The Life of a Stay at Home Dad

Cristian with some old guy.
Cristian with some old guy.

Before becoming a Stay at Home Dad, I had no idea of what to expect.  It was so bad I did a Google search to find out what SAHD meant.  Working without a road map the first months were a bumpy ride but its gotten smoother along the way.  Taking care of Cristian is the toughest job I’ve had, multitasking and improvising are only two of the skills needed for the job.

Since little information exists regarding Stay at Home Dads I decided to share a few details on the glamourous lives we lead.

Taking care of him was easier before he started walking
Taking care of him was easier before he started walking

Start Me Up – I’m up at 6:30 every morning.  Jumping or staggering out of bed depends on how the baby slept.  He’s usually up once a night.  He rolls over and goes back to sleep after snatching the bottle from my hand—on a good night.  Teething and ear infections have a way of throwing things out of whack.  I start my day with a cup of coffee and some quiet time with Esther as we straighten up the baby’s toys.  How Cristian slept the night before determines how strong I brew the coffee.

All the tools needed for starting the day off right
All the tools needed for starting the day off right

Daddy’s Wardrobe – This varies from dad to dad but it’s not business casual.  Most parenting books don’t offer wardrobe suggestions.  Since a lot of my day is spent chasing him around the house, the playground, and keeping him out of the bathroom, he loves bathrooms, I wear the same gear I wear on training runs, a tech t-shirt and sweats.   They’re light-weight, comfortable and washes easier than a cashmere sweater, because you will be drooled, spilled and pooped on.

No more CNN Daddy, I want to watch Sesame Street.
No more CNN Daddy, I want to watch Sesame Street.

Is TV the Babysitter? – Everyone thinks Stay at Home Dads binge watch Netflix while the baby plays.  In addition to being a Stay at Home Dad, I’m also a Work from Home Dad.  Working as a consultant and freelance writing gigs keep me busy while Cristian watches Sesame Street or Baby Genius.  That doesn’t mean he spends all day in front of the TV.   I read to him, we play in the park, and he comes along on my daily errands. That said Cristian’s watched more CNN than the average toddler—we both agree HD isn’t doing Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton any favors.

Sleep When They Sleep – I mentioned this before but it bears repeating.  I’m convinced anyone offering this advice never took care of a baby. Maybe they had a nanny or they’ve forgotten how demanding babies are.  A baby’s nap time is like hitting Lotto.  Here’s your chance to do a load of laundry, take a quick shower, or catch up on whatever you’ve fallen behind on.  Use the time wisely.  I’ve written and published blog posts during Cristian’s naps.

Everyone’s An Expert – Stay at Home Dads are still considered an oddity—much like caged animals at the zoo.  On any given day, I’ll hear comments and receive unsolicited advice on all things baby.  Everything from it looks mommy dressed him today, to how cute you’re babysitting, to he looks hungry.  Okay that last one was from Grandma who thinks everyone looks hungry but you get my point.

Multi-Tasking Required – Most job descriptions these days require strong time-management skills and the ability to multitask, they’re also prerequisites for any SAHD.  One any given day I’m chauffeuring Cristian to playdates, My Gym classes, or the park for an hour, while maintaining a full work-load and finding time to write. Am I babysitting or parenting—maybe a little of both depending on the day.

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Seven Things to Know Before Having Kids

Esther and I BC - Before Cristian
Esther and I BC – Before Cristian

Parenthood is a life-changing experience, I love being a Dad.  That said any parent, or more specifically this parent is letting you know your life is going to change because you WILL make sacrifices along the way.  I knew this coming in—at least I thought I did.

If you are thinking about starting a family this is a must read—it will give you some insight on what lies ahead.

Pregnancy – You want a sneak peek on parenthood, pregnancy is a good place to start. There’s weight gain, sleepless nights and moodiness—and that was just me.  Prepare for a rollercoaster ride of Lamaze Classes, baby registries, and unsolicited advice from all sides.  I don’t know what was rougher dealing with my better half’s hormones or agreeing on the baby’s name.  Don’t worry about the sleep deprivation—you’ll catch up once the baby’s born.

What the first week feels like.
What the first week feels like.

New Baby/Clueless Parents – The first days are a blur of, baby bottles, dirty diapers, and caffeine (mine not the baby’s).  Bonus points if you survive without getting peed on.  After a week of this your friends and family will want to see the baby.  Hopefully they will do more than post selfies with your child on Instagram.  Helpful hint, don’t be shy when someone asks, “What can I bring.”  It’s a limited-time offer so forget the chicken nuggets and go for the big ticket items like surf and turf.

The Baby Tour – Once the baby’s older you’ll be required to take him on tour.  This is done for the relatives who couldn’t make it to your home or were afraid of the cranky old man, otherwise known as me.  Packing the car with the baby bag, separate clothes bag, laundry bag, (all stuffed with individually packed zip lock bags), stroller, playpen, and hopefully the baby is time consuming.  I’m an experienced logistics guy who coordinated corporate events in every major convention center and hotel in North America, it was less stressful than loading the car for a twitchy mommy wanting to show off her pride and joy.

