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  • feedwordpress 17:42:59 on 2015/11/25 Permalink
    Tags: kids, marriage, parenting   

    Beyond Doing Half the Parenting 


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    Doing my fair share for my son means I have to start carrying my weight in other areas at home.

    Malcolm's first time sitting at a drum set. Gotta work on his grip but his timing is not bad!

    Posted by Anil Dash on Saturday, December 5, 2015


    Growing up as an Indian-American son, in a family-oriented culture, I considered it an inarguable truth that I would have kids when I grew up. So when I met my wife and she first introduced the idea that we should really think about whether we wanted to have kids—that we might decide to never have kids—it was as radical an idea as I’d heard. I loved the audacity of it, and the many logical, rational reasons to stay child-free.

    Forgoing parenthood would mean more flexibility for things like travel, and a lot more freedom to take risks in our careers. We would of course have much lower financial obligations. And while I didn’t know what other changes might be in store if we had a kid, there was a comfort in knowing that nothing really had to change.

    Naturally, we eventually decided to have a kid. I wish I could say one particular argument in favor was persuasive, or that there was a single conversation that cemented our decision, but it was ultimately just intuition on our parts. We came to the conclusion that we could probably be pretty kick-ass parents.


    I didn’t take the decision lightly. We lived in a one-bedroom apartment and definitely did not want to move to a house in the suburbs. My wife and I are both entrepreneurs, each running our own startups, so we knew we’d have to carefully juggle our careers and our responsibilities as parents. And at a personal level, I had grown up in a household with very traditional old-fashioned gender roles, with my mother working full-time and then coming home to do pretty much all of the cooking, cleaning and housework. If I was going to have a child, I decided, I would have to commit to being a much more participatory father who was an equal contributor at home.

    Before having a kid, I had imagined I understood what the commitment was like. It would involve, I was told, lots of diaper changing and sleepless nights. There were these vague, jokey refrains among parents that I heard most often, and I had imagined it to be a little bit like crunch time at a job, where you’re staying up all night to get some project done.

    For me, though, the lack of sleep was almost a footnote compared to the changes in perspective that arose. Before, my career (and more broadly, all the things I was interested in) occupied almost all of my waking hours, except for time with my wife. Immediately after my son was born, the entirety of my work life shrank from its central role in my thoughts. There’s a clarity about what matters that I could only have found as a father. My son Malcolm is now four and a half, and I don’t know if we’re kick-ass parents, but he is a kick-ass kid. My son is one of my best friends, and I truly can’t think of anyone I’d rather hang out with.


    The pragmatic effect of my change in perspective has been that I actually became more efficient and effective at work. If I had five items on my to-do list in the morning, I might have checked off one or two of them by the end of the day before I had a kid. Now, I know I better get four or five done, or they’re just not gonna happen. I thought I was unique, in that parenthood actually increased my productivity at work, but I’ve heard this from a lot of other parents as well. Life hack!

    Spending lots of quality time with my son has turned out to be relatively achievable. I have a career that is flexible enough to allow me to be present, so I am able to do pretty close to 50% of the work of caring for my son. Both my wife and I can take time from work if needed for a dentist or doctor’s appointment, and we alternate between which of us drops him off or picks him up from daycare. The exception is when my work takes me on the road, for meetings or conferences; almost all of the burden of parenting falls on my wife then, but I’ve tried to ameliorate the situation by cutting back on a lot of my trips and having all of us travel together when possible.


    That said, one of the biggest stresses that parenthood puts on mothers and fathers is that doing things for the kid crowds out every other responsibility. In my case, that has often meant that while I’m doing my fair share for my son, I haven’t always carried my weight in maintaining the rest of our family’s life together. That could be anything from not doing the dishes to not always being intellectually and emotionally present during those precious few hours in a day when my son is asleep and my wife and I can have a conversation among adults. I’m still working on it, but it’s among the hardest self-improvement challenges of my life, and that has been a humbling realization.

    The challenge of actually doing half the work is probably amplified by the fact that I’ve tried to be an advocate for better inclusion and diversity in the technology industry that I work in. If women who choose to have children are going to be able to be full participants in tech, then those of us who are their partners have to carry half of the burden. And for many of us men, that’s far easier said than done. Lately, I’ve begun to match the to-do list that I maintain at work with a mental to-do list at home; I want to take on more of the responsibilities that I used to say I was willing to do, but that often would somehow “mysteriously” land in my wife’s lap.

    Of course, this entire structure still depends on my wife being the lead parent handling all the responsibility, from household and parenting duties (which are really just two facets of the same thing) and then being responsible for educating me about my role, too. It has to change.

    I know I’m not the only one who has the “right” ideas about inclusion when it comes to the tech industry overall, but who isn’t doing the work at home to make that a reality. Interestingly, the biggest turning point in me starting to change my behavior was when I realized my son was becoming old enough to observe my actions, and that he would be learning from the example of whatever he saw me do. The idea of having your kid mirror your worst traits can be a powerful motivator to get off your ass and get to work.


    I originally wrote this piece for Medium's Working Parents in America series. It's reprinted here with only slight edits.

