After many discussions, The Wife and I decided that I would become a stay-at-home dad when The Understudy was 2 months old. At the time, I worked as a very important master of the burrito industry and it took a lot of time away from my new family and caused even more distractions when I was actually at home. At first, we were both 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? And then, I left my job and it suddenly became very real.
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 The Understudy. This is going to be awesome, and I was going to win an award at the next Amazingly Hot Dads That Rock Festival at the end of the summer. 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.
Stay-At-Home To-Do List
A few things I plan to accomplish this summer…
*Read 3 books.
*Get back to my pre-baby weight.
*Ride my bike with the baby trailer up that big hill.
*Organize my photos in iPhoto.
*Misc jobs around the house;
At the end of the first week of staying-at-home… I had accomplished nothing. I was beaten and broken like Humpty Dumpty after he fell off the wall. AND, I was starting to gain more weight and actually LOOK like Humpty Dumpty. Something wasn’t working. The Understudy 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 that the next week would be better. I would get him into a routine. He would sleep better. I would be a better home-owner. 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.
REVISED Stay-At-Home To-Do List Manifesto
The things I WILL accomplish this summer…
*Teach The Understudy sign language
*Read 5 books (probably all at the same time).
*Learn how to trade stocks online.
*Get back to my pre-burrito weight.
*Cook dinner every night.
*Ride my bike with the baby trailer up that big hill (with ease).
*Organize ALL my photos in iPhoto.
*Start an advice column for new parents.
*MORE misc jobs around the house;
~~Organize crawl space
~~Install soffits around entire house
~~Fix that small part of the roof that was leaking
~~Re-stain all the wood around windows
~~Build a man-bookshelf downstairs
~~~And so on, and so on, and so on…
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 The Wife came home. The Understudy 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, The 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. The Wife was able to bring me down from the wall. She made me realize that I was putting too many expectations on myself for what I would be able to do with him at this stage in his life. At that moment, the most important thing was to make sure that the baby was being cared for. Keep him safe, fed and happy. I took her advice and I revised my list… Again.
A few things I can do right now…
*Keep child alive
*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 was a list that made more sense for that moment in The Understudy’s life. This 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 that I was able to stick to and get things DONE. Like, keeping the child alive.
Stay-at-Home Dad Lesson Learned:
This is a real job! This is not a vacation. I don’t sit around playing games and working on projects. Eventually there will be time for that. The short and the long is that this job is about helping your family at the expense of yourself; helping The Wife and keeping the child alive. The Understudy 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 that. Eventually, we will get into routines and I can add things from my original list and start to tackle more of the stuff I wanted to get done. Most importantly, 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 that child alive!