Being a stay-at-home dad is a privilege and a joy. I would not trade places with anyone if it meant not being able to parent my kids on a full-time basis. I am absolutely, perfectly content.
Well, most of the time.
I think most stay-at-home parents have those moments when they feel a bit envious of those who command respect and authority through their jobs. At home, our authority is always in question by belligerent children, while respect is… well, mostly non-existent.
I have a friend who is a well-known TV news anchor. He gets to interview politicians, celebrities, and business leaders. Viewers trust and admire him. From the outside, his career seems exciting and challenging. It’s the kind of life I had once envisioned, before the children came along. I’ve had those moments, when talking with my friend, where I wished I could trade places with him and experience some of the prestige and energy of a job like his.
So it came as kind of a shock when my friend sent me an email expressing his desire to trade places with me! He wrote: “I work hours you would puke at. I’m known around the company as the Devil Who Wears Prada. Everyone’s scared of me around here. It’s all about BS on the air and stroking egos. I envy your life, you’re my living example of Adam@home. You’re doing well, my friend.”
Maybe he was just telling me what I wanted to hear. Or maybe he was having one of those moments where the grass looks greener on the other side.
Or perhaps he’s realizing that when his kids are grown, he’s going to wish he’d spent more time with them instead of at the office where friends are few and memories are trivial at best.
There’s nothing about my life as a stay-at-home dad that I would trade away. Even in those fleeting moments of “what if” I never forget the value of my experiences with my kids. Hands down, it beats anything a career can deliver.
Becoming a new father changes you in ways that you could never imagine. When a baby is born, a dad is born. I underwent the transformation from dude to dad almost 18 years ago, and most of the changes have settled in, while a few still seem strange and new.
But change is a good thing and, when it comes to fatherhood, change is absolutely necessary. Just don’t be too surprised when you feel them coming on. It might happen the first time you hold your new baby, or when someone refers to you as “daddy,” or in the middle of a particularly messy diaper cleanup.
Just to help you out, here are five surprising ways that fatherhood has changed me.
1. Most bodily fluids no longer bother me. It might not have been during the first diaper change, but it certainly happened soon after. Babies poop a lot, and you just have to deal with it. Your brain quickly adapts to the mess by downgrading its perceived toxicity. What you once saw as a biohazard requiring a Level 4 containment system, you now view as nothing worse than rancid chocolate pudding.
Babies also throw up a lot, usually on your shoulder, hair, or face. Again, your brain takes over to calm you with the thought that the vomit isn’t too far removed from being food in a dish or breast. And, of course, babies are mucus-producing machines. You will be wiping your child’s nose for the next decade. Get used to it.
Blood? No, you never get used to seeing blood come out of your kid.
2. I’ve lost all control of my emotions. That’s right, once you become a father you are no longer in charge of being happy, sad, angry, confused, scared, and all the other myriad of emotions that you haven’t even discovered yet. Who’s in charge? Mostly your child. They will push your buttons in weird and wonderful ways. You will never see it coming, and you’ll have no idea how to make it stop. They will drag you through the day like a stuffed animal on a leash, completely in control of your various feels. One minute making you cry with pride, the next making you cry with fear. Oh, you’ll also laugh hysterically, bristle with anger, and pull out your hair in frustration, sometimes all in a manner of minutes. Your new baby is in charge of you now, and they won’t even realize it until their teenage years.
3. I know things I never thought I wanted to know. A huge part of fatherhood is introducing new interests and experiences to your kids. And I don’t mean wine tasting or skydiving, although those can certainly come later, much later, on. From day one of being a new dad, you want what’s best for your child. Suddenly, you have to know the nutritional value of baby food, how to change a diaper, and the effects of sleep deprivation. As they get older, you learn about children’s literature, kindie music, and why some poor animated kid named Caillou is so reviled. Before too long, you’re learning the difference between a tenor saxophone and an alto saxophone, and which type of earplugs works best for you. Without my kids, I might never know Lin-Manuel Miranda, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or Gerard Way, all of whom I follow with great interest now. My kids have given me an education greater and more varied than any college degree.
4. I’m broke. I knew children were expensive, I just never realized how much. At first there are all those necessary baby gadgets, like a stroller, crib, and high chair, but then you start filling your home with toys, stuffed animals, and Dr. Seuss books. Me, I got hooked on kids’ books, bringing them home new, used, and in between. My attitude was that books were an excellent investment for a child’s education, which they are, but a costly investment nonetheless. And then you have to feed and clothe your kids. And take them to the zoo. And out for ice cream. And to Disneyland. It never ends, and it’s never as cheap as you budget. So, in the end, despite the best possible financial planning, you’ll be broke.