     
  • feedwordpress 21:24:44 on 2014/10/09 Permalink
    Tags: parenting, tweets   

    Beyond the Tyranny of Dad Tweets 


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    Much of my presence on social media, especially on Twitter, is predicated on the foilbes of parenthood. "Dad Tweets" are a venerable staple of the medium, as fundamental as "mommy blogs" are to blogging.

    But beyond the reductive and dismissive names for these ways of expressing ourselves, there's another story that often gets overlooked: How oppressive this way of constantly talking about our kids and families can be for so many others. I wanted to reflect on this a bit, and so began a conversation on Twitter a few nights ago.

    I was shocked by how strong the response was. Though there was a somewhat muted set of public replies to my tweet, there was an incredibly strong and passionate response through direct messages and email. People really wanted to see this story acknowledged by parents, by those of us who spend so much of our time talking about our kids, seemingly blithely ignoring others' realities.

    The truth is, I do think about these issues all the time, but struggle to give them voice. Apparently I'm not the only one. I raise this mostly as a reminder to myself; A fairly straightforward set of simple messages turned out to be all it took to begin a deeper conversation that's taught me a lot.

    We miss so many changes to connect with others and let them know we recognize what they're living. And in my particular case, I want to show that not all parents have to be as self-absorbed and self-righteous as the worst caricatures of parenthood tend to appear in many media conversations.

    I may be a dad tweeter, but I have huge respect for those who aren't, or won't be, or don't want to be, parents and who cringe or roll their eyes or grieve when they see these seemingly ubiquitous messages on social media.

     
  • feedwordpress 22:00:38 on 2013/11/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , parenting, ,   

    Three Years Under Our Thumbs 


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    We’ll spend three years of our lives with our thumbs on our phones. What will we have to show for it?

    I keep bumping up against this statistic about how much time we spend online, and how much time we spend on our smartphones and tablets. Depending on the source you cite, it’s at least three years of our lives that we’ll spend scrolling up and down on little timelines.

    For geeks like me and my friends, it’ll be more, of course. And new wearable devices only promise to raise that number further. That’s not even counting the time we spend on, you know, regular old-fashioned computers.

    As I work on building ThinkUp, this number lingers in my mind, popping up nearly every time I am talking to a new person about our work. Can any of us who make apps be worthy of the investment of time and effort that we ask of our users?


    Those of us who make technology have to take responsibility for the time that people choose to spend with our creations. We seldom have conversations about this kind of responsibility, but when we do they usually come back to a few words or ideas: What’s useful, what’s important, and what’s meaningful?

    “Useful”

    The truth is, I’m not sure I want to make an app that’s “useful” anymore. At least not on purpose. Useful has come to imply an almost robotic utilitarianism, focused on efficiency at the expense of soul. So much of our fixation on utility leads to soulless production tools where the only emotion they inspire is frustration. I’m happy to make something that’s incidentally useful, but art isn’t useful, and as Ev famously said to those who complained Twitter isn’t useful, ice cream isn’t useful either. And ice cream is great!

    “Important”

    Making something “important” is a scary idea, too. Packed into that word are a lot of judgments about what matters, and a lot of danger of being pretentious and overbearing. Right now a lot of technology promises to help you by trying to filter information down to what’s “important”. But that hasn’t seemed to be a problem that algorithms are very good at yet. Worse, we bring our own cultural and personal assumptions to any conversation about of what’s important, and while technology necessarily has values baked into it, tech culture overall isn’t very good at having productive conversations about these values yet.

    “Meaningful”

    So that leaves “meaningful”. I’m as wary of this word as I am of any other jargon, but this aspiration is closest to my heart. Because we can find meaning in anything. We can find meaning through any lens that technology provides us, whether that’s a telescope or a microscope or a mirror.

    So I’ve decided that is what I want to do, use technology build a mirror to hold up to all our time online, to let us reflect on the years of our lives spent mediated by technology. The hope is that this is how we can each find what’s meaningful to us. If we can reveal to ourselves what we do and what we say and how we act, we’ll each make our own personal choices about what is the most meaningful path to pursue.

    This question is how we build technology to help us find that meaning. I don’t know the answer, but I feel good about the question.

    Three years

    Three years sounds like a long time to spend on a mobile device, but three years is just the blink of an eye. My son is not yet three years old, but in the brief time I have known him, he has already become the most meaningful thing in my life. And he taught me my biggest lesson about technology.

    Since my son was born, I’ve spent more time reading my Twitter timeline than I’ve spent reading to him. I am not proud of that fact, but there it is. My son has challenged me to find some worth in all that time spent.

    How do we find enough meaning in the hours we while away flipping through a feed on our phones? Years from now, decades from now, will we be able to explain why this is how we spent our days? As the whole world picks up their phones, I actually think this may be one of the most important challenges I can work on.


    I know the conventional tendency is to dismiss our online lives as trivial, to say that social media and social networking are made up entirely of distractions. But I think we wouldn’t be there if there weren’t substance there, or at least the possibility of finding some substance. And I’m going to enjoy trying to find it.

    To that end, I’m working with my friend Gina to build a company, a community and a culture focused on that goal, knowing full well that it’s equal parts ambitious and absurd. So far, a few thousand other people have been willing to bet on the possibility that we might all find something meaningful together. I hope you’ll join us.

     
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