Fatherhood in Simsbury

A Q&A on parenting, life, and working while raising children with my friend Dan!

As a complement to my Motherhood Q&A with Jaime, I decided to interview her husband Dan. This is the first fatherhood Q&A, and hopefully it highlights a meaningful perspective on fatherhood and how life changes when you’re raising children.

Dan and I have known each other for a very long time – since the early days of college! In fact, we struck up a friendship as we both studied the same engineering major. Dan’s smart, witty, and the type of person who makes everyone happy. He lives in Simsbury, CT with his wife and two children.

A big, heartfelt thank you to Dan!

Peter: Readers might not know you as well as I do. Can you briefly introduce yourself?

Dan: My name is Dan! I’m in my mid-30s and have two kids: a 10-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son. I am grateful to have met my wife when she had a fantastic daughter, and we have built a great life together. We live a little bit west of Hartford, CT.

I work in materials engineering – I’m a materials applications engineer. I’ve worked in nuclear energy, aerospace, and now the energy sector in general.

And I’m learning every day how to parent and be a better person!

What’s it like being a father in Simsbury?

I love this town! It’s a great place to be. There’s a strong school system and a really great sense of community. We’re also close to our family in western Massachusetts. There’s a lot of great shopping nearby, too, which is very convenient.

When we first moved here, the only sacrifice was that I had a very long commute (40-60 minutes each way). It was a very large part of the day! That changed during the coronavirus pandemic, and I recently took a job that was permanently remote. So that eliminated the one negative of where we live!

Since you mentioned shopping, what is your go-to warehouse store?

I am a Costco person!

It is a place where I enjoy shopping not only because of what they have, but also the experience there. If I could pick a semi-productive, recreational activity – it would be two hours at Costco on a Saturday afternoon.

As a family, we also like Target. But Costco is my place of zen!

What’s your favorite thing about living in Simsbury, Connecticut, and/or the greater Northeast?

I never thought that this was a big deal, but I like living fairly close to highways. I’m not a fan of driving, but I’m a fan of driving places!

What I like about the Northeast is that places are close enough that you can get to them in a reasonable amount of time. The whole megalopolis from Washington D.C. to Philadelphia to New York City to Boston. We kind of take for granted how close other states are!

As both a working professional and a father, how do you manage the work-life balance?

I subscribe to a philosophy that is well-espoused by a podcast called Manager Tools: balance is only possible with equivalent things. Work and life, or work and family, are not equivalent! You do the work for the family. The Manager Tools podcast calls it the Yellow Peanut M&M Analogy. Their analogy is that the sun is your family, and a yellow peanut M&M held up to the sun is what your work is. Work only looks big because it’s right in front of you, but it’s really not big in the grand scheme of things.

As far as balancing the two – the resource allocation – my priority is to spend as much time as possible with my family. All other time is spent doing activities that will support the family. But I find work and family are definitely not equivalent!

It also helps to talk about it with my wife. I often have concerns where I feel like I’m either doing too much for work or I’m not meeting the needs of my wife and kids. That I’m not available enough. But my wife is there, encouraging and supporting me. I can’t internalize any of my own negativity – I need to communicate what’s going on in my head. Otherwise, it percolates too far!

Share with me a time when you looked at your wife and said, “I am so lucky I married her!”

There are honestly a million areas where I can say that I love my wife! The really amazing one is being completely aligned on parenting.

I think I’m really lucky to have gotten a sneak peek on how my future wife parents before we married. Not all spouses get this chance. I was very fortunate in that we aligned on parenting for a lot of things – the mentality, the way you parent, the way you nurture, the enabling of independence and awareness of children’s emotions.

She also makes restaurant-caliber food!

I take it your wife is the designated chef in your family?

She does a lot of the cooking now because of time availability, and she makes elite-level salads!

I make a really good spaghetti sauce, and (not to be stereotypical) do a lot of the grilling. I would like to do more cooking, but it’s just not in the time allocation these days.

Many of us have made unusual or atypical purchases during the coronavirus pandemic. What has been your best pandemic purchase?

For my wife and I, we got the Peloton Treadmill and it’s been a big deal! It’s helped put a whole system in place for us to focus on our health. During the pandemic, we were so busy and there was so much going on with the kids that our health wasn’t a focal point. We really wanted to start emphasizing our health, so this was a very specific investment in us – and it’s been very positive!