5. I’ve become a neat freak. Everything must be in its place. That’s the “neat” part. But things are never in their place. That’s the “freak” part. Basically, fatherhood has brought out the part of me that needs order. I want my kids to be safe, free from worry and illness, and focused on personal growth. How can any of that happen in a messy house? I see dishes piled up in the kitchen and think, “There’s an incubator for disease.” I see toys strewn across the living room floor and think, “There’s a tripping hazard.” I find books stuffed onto a shelf upside down and turned around and think, “There’s a waste of knowledge.” The struggle against chaos began even before my first child was born, as I surveyed our home for dangers and baby-proofed everything I could find. Over the years, my pseudo-OCD has only grown worse. And it’s a losing battle, one in which I refuse to wave the white flag.
There are so many other ways in which fatherhood has changed me. Some were expected, some were not. All of them are a part of me now, for better or worse. A man who is not changed by becoming a dad is not much of a man. Diapers are not the only thing that need changing when a new baby comes into your life.
I’d like to thank Pampers for giving me reason to celebrate these changes, and the incredible feeling that goes along with being a dad. Fatherhood is the biggest, and best, role a man will ever take on in his life, and it’s important to recognize that. Whatever changes may come your way with becoming a dad, embrace them. You’re helping your baby have a better, more fulfilling life.
There are an estimated 40,000 mom blogs out there, giving mothers advice, support, and a place to vent.
How many dad blogs are there? It’s hard to get an exact count, although NPR estimated it to be in the “hundreds.” I would guess that the online dads number roughly 10% of the moms.
In other words, dads have a ways to go. So, if you’re a dad, help us out. Get busy and start a blog.
Making the decision to start a dad blog is easy.
Deciding where to focus your blog is also pretty straight-forward. Write about dad stuff, from the trials and tribulations of being a new father to the wisdom that comes with the experience of raising children.
The hard part of the dad blog comes with finding a title for your new endeavor.
Don’t think that all the good names have been taken. Here are some tips to choosing a unique blog name that will fit you and your musings. Continue reading →
Sometime last year I wrote a post about our daughter finally staying in her own bed through the night.
Her success was short-lived, unfortunately, but she did show definite signs of progress.
By late fall, she was in her room most nights from bedtime until morning.
So, finally, mom and dad could get some uninterrupted sleep, right?
In December, one of our cats died.
His brother was lonely and decided that the best place for him to sleep at night was with me.
More specifically, with my feet.
He loves my feet, wrapping himself around them at the end of the bed as if he’s guarding a stash of catnip.
It sounds very cute, but it means that my legs stay motionless throughout half the night. For someone with restless legs, this is not a good thing.
No, I don’t have the heart to shut him out. He would only wander the house yowling in pain for his lost brother, which would wake up the kids, who would run to our room in fear of cat ghosts, and then I wouldn’t get even half the sleep I’m barely enjoying now.
Thomas Edison had it right with his 15-minute naps spread throughout the day. Maybe that’s what new parents should train themselves to do, so they’ll be ready for the kids with the nightmares and the cats with the depression.
In an interview in today’s Parade Magazine, Jerry Seinfeld makes some interesting observations on being a parent.
Seinfeld has three rules of parenting, what he calls “the poison Ps.” The first is Praise: “We tell our kids, ‘Great job!’ too much,” he says. The second is Problem-solving: “We refuse to let our children have problems. Problem-solving is the most important skill to develop for success in life, and we for some reason can’t stand it if our kids have a situation that they need to fix. Let them struggle, it’s a gift.
Just as he’s explaining the third P, “Giving your child too much Pleasure,” a woman comes in the deli with her three young daughters and buys them all huge cookies. “Can you believe this?” Seinfeld says, gesturing like his TV counterpart used to. “It’s 5:30 p.m., when will they have dinner? At 8?”
You can read more here, if you care what a famous comedican has to say about being a dad. I partially scoff at celebrity opinions of parenthood because there’s a big difference between how they do it, with their army of nannies and maids, and how we regular people do it. But I like Jerry Seinfeld, and even though he’s not being very funny in this interview I think his thoughts are worth pondering.