Are Stay at Home Dads as Rare as Unicorns?

Don't worry son, Daddy has it under control.
Don’t worry son, Daddy has it under control.

Becoming a father was an experience filling me with a pride I’d never felt before.  When the initial euphoria passed my emotions ranged from happiness to concern.   Realizing I’d be responsible for caring for this this fragile little thing my biggest worry was please don’t let me screw this up.

Esther and I started out as tag-team parents.  She gave me my initial parental crash course—SAHD 101.  It was all new to me, my first time feeding, changing and bathing a baby, it went well but I was working with a net—Esther was there to grab the reins if there was a problem.

Esther’s returning to work from maternity leave meant it was time for me to fly solo.  Easing my transition she packed the baby bag and left three outfits for Cristian daily.  I eased her separation anxiety by texting her status updates and pictures of the baby throughout the day.

In addition to my initial anxiety, a few family members were concerned—okay maybe more than a few.  Trips to Grandma and Grandpa’s always seemed to coincide with aunts, uncles and cousins stopping by for a visit.  Although many wanted to see the baby—sometimes it was more than that.  There were too many offers to feed and change the baby.   I guess they thought I didn’t know what I was doing.  If I knew this in advance I’d have loaded Cristian up on prunes for an extra gooey diaper.

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Coming from a large family means my family tree is filled with many older cousins who are more like aunts and uncles.   My generation’s male children were the first taking a greater part in the parenting responsibilities than our fathers did. The older guys never fed or changed a baby.  Looking at us they must be wondering where did we go wrong.

Initially my aunts were confused by all this shared responsibility.  My brother, for example was an excellent Dad from Day One.  It didn’t surprise me—my aunts didn’t know what to make of it.  Watching their confused expressions the first time they saw him giving his daughter a bottle, you would have thought he split the atom.

It’s been 16-months and I still hear “how cute” from aunts, uncles and even a few neighbors when they see me taking care of the baby.  If my brother feeding and bathing his daughter was a surprise then I must be a Unicorn.  I mean I’m home taking care of him every day.

What the older generation hasn’t grasped is this isn’t about being cute—I’ll leave that to the baby.  I’m not alone, there are many like me doing the same thing either by choice or because of their current situation.  I’ve thought about leaving the baby home on the couch with a bottle and the remote while I go out, but it probably wouldn’t work out so well.  So maybe not.

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Top Ten Things I Learned During My First Year of Fatherhood

Being a parent is on-the-job training.  Although I’m not the baby spaz I was when Cristian was born, certain things still make me shake my head.  Last week I read a blog post on Inside Martyns Thoughts, (he’s another Daddy Blogger) about the ten things he wanted to know before he been a parent.  It made me smile.

Although I came into parenthood with open eyes, there was plenty of the unexpected over the past year.  Parents take a look at the list and let know how many you’ve come across or add a few I missed in the comments section.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so here is my Top Ten List of Things I didn’t expect before being a parent.

  • Number 1 -Breastfeeding-I didn’t know some newborn babies have problems breastfeeding, Cristian was one of them. We don’t know if it was the effects of the epidural but it wasn’t automatic.  We tried everything, multiple lactation specialists, bringing a breast pump from home, we even hooked Esther up to an industrial-strength pump, which resembled some of my grandfather’s equipment, he was a commercial dairy farmer.  None of it worked.  When we were home, Cristian got the hang of it.  Maybe all he needed was privacy.
  • The baby bag, your baby's life support system.
    The baby bag, your baby’s life support system.

    Number 2-The Baby Bag-Okay this one might be me bitching and moaning. The baby bag is a parent’s life support system when you are away from home.  Failure to pack diapers, baby wipes or formula will have dire consequences.  Esther packs the bag daily, her unique ability of packing the contents of a one-bedroom apartment into a backpack make her better suited for the task.  My only question is why are the important things like diapers always at the bottom of the bag?  Another question is if this is such a problem, why am I not packing the diaper bag?  Yes this one is me bitching and moaning.