Air Travel – Is the Baby Tour on steroids.  Imagine packing everything listed above in addition to your own luggage and spending at least three hours in a cramped airline seat with a squirming toddler in your lap.  Sure the baby flies free but would it hurt the airlines to throw in a few free drinks?  When things get rough go to the parents’ secret weapon–Benadryl.  Travelling with a baby makes you long for the days when you travelled with just one backpack.

Before, the toys are neatly stacked while the baby sleeps.
Before, the toys are neatly stacked while the baby sleeps.

House Looks Like a Natural Disaster – Do you like an orderly home?  Does your bathroom have cute little soaps and towels only guests are allowed to use? Does your living room come straight from the pages of Better Homes and Gardens?  Toddlers change that in a hurry.  Once they start walking your immaculate home will look like the Jersey Shore after Hurricane Sandy.  If you’re lucky you may qualify for a FEMA reimbursement.

After - The baby wakes up. Imagine what the rest of the house looks like.
After – The baby wakes up. Imagine what the rest of the house looks like.

Sleeping the Night – Scratch this one off the list for a few years, there’s no rhyme or reason to a baby’s sleep patterns, don’t try to understand it, just manage it–like a pregnant woman’s hormonal outbursts.  Haven’t you been reading this blog?  If you’re lucky the baby only wakes up once a night.  Of course teething can change that quickly.  Don’t worry, you’ll learn to function on four-hours sleep.

Lazy Sunday Mornings – Sunday mornings used to be about selfish pleasures, a morning run, an IHOP breakfast or lying in bed with Esther reading the Sunday paper.  A baby changes this and those simple pleasures become luxuries.  Sunday mornings are now about watching PBS Kids and chasing the baby around the living room.

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Five Signs You Need a Night Out

We all love our kids but being locked up with your little booger monster takes a toll over the long haul  A blizzard, ear infection, and daily bombardment of the Donald-Marco-Ted three-way is enough to make the strongest among us scream for a night out.

If you aren’t sure if you a night away from the baby I created this guide.  Helpful hint nicknaming your pride and joy Godzilla thins out the baby sitting pool quickly.

Playdates Dominate Your Social Calendar– Playdates and Children’s Fitness Centers like Gymboree and MyGym are great for socializing your child.  New parents compare notes on sleep patterns, developmental milestones, and the strangest place you’ve found poop and puke. As helpful as they are an evening spent with a different circle of friends will make a huge difference. Suggestion – Double date with another couple.  Bonus points if their child is old enough to babysit.

Hamming it up at his MyGym Class
Hamming it up at his MyGym Class

You’re Watching Too Many Kiddie Shows –When PBS Kids and Nick Jr are your go-to channels it’s only a matter of time until you get caught up in Elmo’s latest adventures.  Waking up humming the Pepa Pig theme is a sign you need a night out.  Suggestion – Beer and Wings with the guys at a Sports Bar.

The Last Movie We Saw Was Um…– Having young kids in the house means they determine what’s on TV.  It makes you long for the nights when you and the wife battled it out for the remote.  If the last movie you saw was the first Hunger Games you’re overdue for a movie night.  Suggestion –Dinner and a Movie.

Playdate in the park
Playdate in the park

Funerals Become Date Nights – It’s gotten pretty bad when attending a wake or sitting shiva is the highlight of your social calendar. Although wearing something other than the stained sweatshirt and pajama pants will score points with your better half, sharing a meal of brisket and rugelach with your fellow mourners is not a date night. Exceptions may be granted for an Irish Wake.  Suggestion – Make Reservations for two at a steak house because nothing says love like porterhouse.

Some Private Time Please Keeping up with a toddler requires the patience of a monk and the energy of an extreme athlete.  Sometimes that’s not enough. Working all day and trying to outlast a wired baby late into the night is exhausting.  It usually results in one parent falling asleep before the baby.  You know it’s gotten pretty bad when you start comparing who’s better looking Wilma Flintstone or Betty Rubble.  Suggestion – Call in a huge favor and have someone to watch the baby while you book a romantic weekend, a three-day weekend if possible in case one of you passes out the first night.

Disclaimer- No Cartoon Characters were hurt during that last joke.

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Is Parenting at 50 Easier?

A Twenty-Something me, with beard and mullet (I know) tailgating before a Grateful Dead show. Photo Randall Luttenburg
A Twenty-Something me, with beard and mullet (I know) tailgating before a Grateful Dead show. Photo Randall Luttenburg

Becoming a SAHD (Stay at Home Dad) at 50 concerned me a little—okay maybe more than a little.  I worried about, bathing, diaper changes, and being the responsible adult.  I was working without a net—it was just me and the baby—without an adult more adult than me nearby.

