My wife and I have been married exactly two years now, and Year No. 2 has been smoother than the first year. I believe the initial phase of adjustments has ended, and I am thankful that my wife has been patient with me thus far. We understand each other a lot better, and we argue less ferociously(?).
The pandemic forced us to spend a lot more time together than before, and being stuck at home could have been disastrous if we did not have the first year to mend our differences. My wife is due early May, and we spent a good portion of the second year navigating my wife’s pregnancy. From researching hospitals to naming our son, pregnancy has been full of surprises, challenges, and amazements. Here I summarized what I’ve learned thus far.
New-found respect for all the madres.
I’ve never thought being pregnant was easy. My mother incessantly preached to me how difficult her pregnancy was, and I never doubted her. Observing my wife’s pregnancy first hand made me realize being pregnant is much much much much much more difficult than I had previously estimated, and I have a newfound respect for all the mothers. I am extra ultra super duper uber grateful for my mother who had to raise me in a foreign land far away from her family. I understand a lot better why her pregnancy was so tough, and I don’t think I can thank her enough. Thanks 엄마, and I love you.
Life, so precious.
Creating a new life is tremendously difficult and resource-intensive. I am learning, yet again, how precious life is. Living in a big city, it is easy to treat people as obstacles and barriers. I encounter annoying people quite frequently in Seoul, but I need to remember that someone else paid an enormous price for every annoying soul.
I believe everyone has immutable, irrevocable, indelible, and intrinsic value as a person. I hope I can better appreciate ‘lives’ around me regardless of how annoying they can get. Minhee, I love you :)
My wife started to receive random gifts and text messages from our church friends that we barely knew. We couldn’t hang out with our friends as often because of COVID, and it seemed impossible to make new friends. Unexpectedly, many have reached out congratulating us and celebrating with us. As a result, we managed to make new friends. Special shout out to college friends who organized a virtual baby shower for my wife! We felt visible, understood, connected, and taken care of. Hope we can pay forward all the love and care we have received to other soon-to-be-pregnant couples.
It turns out South Korea has fairly generous maternity leave packages for both parents. I learned that these benefits were introduced in the early 2000s, and they have been expanding ever since. We’ve been busy researching and applying for various programs.
As a fiscal conservative (I am aware of arguments for expansionary fiscal policy, but I believe we shouldn’t spend money that we don’t have), I am a bit torn about these benefits. I cannot deny that these benefits are immensely helpful, but I also know these benefits might jeopardize the long-term financial health of the country.
Our lives start to intertwine more with local politics: maternity leave benefits, labor laws, tax codes, welfare programs, social safety net, school zoning, housing policy, etc. We found ourselves discussing politics more frequently, and talking about politics can be trickier than talking about how to clean the bathroom. Although we don’t agree on every political issue, we haven’t fought over politics yet. I am thankful that we fought ‘well’ in the first year, so we can have constructive discussions regardless of how polemic issues can be. Kanye 2024 ❤
Merge and Acquisition (M&A) of Value Systems
Speaking of politics, Year No. 2 feels like an M&A of our value systems. The first year was largely about learning how to share resources: space, time, food, money, and attention. (i.e., how frequently should we do laundry? What is the best way to plan for trips? How do you budget…what do you mean you don’t have a budget?)
Now that we are expecting a child, we have been discussing how we want to raise our children and what values we want to pass down. Growing up, my wife loved doing a lot of extracurricular activities. On the other hand, I just(?) grew up; I did not mind not doing much. We value different things, and we have different expectations for our son.
I don’t think the pregnancy was a prerequisite for merging our value systems, but it certainly accelerated the rate of the merger. There have been many introspections and inspections of our value systems. After many discussions, conversations, and debates later, we settled that Backstreet Boys is the best boy band of all time.
The thought of being a father frightens me sometimes. I acknowledge that I have many flaws. I am impatient. I love taking shortcuts. I quit prematurely. I criticize often. I complain too much. I am scatterbrained, and my scattered brain loves reading random Wikipedia articles for HOURS. My son will inevitably learn, imitate, and inherit these negative traits from me.
Since finding out about my wife’s pregnancy, I’ve had a renewed interest to work on my character. I want to be the best version of myself so that I could be the most awesome role model that my son can look up to. I’ve been trying to address my weaknesses in the past nine months, but I still feel grotesquely inadequate to be a good father. As I am staring at my own deficiencies, I am thankful and humbled that I have been loved by so many despite my nasty shortcomings. Many have befriended me. Many have forgiven me. Many have invited me to their lives, and my wife married me two years ago.
I am starting to believe that being a father with utmost gratitude and humility is the best thing I can do for my son. I hope my son knows that he is loved beyond his wildest dream so that he can live his life full of gratitude and humility.
The journey ahead
In about a month, our lives will be occupied by a little human who does nothing but eating, crying, and pooping. I was told raising a child is very tough, yet very rewarding. I doubt I will enjoy waking up in the middle of night to feed my son, but I am glad that I am not alone in this. Thank you wife for the past two years. I very much look forward to many decades together with you!