Work Life Balance: Architecture and Babies – 5 Hints for Expecting Parents – ArchiTalks
Some of my favorite things start with disclaimers…
Disclaimer #1: I love my child…
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s proceed.
My wife and I recently had our first child, a beautiful baby girl. She has been an amazing, life altering influence that has changed my world view. I would surmise that most parents would say similar things about their offspring… However, not all parents will admit to the world shattering apocalypse that goes hand in hand with that “life altering” phrase people like to use. I have no problem admitting to that… But for everyone’s sake this post will focus on 5 helpful hints for Architects making the transition from a childless adult to (responsible) parent.
Hint #1: Welcome to a new world
I have a theory that truly great architecture creates distinct worlds that you can experience, analyze, and enjoy while visiting the space. Becoming a parent is a related experience in my opinion. Before children you exist in one world, and after children you will find yourself in a completely different world. The stark difference is that you can’t just walk out of parenthood and go explore another world/space. The ship has already left the planet… So hint#1 is to embrace and enjoy this new world you find yourself in. The sooner you can do that , the better it will be for you, your spouse, and your child. (I was a slow learner)
Hint #2: Building codes are there for a reason
As Architects, we should (legally) be aware of building codes. I’m not saying you need to have every section memorized, but you should at least be pretty familiar with the IRC or the IBC depending on what you do. Unless you are one of those types that thinks building codes are for other people to know and it gets in the way of being creative…. (Another Disclaimer: I have no love for your type) If you have spent a great deal of time with the building codes, you can start to see the influence they have in the built environment. If you have spent a great deal of time with the building codes and you are a new parent, you thank whatever entity you pray to that someone created these intricate, sometimes absurd, rules about everything from railings to electrical outlets. Becoming a new parent makes you acutely aware of the potential dangers around every corner that could maim your newly created tiny human. So hint #2 is actually to relax a little bit by considering the fact that there is an underlying code to the built environment that was put in place to keep people, especially children, alive. Extensive googling will tell you that the 4″ maximum spacing allowed between railings per the building code was put in place so small children’s bodies couldn’t slip through the cracks while their heads remained on the other side. See… don’t you feel better already.
Hint #3: Evenings and weekends are no longer for working (nights are still O.K.)
This one was a shock to my system. I did a lot of work in the evenings and on weekends. The firm was busy, we needed to get things done, and I was happy to spend extra hours cranking out some drawings in the peace and quiet of my own home. My wife would work on her things, I would work on mine, and that was just how things went. (that sounds depressing/boring, but I swear we enjoyed it!) Enter the baby and all of that stopped immediately. The evenings and weekends are now devoted to family time; Feeding, reading, cleaning up, taking baths, playing, going on walks, etc. It was a shock to my system to not have the freedom to work whenever I wanted, but the joy of spending time with my daughter easily outweighs the pleasure of checking tasks off my list at work. That doesn’t mean I don’t still do some work at night when she is asleep, but it does mean I don’t try to work when I should be focused on family. So Hint #3 is really just to prepare yourself ahead of time for the shift that (should) take place when you become a mother or father and realize you will have other, more important priorities than finish that last drawing.
Hint #4: Your Child does NOT care you are an Architect (kind of)
I think someone, one time, maybe, told me that they might have known an Architect with an Ego (I know, I know… I don’t really believe it either). Maybe it has something to do with the massive amounts of education and time it requires to achieve the title coupled with the fact that the common American thinks anyone who can draft is an Architect. Whatever the case, guess who doesn’t care you are an Architect. That’s right, your new born baby will also disregard the effort it took to achieve the title of Architect. (Those jerks!) All kidding aside, at the end of the day, I believe it’s more important to be there for your child instead of saying, Mommy or Daddy has an important job which means I won’t be home again to say goodnight. So my advice would be to do yourself a favor and heed hint #4 by checking the Architect’s Ego at the door and try to just be a parent.
Hint #5: Architecture/Design is more important than ever
This hint is easy. Do your best not to buy your children crappy toys and learning aides that look terrible and function even worse. They are definitely cheaper and the temptation is there… but, You are what you eat, right?… That’s at least the saying. Treat well designed objects and space the same way you treat your children’s food. Don’t put junk in front of them hope they turn out to appreciate good design. Naef toys are beautifully designed objects that even adults love. Naef Dolio Baby Rattle (affiliate link) Virginia Tech had a Naef competition every few years in the Architecture school. I never won, but I developed an appreciation for the amount of time it took to create a single toy.
So hint #5 is to simply try and fill your child’s environment with well designed objects and spaces. I mean, whats the point of being an Architect if you can’t brainwash your children into appreciating architecture and design!
I hope you enjoyed my hints for Architecture and Babies and maybe even found a few words of it useful. This post is part of the ArchiTalks series created by Bob Borson over at www.lifeofanarchitect.com. The topic of this talk was work/life balance. This is my first time joining in the ArchiTalks discussion, and I’m thrilled to be a part of this great group of Architects promoting the importance of Architecture across the interweb.
Did this post resonate with you? If so, please share it so I know what you find useful!
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