Dan spent most of his 20’s on his bicycle. His daily routine entailed racing through the Oklahoma City suburbs 50-60 miles per day. He lived for the thrill of speeding by people waking up for work in the early morning hours. But everything changed when he had his first child, Fields. As a new parent, he was elated, scared, hopeful, and forlorn all at the same time. It felt like part of him was gone forever, a part of him he hadn’t wanted to leave behind.
Becoming a new parent is one of the greatest moments in a person’s life, but it requires sacrifices to our life goals and often our well-being. How can we use EI to cope with the fear and trepidation of leaving the life we knew behind?
A State of Conflict
For Dan, becoming a new parent was a joyous moment, but that joy was accompanied by another unfamiliar feeling. “I was aware of a feeling of a sort of loss, a sorrow or grief resulting from a sort of mourning a stage of life left behind; one that was wilder, more impulsive, pushing the limits, training as a professional athlete and being ‘all in,’” he said.
Emotional Intelligence and mindfulness can help us recognize our own emotions. This is an important step in determining the sources of unhappiness (and happiness) in our life and figuring out what we can change and what we must learn to accept in order to move on. In Dan’s case, reflection on his situation helps him become more aware of what emotions he experiences as a father and come to terms with the changes he experiences. He chooses to embrace his commitment to being a new parent, and he finds ways to continue bicycling around his busy schedule. Though he no longer has the time to ride for 50-60 miles per day, he is still able to do what he loves and he is able to foster that part of his soul.
Research from the University of Washington shows that a necessary step in coming to terms with these emotions is being able to recognize them in the first place:
“Parents who have ignored their own emotions, who find them unpleasant and difficult, are not parents who are willing participants in their child’s negative emotions. Children who have not shared negative emotions constructively with another may not develop an emotion language others are able to share with them.”
What Dan Learned
By making a conscious act to be curious about his feelings, Dan is able to recognize and adapt to the scope of his issues. He is able to find perspective on his emotional state and, through his example; his son, Fields, is learning what high emotional intelligence looks like.
Dan’s use of emotional intelligence skills has enabled him to compromise and adapt in order to move forward from conflicting feelings. He shares, “In time, I’ve felt the sense of loss disappear and a new feeling of gratitude take its place. Now that I have a son, there’s a new level of vulnerability; centered around his health and well-being.” Dan’s priority shifted from himself and his passion to caring for his son. Every day he sees his attentiveness as a parent positively affect his son’s development. This a great example of a crucial step in becoming an emotionally intelligent parent. Dan has felt, firsthand, how empathy towards himself and his young child has impacted his ability to put his feelings of loss to rest in becoming a new parent.