As an adult, you rarely try something that is completely new.
After a certain point, you don’t have a lot of chances to dive into new situations or experiences. We don’t usually start a new job in a different field or a hobby that is completely unrelated to something we’ve done before.
Even when we “try something new”, it’s usually tangential to something we’ve done before. Which means that we usually have some knowledge or background to draw upon in our new venture. For example, if I wanted to learn how to play the clarinet, I would have someplace to start. I’ve played the drums for almost 30 years, and have taken lessons in trumpet, trombone, and piano at various points. So I wouldn’t be starting from scratch.
You Can’t Practice Parenting
This is why I think being a new parent can be so overwhelming. It’s impossible to practice beforehand. There are so many aspects of a newborn that you don’t know what you don’t know until you’re in the thick of it.
Even if you have taken care of children before, you can’t be ready. Because it’s not just about child-care. It’s child-care in the context of being totally responsible for another human being.
That’s a lot to handle when you are first doing it. And oh yeah, add in the sleep deprivation, too.
Trust In What You Do Know
So every day as a new dad has been an adventure. But even as I’ve been immersed in what seems to be a completely new world, I’ve realized that I can still find relevant help from my past.
For example, after being an entrepreneur for most of my life, I’ve learned some skills to manage uncertainty. Those tools, like positive visualization, stopping negative thought spirals, or creating lists of what I can control, can be applied to taking care of a new baby.
The trick is to find the ways your past experiences can apply by looking for the connections between what you do know and your new situation. It’s never a perfect fit, but there are often tools and capabilities that can help.
And this means you don’t have to go in completely clueless. In my case, parenting is still incredibly challenging and rewarding in equal measure. But I can trust in myself because I’m leaning on the experiences I’ve had before.
So when you go into a new situation, ask yourself, “What have I done before that will help me now, even if it doesn’t seem connected?” Find the connections, and you’ll always walk in with a head start.