  •  My non-squirming practice doll.
    My non-squirming practice doll.

    Number 3-Squirming Baby on the Changing Table- I knew changing diapers was part of this Dad/Baby thing—I was ok with it.  However, no one mentioned twisting, rolling and squirming on the changing table during the prenatal-parenting classes.  Cristian kicks it up a notch when the changing table is next to a wet counter in a public restaurant.

  • Number 4-Blowouts-Before becoming a parent this was strictly an automotive term, not anymore.  Every parent has experienced one.  Few things can change your mood faster than a blowout. “Why is the back of his onesie muddy? Nooooo!” Two blowouts are memorable. The Mother’s Day blowout in a Cuban Chinese restaurant with the tiny bathroom and no changing table.  The second was the Wake-Up blowout requiring a new cover on his changing table and the crib’s bedding .  Esther and I also needed a shower afterwards.  It got us going faster than a strong cup of coffee.
  • Number 5- Chico’s New Role-Before Cristian was born, Chico was our baby I’ve written about him.  When Esther and I read the newspaper in bed on a lazy Sunday morning, he’d be curled up next to one of us trying to hog the mattress. Chico had a better life than most people, until that baby came along. We still love you Chico, I’m sorry Cristian is getting much of the attention we once gave you.
Hey kid, we gotta talk.
Hey kid, we gotta talk.
  • Number 6 – There Are No Quick Trips to Pick Up Anything For The Baby.-I know this one’s not new, I’ve posted about it here and mentioned it here but it bears repeating. There are no quick trips to Carter’s, Babies R Us, or Bye Bye Baby.  This one may run along gender lines. If you send me to pick up diapers, baby food, and sippy cups the trip takes about 15 or 20 minutes because I’ll pick up diapers, baby food and sippy cups.  When I hear we need to pick up a few things for the baby, I cringe because the trip involves all sorts of detours.  Watching her ooh and ahh looking at baby clothes makes my uterus pinch.  Advice to new Dads, bring a fully-charged tablet and find a comfortable chair where they sell baby furniture, this is going to take a while.
  • Number 7 Prunes- Most parenting books advise introducing babies to solid food at three or four months.  A new fruit or vegetable is introduced for about three days ensuring the baby isn’t allergic to it before moving on to the next one. This is all common sense.  Then there are prunes. Dark, sticky and gooey they look the same in the container as they do in the diaper.  I’ve spent a sleepless night or two wondering about the logic of feeding a baby with a well-functioning digestive system prunes.
  • Number 8-Babies Will Pee On You-It’s not as bad as a blowout but still an eye-opener. Cristian peed on the doctor during his first pediatrician appointment.  After a year, I’m pretty good at dodging the spray, but Cristian still laughs knowing Daddy is going to have to change the cover on the changing table.
  • Father son napNumber 9 -There is no Rhyme or Reason to a Baby’s Sleeping Habits-File this one under should have known better. We had established a routine at about five months of feed, bathe, bottle, bedtime and Cristian would sleep from about 10 pm until about 5 am.  Esther and I thought we had this sleep thing under control. Then his sleep pattern changed.  He’s now up once or twice a night, sitting in his crib like a Baby Buddha waiting for a bottle.
  • Number 10--Competitive Parents-I’ve been around a lot of babies in the past year.  Our building welcomed five and our family and friends had six more. That’s a lot of babies. Parents compare notes.  It’s harmless at first, checking on eating and sleeping patterns. Little by little, it gets competitive.  Your baby has two teeth, mine has eight. Yours started crawling; mine walks around the block.  I’m waiting for the inevitable, yours isn’t toilet trained yet?  Ours was toilet trained months ago, and now he’s training others. It’s not a competition. Let’s all take a breath or maybe a nap. Your child is as special to you as mine is to me there’s no need to be competitive.
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