Being a dad means losing my edge (released in 2020)

When I first heard that my wife was giving birth, I was 700 miles away and preparing for a 10-day dive trip. I was waiting for the weather to clear up, so I took a boat with a National Geographic photographer to a remote island to shoot manta rays.

Why do I schedule a reporting expedition so close to such an important event? Well, the obstetrician said the baby will be late, so I can afford at least 5 days. You see, I swore that paternity wouldn’t change me. I was an environmental journalist, adventurer, explorer, and former mountaineering guide. “Baby needs to adapt to my lifestyle, not the other way around,” I said. But from the beginning, the child had other plans.

We lived in Mexico City at the time, so after receiving a call, we bought a ticket for a last-minute flight, bribed a police officer and took him to the airport with a taxi driver driving 25 mph. Riding together The speed of traffic from bumper to bumper Blow up the theme song For James Bond all the time. Until today, I don’t know how I was in time.

And I was a father. I always thought I’d get back to what I was doing soon, but for a while I did. I published a book on beliefs and medicine, digging deeper into the story of the endangered vaquita, or the Mexican porpoise. But it wasn’t the same — something has changed.

Today I live in the suburbs and am editing a story about occupational therapy and baby spitting. And I love it (both topics turned out to be fascinating). As a journalist, I’ve always been guided by what I felt was the most important story that changed people’s lives. My son didn’t adapt to my lifestyle and he didn’t stop me exploring. He showed me a whole new world of stories to discover.

My life has turned from a constant quest for inspiration to a constant effort to inspire the little ones I helped create. And I’m not the only one on this mission.

Expectations for fathers have changed over the past few decades, said Dr. Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of African-American studies at Duke University, on how society perceives masculineness, especially in the media. He said he was studying. “We now expect fathers to be more caregivers,” he said. “We look forward to creating more space in our professional lives with our children than we did 40 years ago.”

It was unpleasant to switch my young masculinity illusion to real paternity. I’ve been involved in this for four years and I’m just starting to understand how I’ve changed. Take rock climbing as an example. It’s hard to even take a small risk, as the little voice in my head keeps whispering that I have a family now. And there is a sad part of the wetsuit that collects dust.

In today’s world, it is difficult to reconcile our idea of ​​being a real man with the idea of ​​being a caring father. It’s easy for us to feel that we’re both failing. So I started out as a mountaineer and turned to my two fathers who always inspired me with their adventurous spirit.

It’s hard to say who is the greatest living mountaineer. Different people have special expertise in large mountains, steep overhangs, or small rocks. For my money, it’s Tommy Caldwell. In the summer of 2005, before I started journalism school, I climbed El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Caldwell was there at the same time, arguably climbing the nose of El Capitan, the most difficult long route everywhere. He and his partner were just the second team to do that.

In 2013, Caldwell’s first child was born.That same year he climbed The entire Patagonia ridgeFor the first time, including Roji Monster Ice, Fitzroy — 7 giant peaks at a time.Then he climbed the route of El Capitan Dawn wallAlthough this spurred documentary films, this kind of mountaineering may still be the most difficult in the world. The result of making two careers in one year with a baby in his life.

“I think you’re busy, and when you have a kid you redefine it,” Caldwell said. “The presence of this kid has made me a more productive individual. I really like it.”

When his son was born, he was worried that he might lose his edge, as I did two years later. He was 5,000 feet off the ground at a dangerous moment, and the baby’s laughter would be heard in his head and he wouldn’t be able to continue. But fear of his own fear has driven him to push himself.

But recently he started lowering the throttle. He writes books, declines expeditions to Patagonia, and is doing more speech gigs and environmental activities. He wonders if being a professional athlete is just as important as it used to be. I asked him if he regretted becoming a dad and his husband.

“I will certainly go to the Himalayas a couple of times a year, I will always go on big expeditions,” he said. “If I hadn’t had a wife and children, I would probably be dead now. And my life is so wonderful.”

Caldwell looks confused when I bring up my own existential concerns about losing myself as a parent. He is not worried about his identity or what kind of father he will be. Anxiety and regret are not a big part of his life, he said. The mountain chasing career taught him to live comfortably at that moment.

My next phone took me from the highest mountains to the deepest oceans, and arguably the best job on the planet. Brian Skerry grew up in a small working-class town in Massachusetts. Most of his friends and family work in a nearby textile mill, and when he was young he sold paperboard for wrapping. But he developed his dream of becoming an underwater photographer.

“My daughter was born in 1997 and received her first mission from National Geographic in 1998,” Skerry said. “And it was the Holy Grail for me. It was the mountain. Everest, what I wanted most.”

Since then, Skelly has been on a journey for eight months a year, balancing an impossible shooting schedule with a family of four. He is currently filming episode 29 in National Geographic. This is an incredible achievement in one of the most competitive areas on the planet. He made 36 reporting trips last year. He is swimming with whale sharks, sharks and the President of the United States. He spoke at the UN General Assembly and Davos. His work, along with countless museums, is adorned in the homes of world leaders and celebrities.

Skerry saw underwater what the rest of us couldn’t imagine. I asked him again if he had a time machine. He stopped, talking about his daughters when he was young, becoming a tickling monster and chasing around the house.

“I’ve had a lot of amazing wildlife encounters throughout my career. If there’s one thing I can relive, that’s when I’m with my daughters,” he said.

His children are almost growing up now. He said he never missed a big day, Christmas and birthday. His children associate with people like oceanographer Sylvia Earle and primatologist Birute Galdicas, and he said his family is always more important than his camera, but his voice. Has a greedy note. Not for the great white shark that you missed, but for the tickling session that has passed.

Skelly did a good job of communicating his adventurous spirit. His eldest daughter has begun her own career at a Broadway theater rather than her environmental protection and photography.

“I became a voice of reason and tried to tell her how likely she was to be a Broadway actress, but she said,” Dad, how likely are you to be a National Geographic photographer? ” “He said with a laugh.

Now you have it. Two of my heroes — both great fathers — one at the beginning of paternity and the other looking at the empty nest. The first is a professional athlete who laughs at the concept of the midlife crisis, and the second is the perfect explorer telling me to save a sweet moment before they leave.

Our culture often tells boys that they cannot be great men or great fathers. Great men are responsible, travel the world and prioritize their work above all else. Great fathers draw strange monsters throughout the weekend, give them funny names and create stories. And at some point we have to make a choice.

Dr. Neil said his ideals changed when he was born, but more when he was a teenager. Previously, he was eager to become an academic ascetic. He was not obsessed and was deeply absorbed in his work. “Living a life of mind, you don’t have to worry about the world,” he said. “Of course, it has no effect on children.”

He finds that paternity has made him more efficient, but he admits a whirlpool of envy as he sees the careers of his childless colleagues soar. Still, he did not drive her daughter to practice swimming and deprive her of the opportunity to talk about her day. And set an example of modern masculinity for them.

For me, the choice between the explorer and the dad made itself. Don’t feel like spending weeks visiting archaeological wonders in the jungle of Guatemala. I would probably never bag that peak in Antarctica. My old life isn’t as interesting as it used to be, and I don’t have my precious self-image as a brave foreign journalist.

Recently, I’m happy to be at home and see my little brain grow and discover the world. Make a ball game and do “I’m sorry”. To see my little family prosper. I was worried that my paternity would be pushed into my perfect adventurous life, so one day I wasn’t willing to accept it.

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