I’ve outgrown my initial concerns but still dread the day when someone asks, “How old is your grandson?”  Hopefully Cristian will do the right thing and kick them in the leg.  I’m counting on you son.

I spent Sunday’s Super Bowl Party comparing notes with Dads who’ve been there and done that.  We agreed first-moments are great, tantrums suck, and debated which was more annoying, the Teletubbies or Caillou.

Here’s what I learned:

Looking Silly is Okay – My friends may be wondering about this one.  Silliness and an off-beat sense of humor is kind of who I am. I have a hard time seeing a thirty-something me bopping around to kiddie songs during a My Gym class or even out of class. These days I’ve become a rhythmless-dancing machine—it’s easier when you embrace the silly.

Baby-Related Entertainment – My days are consumed binge watching Sesame Street, Sid the Science Kid and Pepa Pig.  Going to show or museum used to be a comedy club or MOMA now it’s Sesame Street Live or the Children’s Museum of New York.  Cristian’s smiling face makes up for the crowds and loud crying children.

Cristian and I heading to the Chilldren's Museum of New York
Cristian and I heading to the Chilldren’s Museum of New York

Pacing and Energy – Twenty years ago I was younger, fitter, and had washboard abs.  Today, I’m older and grayer, okay mostly white without the hair color.  A keg replaced the six-pack. Caring for and chasing after a toddler requires endurance.  Finishing twelve marathons taught me how to pace myself. Occasionally I hit the wall, but push through until Esther comes home from work or I’ve worn the baby out.

I’m Older, Calmer, and More Secure with Myself – It’s not like I’m doing yoga, sipping green tea, or reading the Dalai Lama but twenty years mellowed me.  I no longer stress things I can’t control.  I’ve learned to enjoy the moment because they won’t last forever.  That’s not to say I haven’t fired a baby bottle or thrown an iPhone across the room during those special moments.

Payback’s a Bitch – I watched from the sidelines when my friends became parents in their 20s and 30s.  Knowing I could bolt when the tantrums started was a good option to have.  Those same friends are now empty nesters, offering advice and even babysitting here and there.  These days they’re the ones reaching for their coats when the tantrums kick in.

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Baby 2.0 – Your Survival Guide

Congratulations you survived the first year of parenthood!  It was rough but worth it. This post is an INTERVENTION to any parent thinking it gets easier from here on out.  In the coming year your adorable little one will be hitting a new set of developmental milestones.

You thought the first year was rough?  The year ahead will have you longing for little annoyances like a diaper blowout.  Forget everything you learned—that was merely the warmup—you are about to embark on Baby 2.0.

Here are a few things you can expect:

Don't let the smile fool you. You are in for a rough time.
Don’t let the smile fool you. You are in for a rough ride.
Walking is about to commence
Walking is about to commence

Walking – You knew it would happen—you either looked forward to it with anxious anticipation or dreaded it like the plague. Walking is a game changer—it’s crawling on steroids.  A walking baby means now more than ever you and your partner must work as a team, keeping watch on, and chasing after your child.  Those teams on The Amazing Race have nothing on a set of parents chasing down an eager toddler headed for an open doorway or towards a flight of stairs.

Tantrums – I’m going to let you in on a secret, toddlers throw tantrums.  Boy do they throw tantrums.   Thought you had a year of tranquility before the Terrible-Twos tantrums kicked in.  Surprise!  Fear not, tantrum support groups exist—they meet at most local bars.

Curiosity – In addition to walking your toddler is developing a sense of curiosity, as in how much will it take to piss Mommy off, or what can I do to make the vein in Daddy’s forehead buldge?  I’m not talking about crawling under the kitchen sink or banging pots and pans—today’s toddler goes after the big ticket items.  Nothing stimulates the mind of a fifteen-month old baby more than an iPhone, iPad or Smart TV remote. They become adept swiping the iPhone from Daddy’s pocket or grabbing the unattended iPad or remote sitting on the end table.  See the previous paragraph on Tantrums when you try taking one these devices away.

Get the Red Bull Daddy, because tonight It's On!
Get the Red Bull Daddy, because tonight It’s On!

Mommyitis Also known as Daddyitis (if Mommy isn’t around) or Separation Anxiety.  Your adorable social-butterfly child, the one who smiles at anyone in supermarket checkout lines or the mall, now emits ear-piercing screams, similar to those an adult makes upon stepping in a bear trap.  This happens when Mommy tries handing him off to Daddy or anyone else.  Simple things like heading to work or even to the bathroom must now be handled with the same covert urgency Seal Team Six uses in planning its ops.

Bedtime/Sleep C’mon you didn’t think the sleep thing was going to improve did you?  Do you also believe in unicorns and the tooth fairy?  Besides being awakened several times a night, bedtime becomes a Darwinian survival of the fittest.  Who will outlast who?  We’ve held the upper hand, but more than once the last one standing put the baby in his crib before taking care of the sleeping spouse.  Who thought the baby’s bedtime required Red Bull or a strong cup of coffee?

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