Erwan Heussaff on Being a New Dad in a Crazy, Hyperconnected World
Within the span of just one month last year, Erwan Heussaff's entire life would change completely and irrevocably—not once, but twice.
It was March 2020, and for months Heussaff had been preparing for the birth of his daughter, Dahlia Amélie. He had planned to spend her first year of life in Australia, away from Manila, in a place where he and his new family could live in relative privacy and around nature. She arrived on March 2, in Melbourne, and suddenly—finally—Erwan Heussaff was a father.
But the second way in which his life changed that month was a hitch in the plan. Around that time, the world would begin to fold into itself, as COVID-19, by then a global pandemic, forced governments everywhere to declare lockdowns. It quickly became clear that Dahlia arrived in a world that was very different than it had been just months prior. And so Heussaff's experience of new fatherhood would be unique in an unexpected way.
“It coincided at the exact same time Dahlia was born in March 2020,” Heussaff says. But he also acknowledges that this dark turn in his life came with a silver lining. “It forced me to stay at home just like everyone else. And then it allowed me to really get close with Dahlia and be able to be extremely hands-on with her.”
The circumstances gave Heussaff the opportunity to lean into fatherhood in a way that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. For example, he says he learned to bond with Dahlia in the kitchen. He and his wife split parenting duties by taking turns on different days of the week, but he’s always the designated cook for Dahlia. He lets his daughter watch him cook, and says it helps her eat better when she does.
But despite the world-stopping turn of events, Heussaff—who wears the hats of entrepreneur and content creator as well as dad—eventually had to get back to work. And when he did, he had to rely on the internet.
“When you have a child, you start seeing the world through their eyes: how they discover colors and textures and shadows, and little things like that. You basically relearn a lot of what you weren't paying attention to before.”
“If this was a couple years ago, I could manage with a couple of days of no internet,” he says. “But now, an hour without the internet is the scariest thing, because it's the only way you connect with your team. It's the only way you get anything done in our business. So, just the reliability of the connection, the reliability of the service, knowing that everything is safe and connected, I think for me is super important.”
Naturally, the internet figures into his role as a parent, too. While he and his wife prefer to limit Dahlia’s screen time at this point in her life, he confesses to being Google-dependent. “We spend a lot of time researching on how to best educate Dahlia,” he says. “Each time Dahlia eats, I like to play different genres of music and see what she responds to. It keeps the mealtimes fun for her.”
But also, the internet has been a source reprieve from the stresses of new parenthood. “I think the most important thing is actually not really for Dahlia, but for my wife and I,” says Heussaff. “When we're able to finally put Dahlia down, it's always really nice to just kind of turn off your brain, watch Netflix in high quality with no disruptions, and then just chill out for a few seconds.”
Because of the conveniences afforded to him by a reliable connection, Heussaff has had the privilege of being truly, fully present in his daughter’s first year of life. This, he thinks, has helped him appreciate new fatherhood in a profound way.
“I think when you have a child, you kind of start seeing the world through their eyes,” he says. “How they discover colors and textures and shadows, and little things like that, that you would never really kind of think about. You basically relearn a lot of what you weren't paying attention to before.”
Part of that, of course, is reckoning with the great responsibility that fathers are charged with. “The scary part is knowing how much influence you actually have in terms of who your child becomes,” he says, “how your child sees the world, and how your child starts understanding the world. I think that's a responsibility, especially in today's climate, that no one should take lightly.”
Still, Heussaff doesn’t let that keep him from enjoying new fatherhood to the fullest. “In the beginning, it's all about the mom,” he says. “But when your child kind of recognizes you as an equal caregiver, and that you actually feel physically and emotionally needed, I think that's the time you actually start feeling like a father. You're like, ‘Oh, she doesn't just need her mom. She also needs her dad around during particular moments.’ And I think that's a really cool feeling.”