So I’ve made it! Two months ago, WB40 Junior exited his mother’s womb and made a successful splashdown on our planet. We had been very much looking forward to his arrival and were absolutely delighted to meet him finally.
Reflecting back, I think WB40 Junior is probably one of the luckiest cohorts of babies born in the history of mankind:
- He came into a world of peace.
- We are in an era of unprecedented technological revolution, leading to drastic improvement in living standards.
- He is the citizen of a very wealthy country with extremely high life qualities and expectancy.
- He is born into a family with the means and knowledge to achieve great aspirations in life.
Before his arrival, every parent whom I had met told me that parenting is hard. They described months of sleep deprivation, exhaustion and stress. As a result, I went into fatherhood with some anxiety over what awaited me on the other side of the tunnel.
Now that I have survived the first 2 months, here is a list of lessons I have learned.
Lesson 1: Parenting is the hardest job in the world
They were right. Parenting is the hardest job on the planet. Period.
Imagine a job where you:
- Need to be on call 24/7;
- Have to deal with a client that has zero reasoning ability and questionable oral communication skills;
- The client might be injured and/or die at any moment when left alone;
- Has no define roles or responsibilities (which means you are responsible for everything);
- Need to be competent in dealing with bodily fluids and excrements;
Now imagine these on top of them:
- No financial compensation for taking on these responsibilities;
- Have to actually put in money;
- As a result, need other streams of income to not starve
There you have it, welcome to parenthood!
I think it’s fair to say that this is the hardest job on the planet. At least astronauts get to fly spaceships and conscript soldiers in war-torn countries get their hands on spoils.
Lesson 2: Money is a stress reducer rather than a silver bullet
During the first few weeks/months of a baby’s life, many of his organs are still maturing from the “in utero” state to adjust to the wider world. He had suddenly been pulled from the warm, sterile, comfortable and nutritious environment (i.e. mother’s womb) into the big scary world. Consequently, he will be scared, hungry and even ill sometimes. When that happens he will throw a tantrum and cry. There will even be times when he would simply cry because he wants a cuddle or soothing.
As new parents, we did not have any prior experience or knowledge on how to handle a toddler. Therefore we hired a nanny to help us.
Granted it was an expensive endeavor. However, paying for such a service brought us the following benefits:
- Expertise: different crying pitches have entirely different meanings and only someone who is experienced with infants could distinguish them. Such experience comes with time, which unfortunately neither of us had. Under her guidance, we were able to bond with the baby faster than we’d otherwise have been. This saved time, reduced stress and improved our wellbeing.
- Manpower: infants bring a tremendous increase in housework load. Having an extra pair of hands (and legs) to tackle them reduced the burden on us, which again minimized stress and improved our wellbeing.
Having a nanny, however, is not a silver bullet to reduce your burden in the upbringing of a child. It simply frees you up from the more menial housework tasks so that you could focus on the spending time bonding and education your baby. It also gives Mrs WB40 and I the precious time needed to invest in ourselves, our business and our relationship.
Lesson 3: Time is the most precious commodity
As a result of the responsibilities in the “job description” of being a parent, I began to appreciate the importance of time and how precious a commodity it is.
Before being a parent, if you had asked me to go on a long night of bender, I would agree without hesitation. During my decision-making process, it was all about myself (and my wife, who also enjoys having fun) and no one else mattered. However, once WB40 Junior is born, the needs of him take priority over everything else. This is a natural instinct since he is weak and vulnerable and requires my care.
As a result of this and combined with the unpredictable workload in parenting, the concept of “downtime” brought on a new definition. Before I could easily carve out a couple of hours during the day to focus on things that mattered to me, be it drafting a blog post or finishing a chapter in my novel. Now it’s a matter of squeezing in a 30-minute slot here and there when the baby is asleep.
Thankfully 6 months’ of drafting blog posts on the move had honed in my focus skills and I am now able to pick up a task, work efficiently for 20 minutes, drop at a moment’s notice and then restart it a few minutes/hours/days later.
Another side-effect is my improved ability to prioritize. When I was single or when it was just us as a couple, we had a lot of free time on our hands and we were able to do multiple hustles simultaneously. At one point, we were:
- Managing several rental properties ourselves
- Doing an Airbnb
- Writing a novel
- Side hustling as a management consultant
- Investing in equities
- Working full time
All at the same time!
With a newborn, with all the wills in the world, side hustling like this would not have been possible. We took a careful look at tasks that occupied most of our time and applied the Pareto Principle:
- We let go of our Airbnb and turned it into a fully-managed rental. 25% less income but freed up 25 hours a month.
- I stopped side hustling as a management consultant. £1,000 less in income but freed up another 25 hours per month.
We picked these tasks to drop because we were trading our time for money. The income they generated depend on our constant involvement and inevitably that produced stress. Instead, we needed activities that we love doing and would relax our minds.
With these additional 50 hours, I redeployed them toward completing my novel and developing this blog to the next level.
Lesson 4: Reaching FI has never been so important
I was listening to Gwen and J’s Firedrill Podcast the other day and there was one guy who retired at the age 40 to Panama because the thought of leaving early for work every day and not being able to be with his daughter broke his heart.
I’m probably not that extreme. My current job is fairly flexible and I can pretty much work from home twice a week if I wanted to. If I needed to take him to an event or appointment then I can usually do so myself.
However, in the back of my mind, there has always been a tingle that being an employee is one of the least secure ways of making a living. You are simply a factor of production for shareholders. Your life will always be dictated by someone else’s agenda.
Just last week, I made the painful decision of letting 5 team members go. They did nothing wrong. The unfortunate truth was that an outsourced partner could perform the same work more effectively and cheaply, with less management time. I could not justify keeping them on from a business perspective, even though they all had families and children to support and had worked their butts off for me.
As a result, running and owning your own business in order to build up a positive cash flow and achieve FI has never been so important. That is, in fact, my long-standing motivation behind undertaking the WealthyBy40 Challenge.
The importance of living life on your terms becomes ever more critical once you are a parent.
Lesson 5: The glass is always half full
I will end on a positive note. No matter how many sleepless nights and how much additional housework your baby brings. When you see the first smile on his face, all the stress will instantly be melted away. It will be replaced by a pure happiness and joy.
Remember the glass is always half full, even when it’s half empty!
Do you agree with them? What were your learnings in parenthood? I’d love to hear from you (and what awaits me over the next few decades…).