The Change My Son Brought, Seen Through Personal Data
My data point turned six months recently. It was a fast six months, and it was a slow six months. Some days I would play with him, look at my watch, and somehow the whole day passed. Other days, especially in the beginning when I had little clue as to what to do, I counted some very long minutes.
As you can imagine — and any parent can tell you this — my life changed the moment my son was born.
In what ways? I’m glad you asked, because I was curious about that, too. My dissertation was on personal data collection, so I have data that goes back to 2008. I downloaded that data, which I collected on and off over the years, and compared times before my son was born and after.
I started with location, which I began to collect mid-2012. The top portion shows location before my son was born, and below shows after. I work from home, so I tend not to drive much to begin with, but as you’d expect, I don’t travel too far from home these days.
There is of course the caveat that the pre-baby portion covers a longer timespan, so maybe it’s not a completely fair comparison. I can tell you though that the farthest trip I’ve gone on with my son is about 50 miles.
The main point: I spend my time very differently now.
When I spend time has also changed. I’ve always been a night person. I like the calm of night, the crispness of the cool air, and many of my best memories engrained themselves after midnight. If given the choice, I would stay up until 2am and wake up at 10am.
Of course this isn’t the case anymore. Now I naturally wake up at 7am, with the rest of society.
You can see a similar pattern with my sleep times. Before, my sleep schedule used to be all over the place, with tons of variation, and now it’s almost systematic.
I should note that I often forget to log when I go to sleep, hence the less than clear recent shift, but I feel it inching earlier towards 10pm. A couple of nights ago I fell asleep before that. Can you imagine? Right at the beginning of prime night hours.
You might also notice a couple of large collection gaps during the last half of 2012 and the last half of 2013. For the former, I was writing my dissertation and prepping for my defense. For the latter, I took a break from personal data after I graduated, and when my son was born, sleeping and waking melded into one amorphous blob for the first couple of months.
However, email serves as a pretty good indicator to fill in the gaps.
Speaking of email, I expected that my ability to respond to it would decline dramatically. Not really. Here’s the ratio of sent to received email over time. Truthfully, it’s been on the decline since late 2011. Apologies for my slacktitude to those who have emailed me. To be fair though, the decline also has to do with an increased proportion of spam-ish email that isn’t quite spam enough to get kicked to the right folder.
Anyway, I got sidetracked with my email data for a while. I’m surprised I haven’t seen more detailed analyses about it.
So why have a kid? It’s a lot of work and everything changes. My wife and I call trips to the grocery store “adventures” now. But that’s just it. Everything is new. Our perspective on the day-to-day completely shifted, and my son’s perspective on the world changes every day.
You know that feeling you get when you introduce something awesome to someone for the first time? You see their mind blowing up before your very eyes. With my son, it’s a new texture, a new food, a new activity, a new action, color, sound, person, place, experience, and so on.
The new experience is reciprocated in his smile, a literal laugh out loud, or even a cry. A pooping record is broken. Longest nap time ever. Rolled and rolled across the room.
I want to remember these moments, so I take a lot of pictures and record videos. I want to be able to look back years from now. I want him to get the same kick out of it when he’s grown up, maybe even when he has a kid.
You see the change in my monthly counts for pictures.
There are spikes 6 and 7 months before my son was born. That’s from a couple of trips my wife and I took, because we knew it could be a while before we’d be able to travel far again. Other than that, I didn’t take many pictures the past few years.
This is a bit more clear if you look at the days I actually took pictures. Here’s a truncated comparison for a sense of the before and after, which you can see jumps from spotty to nearly every day.
So yeah, there are plenty of challenges as a new parent, but there are far more benefits. Like tax breaks. Yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ about.
I realize this is just the beginning. There are many more moments to come — some tear-worthy and maybe others that are tantrum-like — but the most common advice I get from parents ahead of me is this: “Enjoy these moments, because they grow up fast.” So that’s what I’m gonna do.
That’s my boy. The one on the left. The human one.