Our 508th Dad in the Limelight is Robb McKinney. I want to thank Robb for being a part of this series. It has been great getting connected with him and now sharing him with all of you.
1) Tell me about yourself, (as well as how you are in the limelight for my readers knowledge)
I’m a brand new dad of fraternal twin boys and married to my high school sweetheart. After college*, we moved from Orlando, Florida to the Seattle area of Washington on a wing and a prayer; we’d always wanted to come out here and figured being fresh out of school with no kids or mortgage would be an ideal time to just pack up and go. *Author’s note: My degree is NOT in spontaneity.
We’ve had some challenges in the7+ years since we got here: job turmoil during the recession, a cancer diagnosis for me, infertility, and some complicated emotional health issues. The good news is that all of these things have been successfully dealt with. In the case of infertility, we had a successful IVF that brought us two beautiful boys.
As for the “limelight”, I suppose I stand in it as a dad who has overcome a lot and has a lot more to overcome. I struggle with some emotional health issues, the need to find a new job that allows me to work from home more, and other “inconveniences” that make this whole fatherhood thing more challenging for me than I could ever have imagined
2) Tell me about your family
I’m an only child of a single mother from the Midwest; there’s not an awful lot to tell there. I’m married to a gal I met in high school who was willing to do a long distance relationship for a while, put up with my shenanigans, and eventually marry and have a life with me. Hopefully history is kind in judging her.
3) What has been the largest challenge you have had in being a father?
I already mentioned that I’m dealing with some emotional health issues (is there any way of saying that that doesn’t make me sound totally cray-cray?), but while that’s very real, it’s also long term, so I’ll put a pin in that. The biggest challenge I have really faced since becoming a father was the change to my everyday life. I know that every parent has a major change to their life, but I feel like for me, there was a mental wall that kept me from accepting some of those changes. It STILL keeps me from accepting some of those changes.
I work nights, which in my case means I work from the afternoon to 10-11ish at night. My wife works an 8-5 job, which means for most days of the week, she’s asleep when I get home, and I’m asleep when she leaves.
This means that for years, I have had the house to myself for hours after I got home, during which I could basically do what I wanted. Other days I was able to just run to the store or sequester myself to get some writing done. When my wife and I had a whole day together, we could just go wherever we wanted with little to no planning. I could come home late from work or leave early. I could watch a horror movie with the volume up, hang out in the hammock with a beer, or get some stuff scratched off my to-do list.
I knew that all would change, I really did, but it still managed to blind side me. Being able to pop over to Starbucks for a bit suddenly required planning, and it might not be able to happen at all.
Freedom as a childless adult switched to responsibility as a father of twins with such a level of totality that I’m still adjusting to it 5+ months later.
4) What advice would you give to other fathers?
At this point, I can only base any advice on about six months of experience, but I’m really smart about cooking hipster food and identifying bird species, so I think I’m pretty well qualified.
If you are about to be a father or are a brand-new father, you will be showered with advice from every direction. Your friends, family, books, blogs, websites, the advice that plays when you run Devo’s 1979 album “Duty Now for the Future”; all of these sources will be providing advice – some good, some bad, some contradictory – until your head can’t hold any more info. Learning what to do when the baby is two months old two months before the baby is born winds up being lost in the ether of having a baby.
The advice you get, whether from personal or professional sources, is always offered with the best of intentions. Just be ready to take it with a thousand grains of salt.
Except for this advice. You should totally take this advice.
5) How have you come to balance parenthood and outside life?
In a lot of ways we haven’t, truth be told. As I said, my wife and I work opposing schedules, and although I’ve cut down my workload by a few days a week, our odd sleep schedules can throw off an entire day. While I have picked up some (very) light at-home work, the hunt continues for more gainful employment that still allows me to spend more time at home with the boys without sacrificing too many of life’s pleasures, like a house and electricity.
Maybe just as tough has been our child care situation. We have a sitter two days a week when we both have to be out of the home at our jobs, and she’s great. What we don’t have is the network of family members and close (geographically) friends who can help us out with a Sunday afternoon or Friday night off in exchange for the pleasure of spending a few hours with the babies.
6) What have you learned from the fathers that you have interacted with?
I’ve learned that I’m not alone! Although my journey is, of course, unique to me, some dad somewhere out there has had similar experiences. Going into this, I had this preconceived notion that every other dad out there was this heroic character, some Superdad who, from the birth of his child on, slept eight hours, had an immediate work-life balance, knew all the rules to every sport, and could do his high-paying IT job from home when and if he felt like it. Sure, there are probably plenty of those dads, and I mean no disrespect; it’s just that it took me a while to figure out that that was not what was demanded of me. Loving and raising and protecting and teaching can be enough.
7) What else would you share regarding your experiences as a father thus far?
I can only go as far as (almost) six months, and my point of view is skewed a bit by having twins, but my worst and best experience so far has been the emotional rollercoaster that my life has become. I’ve felt happier and more terrified than ever before in my life. I’ve experienced a whole new kind of love and a new level of frustration and self-doubt. I want help and want to be left alone and respected. I want to be the protector and leader of my kids and surrender to them completely. I never knew I had such an emotional range!
8) What have been the most memorable experiences that you have had thus far as a parent?
I’m in the position of being a new enough parent that all my memories are first-time and fresh, but with such a short time and two babies, I am also in such a fog sometimes that memories blur together, or they’re there but the attached emotion is faded, if it was ever anything more complex than “Baby cute. Me like.”
So for the sake of this question I’m going with two memories:
The first was shortly after the boys had begun “social smiling”, in other words smiling that was not (necessarily) succeeded by the passing of gas or a bowel movement. My wife had recently gone back to work, and I was in charge in the mornings. I went into the nursery to start our day, and each baby greeted me with a huge, exuberant smile. I’ll never know if they were happy to see me, their old man, or me, bringer of clean diapers and food, but it was still one of the best feelings of my life.
More recently, they have started to really notice and interact with each other. Watching them reach out and feel each other, take things away from each other, grab one another’s clothes, and so on, has the feel of a nature documentary but the emotional impact of seeing our sons start to become sentient beings. It’s probably the most I’ve felt like they’re “real” people, and to me it launched the next stage of our lives together.
If you have any questions for Robb, please leave a comment here and I will make sure that he gets them so that he may be able to respond!