As seen in the book Dads Behaving Dadly: 67 Truths, Tears and Triumphs of Modern Fatherhood from Motivational Press.
After many discussions, my wife and I decided I would become a stay-at- home dad when our son was 2-months-old. I was skeptical about whether I would thrive in my new position.
Would it be enough daily stimulation, interaction, conflict, etc. to get my hard-working juices flowing?
At first, I looked at it like this: I won’t have a real job. I’m taking the summer off! I’m going to spend some amazing time with my son. As the excitement rose for my new “job” as a stay-at-home dad, I decided to make a list of all the things I would get done:
• Read 3 books.
• Get back to my pre-baby weight.
• Ride my bike with the baby trailer up the big hill.
• Organize my photos in iPhoto.
• Misc jobs around the house: organize garage, organize office, etc.
At the end of the first week of staying at home, I had accomplished none of these things. I was beaten and broken like Humpty Dumpty after he fell off the wall. I was starting to gain weight and actually LOOK like Humpty Dumpty. Something wasn’t working. My son napped very sporadically. Sometimes, it was 15 minutes before he was screaming and I had to hold him to get him to sleep. He couldn’t roll over, crawl or do anything really except lay on his back for a short amount of time before he wanted to be held again.
I vowed to myself that the next week would be better. I would get him into a routine. He would sleep better. I would be a better homeowner. I would be a better husband. I would be the best dad. I would feel better about myself. I would get rid of stress, which would eliminate the growing number of grey hairs and reverse the trend of my balding head. I would get stuff DONE. So, I did the only thing any clear thinking new stay- at- home dad would do. I revised my list:
• Teach my son sign language
• Read 5 books (probably all at the same time)
• Learn how to trade stocks online
• Get back to my pre-baby weight
• Cook dinner every night
• Ride my bike with the baby trailer up the big hill (with ease)
• Organize ALL my photos in iPhoto
• Start an advice column for new parents
• MORE misc jobs around the house: organize garage, organize office, organize shed, organize crawl space, install soffits around entire house, fix the small part of the roof that was leaking, re-stain all the wood around windows, build a man-bookshelf downstairs, etc…
At the end of the second week, I resembled a mix of Robocop after the goons shot him up and Lard Ass from Stand By Me. I was lucky each day if I was able to get the dishwasher unloaded before my wife came home. My son broke me so badly that all the King’s cookies and all the King’s beer couldn’t put me back together again. One day, my wife came home to find me on page 63 of my latest revised list where every task was, “All work and no play makes Pat want cookies.”
Fortunately, I married an amazing woman who was able to bring me down from the wall. We looked at the constant changes in routine our son was going through and it made me realize I was putting too many expectations on myself. At that moment, the most important thing, the only thing, was to make sure our child was being cared for and loved. Keep him safe, fed and happy. I hugged my son,
gave him an understanding kiss on the forehead, and I revised my list, again:
• Keep child alivee
• Shower every day (or two)
• Keep child fed
• Shave at least every 3 days (or 4) Keep child clean
• Go outside every day
• Keep child alive
This list made more sense for this stage in my son’s life. It was a list that wouldn’t drive me into the Cuckoo’s Nest, staring at walls repeating, “I’m tired. I’m tired.” This was a list I was able to stick to and get things DONE. Like keeping the child alive.
Those first few weeks of staying at home with my son made me realize caring for him is a real job. It is not a vacation. I don’t sit around playing games and working on projects. Eventually, there may be time for that. But the short and the long of it is this job is about helping my family at the expense of myself; helping The Wife and keeping the child alive. My son is two-months-old and will do a lot of pooping, crying and changing of habits. My job is to help him through all of it. Hopefully, we will get into routines. If/when we do, I can add things from my original list and start to tackle more of the stuff I want to get done. In the meantime, I need to enjoy this amazing opportunity to spend time with my son. I’m 30-something and I have waited for this moment all my life. If I don’t take the time to enjoy it, it will be over before I know it.
Relax. Enjoy. And keep the child alive!
To purchase Dads Behaving Dadly in its entirety, please visit (http://www.amazon.com/Dads-Behaving-Dadly-Triumphs-Fatherhood/dp/1628651016/).
Thanks to the authors, Hogan Hilling and Al Watts.