For me, I have upgraded my home office for ergonomic purposes. After being in the working world for a long time, ergonomics is a serious matter. Especially now that I am permanently remote, the home office needs to be a productive environment!

I’ve been a big fan of mechanical keyboards, especially with brown switches. I really believe that they reduce fatigue by giving a tactile response to know when the key has been pressed. I have a main mechanical keyboard and a travel one as well.

What’s something you did before kids that you gave up, but secretly wish you could still do?

I play video games occasionally, but I am nostalgic for a time when there was a certain inconsequence to it all. I kind of wish it didn’t feel like a waste of time, like it does now.

There’s an adage that says, “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” But objectively, a lot of these things are just not useful right now. So I have a hard time justifying something that is completely recreational and yields zero in terms of productivity. I think I mentally feel guilty about anything that’s not productive, but you do need just a little recreational time to balance out life and let your mind rest.

The other thing I really wish for is more of a social life. I put all of my ability points in family and work, and I don’t do that much hanging out with people.

What fictional characters do your children wish really existed?

My daughter: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Sarah Michelle Gellar version. I think our daughter would like an older sister high schooler-type person.

My son: Dinosaurs. I think he’s upset that he’ll never get to meet one.

Will your children be able to convince you to get a pet?

Our kids really want to get a dog, and my wife and I really don’t want to get a pet!

A lot of my life force goes into family things, and I don’t feel like divvying up energy for a pet! I just don’t want to have the responsibility of managing a dog and having to consider the dog’s situation whenever we want to travel or do anything.

What is your favorite family tradition?

Sitting down at the dinner table together. Just the four of us at a table talking to each other. Every now and then we do a meal in front of the TV, but I’m not a huge fan of that.

Kids often place or hide toys in random places. What’s the weirdest place you’ve found a toy?

This isn’t a toy, but my son used to go through my wallet and take my credit cards and driver’s license!

One time I had to rent a U-Haul truck – which you need photo ID for – and I couldn’t find my driver’s license anywhere. So I had to go to the DMV and get a new license in order to rent the U-Haul. A day or two later he was playing with his toy cash register, and I found it in there!

What’s the number 1 thing on your bucket list?

My wife and I have decided that we want to see the world’s best, greatest, and most picturesque libraries (we both really love books!). So we’ve been putting together this list of libraries from all around the world that we want to travel to and see.

The Library of Trinity College Dublin in Ireland is high on our list, but we also want to see a lot of domestic libraries like the George Peabody Library in Baltimore. There are so many interesting ones! I think we want to try to tackle some East Coast ones first and then begin to branch out.

I have this other ridiculous bucket list item: I want to convert a school bus to an RV. But that’s a little bit more nebulous!

Would you rather…talk like Yoda or breathe like Darth Vader?

I already snore like Darth Vader!

I’m going to say breathe like Darth Vader. It’s intimidating, and if I already have some sort of mechanical breathing device then maybe I can go full cyborg.

What do you think stay-at-home parents should know about what it’s like being a working parent?

In the working world, accountability and deadlines are externally imposed. The market, the company, your clients, your customers – they’re holding you accountable to do things. There’s a certain constraint there, and a certain reduction in degrees of freedom. Other people are responsible for making sure you’re productive.

Stay-at-home parents have a ton of work to do, but the accountability is self-imposed. How clean is this house going to be? What errands can I run and how efficiently? You’re putting the constraints on yourself.

I think it’s important for parents to understand they’re a team and that the roles are different and that’s ok. An hour-long commute in the eyes of a stay-at-home parent seems like a stretch of time for leisurely listening to music and sipping coffee while driving. For the commuter it’s an unavoidable obligation. Understanding these differences in perspective is vital.

What advice do you have for other working parents?

Communication is really, really important! Make sure you communicate with your spouse – both on things that are happening outside of the home, as well as what’s going on inside the home.

Also, as with anything, be easy and kind to yourself. Not everything will go favorably at work. You’ll have good days and bad days. I think it’s important to leave it at the door and not carry it into the home. The work is never as important as your family!

Thank you, Dan!

Share your thoughts with Dan by leaving a reply in the comments below!

Read Jaime’s interview (Dan’s wife) here: Motherhood in Simsbury, or browse all interviews here: Interviews.

Explore related posts at ProjectsByPeter.com/Parenting, and discover even more at ProjectsByPeter.com

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