I‘ve devoted my life to helping people in need. For over ten years, it was mostly within the higher education setting. I worked with students as they struggled through their sexual and/or racial identity, was the first point of contact for students who reported sexual assault, helped troubled students who were contemplating suicide, coached college athletic teams, led a school mission trip to Honduras, ran highly regarded summer camp programs and helped prepare students for life outside the college bubble. In my free time (yes I still had some), I served at a volunteer firefighter and assisted with their community outreach programs.
With each passing year, I struggled more and more to sustain a work life balance. If I wanted the next promotion or next big pay raise, I needed to take on more projects, sit on more committees, and increase my overall work output. By 24, I was the youngest employee to make a Director level position in University history and knew I was on my way to being a top level administrator in no time. These accolades and successes came at a huge personal cost to me. I found myself tethered to my phone, feeling obligated to respond to emails at all hours of the day or night, and worked 80+ hour workweeks to keep up with my every growing responsibilities. I simply thought that limited quality time with my family was simply the cost of success. At that time, my definition of success solely hinged on my success at work and my ability to provide for my family. The quality and depth of my personal relationships was not a top priority. When my daughter was born, I was the happiest man in the world. Time stopped in that moment.
Everything changed when my daughter was diagnosed with a serious and potentially fatal respiratory disease and birth defect when she was 3 months old. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that Pamper’s popular adage was right -“When a baby is born, a dad is born.”
As I sat in the hospital for days praying that God would keep my little daughter alive, I began to think that even though I was present for the first time I saw her heartbeat on the sonogram to the surprise delivery on our living room couch, my relationship with her and my 2 year old daughter had no true depth. I was so focused on my job and success that I didn’t really know them. I knew them as a parent, went on family trips, changed those smelly Pampers diapers and never missed an appointment, but I never took the time for unstructured one on one time for any significant amount of time. As the thought of burying my youngest daughter came closer to a reality, guilt began to wash over me. I was going to bury my own child when never even took the time to know her. I failed as a husband, parent, and father. As I came to this realization, I could hear the beeps and feel the vibration of the work emails being sent to my phone. It was maddening. For the first time since I started my professional career, I reached into my pocket turned my phone off.
I knew there was more to life than work and emails and vowed that I would spend quality time with my wife and children and make them the priority. From that moment, I never viewed parenthood the same way again. My daughter recovered and was released from the hospital a few days later.
From that point on. I cherished every moment I had with my kids. Diaper changes with Pampers were no longer an inconvenience but became a cherished honor. It’s hard to say how many Pampers diapers we used, but I know we’ve used thousands of diapers over the last 4 years. I know we used 100 wipes in one weekend! For more than 50 years, moms and dads have trusted Pampers to care for their babies’ happy, healthy development. They offer a complete range of diapers, wipes and training pants designed to provide protection and comfort for every stage.
As I drove home from the hospital, I knew two things needed to happen. I needed to strengthen the relationship with my wife and children and I needed to find a new occupation. I was lucky to have a wife that was supportive of what I felt like I needed to do.
It would take a bit of planning on my end to work out finances to make this transition as smooth as possible. If was to truly transition into a new position, I needed to deal with the financial repercussions of cutting my salary in more than half. I took my personal belongings and various collections of guns, coins and rare rocks and minerals I had amassed over the years and sold it all. I turned in my financed vehicle and paid cash for an older model truck. We took the money we were saving for an RV and used to cover the tuition for our daughter’s private school. My wife went back to work. We stopped renting and bought an older farmhouse styled home in need of TLC and most importantly, left my career in higher education for a new occupation. In order to be the best parent I could be, I felt like needed to be home and present as much as possible. In my mind, I was either going to start my own business (an ice cream shop), or be a firefighter. By working only 10 days a month as a firefighter in 24 hour increments, I would have the time I yearned for to be the best husband and father. I loved serving the community as a volunteer and if I was willing to fight fire and put my life on the line for free, getting a salary to do for it sounded great to me! With two young ladies who will grow up with multiple racial identities (I am Black and my wife is Indian) it was important for me to help them understand the cultures and history that makes them so unique, and allow them to build the confidence they need to tackle any challenge, and be fully present in their lives while showing them unconditional love and support. With that in mind, that is one of the reasons why I am such a fan of Pampers products. They are not always the cheapest, but they consistently find ways to honor dads for just being dads and thanks them for all the amazing things, big and small, they do to help their little ones have a better, loving, more fulfilling life.
Some of my friends and family thought I had a mental breakdown. How could you abandon the degrees you’ve earned over the years and a University that was one of the top 20 in the nation and apply a position as a firefighter in a depressed area where the minimum qualifications was a high school diploma or GED? Weren’t you planning to get a degree from Harvard next year!? Or worse, you’re gonna open a freaking ice cream shop!? I didn’t care what anyone thought, I knew it was the right decision in my heart for my family and knew that I had a few celebrity ice cream endorsements up my sleeve to make it work or the local fire department would greatly benefit from my professional experience if I was hired. I knew what I was doing.
So we started fixing the house with ideas from Pinterest, sold the majority stake of my business, accepted a job as a Firefighter/EMT, and started a small garden. Through thegarden, I was hoping to teach them not only about sustainability, but to help them find the self-confidence and inner peace they will need as they grow older. Gardening would also serve as a medium to teach lessons about the interconnectedness and fragility of life. Pretty deep stuff for a two and four year old. And they ate it up! (no pun intended)
Although the transition to full time fatherhood has been incredible, my new occupation has me working in a fairly depressed socioeconomic area. It is a far cry from the plush strategic planning and alumni gatherings I grew accustomed to as a university administrator. I’ve seen fires, people stabbed, responded to fatal gunshot wounds, performed CPR on numerous patients, and have been witness to the best and worst of humanity. I even had my own truck stolen from the firehouse parking lot less than a month ago! I am there when the citizens are at their lowest and try to remain a steadfast beacon of support in their time of need.
I helped my daughter start her own rock and mineral collection, have picnics at the park that last for hours, stargaze at night with the kids, cook fun and healthy meals, work on the garden and explore some of the local National Parks as time permits. We read stories together, paint, play, and pray together. I now have the time to become more active in my church and my relationship with my wife and children are stronger than ever. I cherish every moment I have with them and sleep well knowing that I am doing the very best I can and am making a difference as a husband ,father, and firefighter. On Father’s Day and every day, Pampers is giving thanks to babies for making dad feel exceptionally special and empowering him to discover new roles in life through fatherhood.
We live a simple and happy life.
This Father’s Day, Pampers celebrates that incredible feeling little ones bring to the hearts of dads through unconditional love. Visit http://www.pampers.com to learn more about Pampers products, join the Pampers Rewards program, and find ideas and information to help your baby get the most out of love, sleep and play
Pampers has also released a new #ThanksBaby video that captures the amazing relationship that is created between a dad and his baby when a baby is born and the beautiful journey of fatherhood begins.