Before then, we regularly took turns.  I had a regular run/walk date on Sunday morning with a friend.  A few hours.  He had a regular tennis date on Saturday morning with a friend.  It was relatively equitable and it was predictable.  Both were important.  If you get 5 hours a week, she should too.  But recognize that she might need more than that, since she's physically attached to the baby sometimes.

Malum Prohibitum

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #29 on: September 11, 2019, 04:46:22 AM »
Lastly, I am the primary income earner. I work about 50 hours a week and am on pace to make about $150k this year.

I just wanted to say congratulations on making the solo thing work out.  You would be shocked (or maybe not) at how many solos are struggling on $40k or so a year.  $150k is really good for the short time you have been on your own (gross revenue or actual income after expenses?).

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #30 on: September 11, 2019, 05:08:36 PM »
Lastly, I am the primary income earner. I work about 50 hours a week and am on pace to make about $150k this year.

I just wanted to say congratulations on making the solo thing work out.  You would be shocked (or maybe not) at how many solos are struggling on $40k or so a year.  $150k is really good for the short time you have been on your own (gross revenue or actual income after expenses?).

Thanks for the kind words.  I'm very surprised as to how well it's going, although it is requiring a lot of work to keep the machine going (in the office typing this right now).

Gross revenues as of today are $118k (also have $13k invoices pending payment, and probably $4k in public defender fee slips still to submit). Profit is $87k (which includes $14k in taxes already taken out).

So yes, it's been a good year.

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #31 on: September 18, 2019, 06:52:51 AM »
There's been a lot of great advice here and I generally agree with all of it. The only thing I'll add is that since your son is 4+ months old, you are about to approach what I call the "Golden Streak". The exact timing is different for each kid, but it's generally the time between ~6 months and ~1 year when:
  • They have a real personality, can smile not just while pooping, etc.
  • Have the attention span to begin 'playing' with toys or at least be fixated for a while
  • Can't yet walk so they aren't completely mobile, you can place them down in a safe space and they'll stay there
  • If they are anything like my son, they can nap just about anywhere as long as they are tucked into a dark space
  • They can mostly hold their own head up and/or are much more robust
  • They have begun eating solid foods and won't be 100% reliant on the breast or bottle


USE THIS TIME - I took my son to breweries, on hikes, over to friend's houses to play board games, etc. I found I was able to do the most "things" that I wanted to do while still maintaining fatherhood during this period.


My wife and I also struggle with this to some degree. My wife always says "I don't want motherhood to define who I am. I was my own, complex, person before I was a mother". That's completely true, and I relate to your struggle. Good luck!

Kmp2

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Re: Not Feeling Guilty About Maintaining Your Autonomy
« Reply #32 on: September 18, 2019, 08:38:32 AM »
There are some excellent worksheets on the equally shared parenting website to help you and your wife work through a balance that works for you. If you have a SAHP, and a working parent, then there are some parts of your life that won't be equal - however the time spent on 'personal' activities can be split fairly well.  And if your wife wants less alone time, then maybe family time can substitute for her. It's an open and ongoing discussion that will change and evolve throughout the years.

Parenting young kids takes a lot of time, and it's exhausting to be the only one around. There were times my dad would come home and my mom would walk out the back door and not come back for an hour. If he was late because he went for beers she'd have been furious - she needed to be relieved the sooner the better. My husband works from home, so I've often dropped a baby or two on him in the middle of the day when I was at the end of my rope, and gone out.  These are unpredictable events, and they can compound. Your wife has no autonomy right now, no ability to go out for 4-5 hours, and likely struggles to go out with baby alone.  So being the breastfeeding parent I can only empathize with your plight, and not very well really :). I can tell you that while the days of this year (or 2 or 3) of lower autonomy feel long, in hindsight it will look very short when stacked up against the rest. You really can do anything for a year.