Viewing Parenting as 80/20

18 months ago, my wife and I became parents to a boy. If I say that the ride over this time has been overwhelming, I'd be underwhelming the true sense of what it means to be a parent.

The nine months of pregnancy is different for a father and mother, with mother doing almost all of the heavy lifting, and the father being there just to support her, keeping stuff out of her hair, making her smile, (also preparing her daily fruit plate) so she can focus on building the kid. It's only once the baby is delivered, does it make things a lot more real for a father.

Right from the day my son was born, to the day that I'm writing this post, there have been many discussions with parents and non-parents, with family, friends, and at work, about how this whole parenting thing is going. One thing I've noticed is that these discussions are so different among different groups. In almost all the cases, with both parents and non-parents, especially with friends and colleagues, we discuss the mostly (not always) the challenges of parenting.

With parents, those challenges are usually discussed to really ascertain that we're not the only one having these challenges, my kid isn't doing something that hasn't been done before (I feel like it, but that's not the case), and to figure out a solution to these challenges.

With non-parents, it's usually the same set of things – I've noticed that in my team, for example, I call out how my sleep hasn't been optimal, how I have to miss meetings because of appointments, how I'm going to have to take it slow because my kid isn't in daycare. With non-parents, the issues are called out but I don't really expect any solution to be provided, although the parents in the team usually provide some sort of support, or at least call out – yeah that happens.

But what I've really recognised over and over is that parenting can be pretty much explained with Pareto principle. With others, I'm only projecting the 20% of how things are on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis. Obviously, I'm not sleep deprived for 100% of the time, I'm not taking my son to his appointments all the time, I'm not missing out on meetings all the time. But what I do project with my words, those 20% of the instances, become the definition of what parenting is, to the non-parents amongst us – it's the sick kids, the missing appointments, the lost sleep.

I'm in no way denying that these things don't happen, and when they do happen and you're in the midst of being with a sick kid, or missing out on work, then these are extraordinarily difficult times. What I'm arguing is that on a normal basis, these times are just a minority chunk (a thick chunk nevertheless) of what being a parent is.

The remaining 80%? Well, that's where the joy of parenting really is. That's the stuff one never talks about – non-parents would quickly lose interest listening to my kid if I call out everything positive that's going on, and other parents might think of me as being too proud/egoistic about my kid. But it's this 80% which almost never gets projected out into the world – the tickles and uncontrollable laughters, the kisses and the cuddles, the kid holding your hand, them sleeping on top of you, or besides you, holding you tightly, looking in your eyes while being happy, sad, confused, repeatedly affirming that you're their world, running around in the house, following you, barging into the room and just asserting their words, or themselves. And once you're in that 80% mode, the remaining 20% just dissipates like smoke. And it's this 80% that gives so much meaning to life, and to your relationship with the kid and the partner. It turns almost everything else into a low priority thing, and forces one to really consider what are the most important things in life – turns out only a handful of things are important, rest of them can wait.