Nothing can prepare you for becoming a father. Not even 11 years of working in the baby industry. We recently caught up with new daddy Mark May, who runs the global digital channel at one of our very favorite nursery brands bloom, and asked him to get honest about the transition into fatherhood. Below, he talks about life as a single guy in the baby world, people who buy cribs for dogs (for real), and why being a dad makes him cry...often.
What was it like being a single, non-dad guy in the baby gear business?
Being a 20-something, single guy with no kids entering the nursery industry back in 2007 was certainly challenging. I had no idea what any of the products were, why they were used and what problems they were solving. I had to jump in head-first and learn as much as I could, and fast.
Before I joined the world of parenthood, I was exposed to thousands of parents from across the globe. Although I dealt with a lot of crazy, underprepared and last-minute parents, I could only sympathize. We've had frantic conversations with dads on the way to the hospital who have yet to buy a crib, and mothers crying over not being able to choose the best high chair color to match their decor. We've even had more than one person buy a baby crib for their dog. I've since learned that no matter how prepared you are for baby, you are never, ever 100% prepared.
During this entire journey, I always wanted kids. As each year went on, I progressively wanted a baby more and more. How could I not? I have been constantly surrounded by cute babies, fawning mothers and dads who look like they were coping okay. It wasn't until I fell madly for my wife Kimberly back in 2012 that I knew I was ready to join the club.
How did having your family in the business help guide your perceptions of fatherhood?
Since bloom was founded by four dads, there has been no shortage of fatherly advice in the office. Each dad has guided me in their own unique way and experience. Stuff like: sleep now or forever hold your peace. We are a very close family, and I've been very fortunate in being able to share my experiences and learn so much from everyone here.
Making sure I was 'ready' was the main concern at our offices. Of course, when Enzo arrived July 1st, 2017, our hospital bag was not packed! But at least our nursery was completely setup and looking beautiful.
Being in the baby gear business, did you feel prepared when the baby arrived?
Kimberly is an astonishingly talented interior designer at heart, so given the opportunity to fully customize a room in our loft space was something of a dream come true. Each day small packages from little Etsy boutiques in Australia, Japan or Europe would arrive, and another piece of our nesting jigsaw puzzle was put in place. I set up the crib, high chair and dresser. There are no tools needed in the majority of our line, which means you don't need an Ikea engineering degree to put them together. Check out my time-lapse of the setup.
The first few days of being a dad were like no other; euphoric and sleepless. The wait was over. He had arrived. He had a name, a face and two parents who were utterly besotted.
What's been the most surprising part of fatherhood so far?
The most surprising part of fatherhood has been the raw emotion. Kimberly normally wears her heart on her sleeve, but I play my cards close to my chest. During our pregnancy, there was a role reversal just like one of those bad teenage rom-coms where they wake up in someone else's body. I've never cried so much in my life. The smallest of triggers would set me off.
On one particular occasion I found myself crying profusely in the kitchen because I love to cook, and I was imagining my weekends teaching my son the basics. It set me right off. This type of raw emotion, that I was used to being able to control, was wild. Instead of being embarrassed, though, I've now actually embraced it with open arms. They were happy tears after all. I still cry when we talk about how lucky we are.
How has becoming a dad changed the way you work?
Becoming a dad has completely changed the way I work. Every single baby product now has a new meaning, a new purpose, one that I can relate to more closely. It's like textbook vs. real life -- you cannot beat real-life experience. And now that I'm a proud parent, I almost always forcibly let people know I have a newborn, which helps me to connect when I am dealing with our customers. Who wants to talk to a mechanic who doesn't own a car?
When someone asks me my best fatherhood advice, I think about what my close friends told me: just be a ROCK. Be there for your partner in every possible way. As a father, you can sometimes feel helpless, especially during the pregnancy. It will be exhausting, repetitive, thankless, expensive, scary and that's just you! For your partner, it's all those things and more. Rub her feet, get her food, be a rock."
Photography by Stylish Hip Kids Photography.