As part of a week-long tribute to dads leading up to Father’s Day, NBC’s the TODAY Show followed three stay-at-home dads around for an entire day to capture “a day in the life.” They chose two of our fellow dad bloggers, Chris Bernholdt from DadNCharge and Mike Heenan from At-Home Dad Matters. I was fortunate enough to be chosen from Just a Dad 247, which meant at the age of one, The Understudy, would have his debut on national tv. (It was my debut as well, but let’s be honest, the kid is the star power.)
The producer and the cameraman showed up at 5:30am to ensure they got The Understudy waking up.
Everywhere we went, we were followed by the camera with a live microphone. The Understudy was skeptical of the camera at first, but warmed up to it eventually. I found the whole thing exciting, but I gotta admit, it’s a bit awkward going to your gym with a camera crew taping you walk in, go to the kid play area to drop off the kid, follow you through the entire gym and then ultimately tape you exercising on an elliptical.
I told The Wife that part and she said everyone there probably thought I was on some new weight loss reality show. That was a fat joke. Real funny.
I studied “acting” in college and was “good.” Actually, if you want an unbiased opinion, ask my Ma, she’ll tell you that I was an amazing actor, that I won several acting awards, and that I played Hamlet. One of those things is true.
No matter how much acting you do and how good you are at it, narrating your day is not natural and does not come across as natural. And at 6am when you have to narrate while looking at the baby monitor in the kitchen, “Well, it’s 6am and the baby is waking up. Guess I better have my coffee real quick, get his milk ready, go get him, change his diaper, feed him breakfast and get our day going,” it doesn’t come out as “natural.”
If I could go back and give myself some advice, I’d say, “Relax and be yourself,” which probably meant throwing in a couple bad jokes here and there. Note to self – get a Delorean.
After our morning routine and our trip to the gym, I put The Understudy down for a nap and took a shower. I came out of the bathroom and the living room had been transformed into an interviewing studio complete with big lights and a big camera on a big tripod.
The producer asked some great questions about our situation, the decision to become a stay-at-home dad, and how it affects the dynamics of our relationship. We also got a chance to talk about our blog, Just a Dad 247, about the City Dads Group, the National At-Home Dad Network, and about the new book on Modern Fatherhood that Kepley and I are both in, Dads Behaving Dadly.
Halfway through the interview, we could hear The Understudy throwing things out of his crib, one by one, as hard as he can, and thinking it’s hysterical. That only meant one thing… the kid wasn’t going to nap. AT ALL.
After the “nap that never was,” it was time for us to meet the Chicago Dads Group for our play date.
Organizing all the guys to show up for a play date during their kids’ nap time took some much appreciated work by the group organizer, Brian. We had an awesome play date at The Little Gym in Glenview, IL.
Even though The Understudy was crabby from the “nap that never was” and wouldn’t let me set him down, he still had a blast with the other 12 dads and 17 kids that showed up. That’s a great group of guys, and we all get by with a little help from each other.
As the day wrapped up, nighttime was approaching quickly and it was going to be rough considering the “nap that never was.”
They were satisfied with all that we had at that point, so they took off the mic, set down the cameras, and told us to go enjoy some alone time — unplugged.
We ventured outside to swing on the play set with a portable Bluetooth speaker. Thirty minutes later, I realized that no matter how cool it was to be followed since 5:30am by a camera crew, in that moment, we had a break — no cameras, no mic, no producer. Just a dad, his son, their dog, and John Lennon. It was, by far, the best part of the day. I had no complaints about our awesome adventure of a day, but the peacefulness of those 46 minutes and 2 seconds listening to the entire Walls and Bridges album was simply beautiful.
By the end of the day, the producer was in love with Roscoe the dog, the cameraman read a couple books to The Understudy, and we all got a pretty sweet “selfie” out of it.
When the 14 hour day was over, I was exhausted from the excitement and adrenaline of being followed and mic’d all day while taking care of The Understudy. I finally laid on the couch and contemplated the amazing adventure we just had. I realized that being part of the TODAY Show wasn’t about us; it was about stay-at-home dads, active dads, dad groups, dad books, and dad blogs.
The whole experience strengthened how proud I am to be a stay-at-home dad and it’s a day I won’t soon forget.
But that moment in the backyard… that will live forever.