Stop Calling Me The Babysitter, I’m His Father

Cristian running on the Coney Island Boardwalk

It was a Wednesday morning, which meant Cristian and I were off to Coney Island.  We weren’t going to the amusement park although I planned on taking him to Nathan’s for hot dogs.  Once upon a time, I was a Stay at Home Dad who worked part time as a medical biller.  Wednesdays meant delivering documents from a medical clinic in Brooklyn to my company’s office in Queens.

Squeezing Cristian’s stroller through the narrow hallway, we arrived at a small office where three women worked.  The office soon filled with a group of Eastern European women whenever I showed up with the baby.  One of the women turned and said, “How cute, you are babysitting,” in thickly accented English.

Although she was being polite, she didn’t realize she pissed me off.  At least she didn’t think I was Cristian’s grandfather — that happened later when we were playing on the boardwalk.  Yes, it was a memorable Wednesday.

Driving back on the Belt Parkway, I replayed the conversation in my head, again and again.  After the fifth or sixth time I asked myself, “Does she know better?”

The women in the office were similar in age and background to my family members when I was growing up.  The women in my family handled most of the childcare responsibilities, rarely getting help from their husbands.  In those days’ household roles were clearly defined, men were the providers, and women stayed home and cared for the children.  Some women worked, but it was besides their childcare responsibilities.

My male cousins and I were among the first generation sharing parenting responsibilities with their partners.  Times changed and many families need two paychecks to make ends meet.  This shared responsibility confused my aunts and uncles as they watched us feeding and dressing our kids.  The first time they saw my brother giving his daughter a bottle, you would have thought he was explaining nuclear physics.

I was a Stay at Home Dad for the first two years of my son’s life, and it irritated me when people thought I was doing it to help out my wife.  My experience with the woman in the office wasn’t the first time I heard the dreaded B-Word.

Parenting starts when your child is born — it’s what you signed up for.  Couples usually figure this out during pregnancy, those who don’t are in for a rude awakening.  A child needs both parents because raising a child is a team effort.

Cristian is my son — you can’t babysit your child — it’s called parenting.  Someone pays babysitters for their service.  It’s an important service, ask any parent in desperate need of a night out. Whether it‘s the neighbor’s teenaged daughter or an older woman, they are watching your children for a few hours but at some point they go home.

Cristian in Mommy and Me Class

Society has changed since I was growing up, and more parents are sharing parental responsibilities, but a double standard still exists.

A mom taking her kids to soccer practice is doing what’s expected of her, but when a dad does it, he’s babysitting..  With more women establishing themselves in careers and more men as Stay at Home Dads you wouldn’t think the concept was a still a novelty, but it is.

When I was an SAHD, women would offer the clueless dad advice on diaper changes or feedings while standing in the Target checkout aisle.  I almost expected them to ask if my wife knew I was out with the baby.

Although I’m no longer the only dad taking his child to a MyGym class or the playground, we still have a way to go.  My son and I were enrolled in a Mommy and Me class and more than once I’ve had to change his diaper in the back of my SUV because men’s restrooms are not always equipped with changing tables.

Does a double standard still exist?  My brother and discussed it in July at his daughter’s eighteenth birthday party.  To give further insight, my son celebrated his fourth birthday last month.

Share This:
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedin

Nine Things I Learned Since Becoming A Parent

With the Birthday Boy at his pre-school.

Recently, Cristian celebrated his fourth birthday. For about a week, Esther and I relived our first days as parents.  There is something nostalgic about birthdays.

We remembered Esther’s aunt brushing his hair into a baby Mohawk in the hospital, friends stopping by to visit, and his first days of preschool. After a few days, I sat down and put a list together of things I didn’t expect. I apologize in advance if it sounds like a greatest hits package.

Cleaning products are a parent’s best friend.

Pee, Poop & Puke — I came into parenthood with my eyes wide open. I knew there would be dirty diapers, and baby-related messes. I just had no idea that something so small could make such a huge mess.  Play dates and MyGym classes have given me a chance to swap stories with other parents.

We’ve spent time comparing notes.  We swapped stories on getting peed on and bleaching the bathtub after the baby dropped a deuce during bath time.  So far, no one has found a sure-fire way to get the puke smell out of toddler bedding. If you are considering starting a family, reread the last two sentences a few times until it sinks in. Remember, you’ve been warned.

Don’t dad-shame Bond.

I’m Not the Babysitter, I’m His Father – I was a Stay at Home Dad for two years, and the quickest way to piss me off was calling me the babysitter. Let me explain the difference — babysitters get paid — parents raise their children. Do I look like a teen-aged kid spending more time with their Snapchat feed than watching the baby?

These days, grandparents and older family members aren’t the only ones who can’t tell the difference. Journalists can be just as clueless. Piers Morgan recently mocked Daniel Craig for carrying his one-month old daughter in a baby carrier. Many outraged dads lashed out via Twitter making Mr. Morgan aware that Dads take an active role in parenting.

Separation Anxiety Can Be Rough – We found this out when Cristian was six weeks old. Driving Esther to work on her first day back from maternity leave, Cristian started crying before I stopped the car. I thought it was a one-time thing — silly me. He soon adapted to our feeble attempts at distracting him with Sesame Street as Mommy tried sneaking off to work, or even to the bathroom.

We thought it would pass, but it’s gotten worse — now he does it to me. Gone are the days when I could leave him in the gym’s nursery with a tablet and get in a quick workout. It’s effected how we plan date nights.  These days, the babysitter meets his school bus when he gets home from preschool, saving us all from a tantrum.

Kids Will Repeat Anything They Hear –  Remember how excited you were when your child said its first word? That joy fades quickly once your child starts repeating things, like a voice-activated recording device.  Esther now has to worry about what both men in her life might say.

A child’s vocabulary grows exponentially, once they start preschool, leaving parents wondering where they learned certain words.  I remember Cristian proudly sharing a new word with me. It had four letters and started with F. Worried, because I’d have to explain the origins of this new word to Mommy, I asked him to repeat it. I was relieved when he repeated the word, adding ribbit ribbit. Since then I’ve picked my words carefully around him.

A Sick Child Will Make You Feel Helpless – There is one thing consistent to all parents regardless of age, gender, or financial status — it sucks when your kid is sick. Cristian was fifteen months old, the first time he experienced a high fever. Crying, uncomfortable, and giving off a furnace-like heat, he looked to Mommy and Daddy to make everything better.  We grew increasingly frustrated when we couldn’t.  I’ve never felt more helpless in my entire life than I did on that night.

Friends Will Disappear From Your Life – Losing touch friends is a sad part of life.  How many friends have you kept in touch with since high school?  The number of friends we’ve lost touch with since becoming parents has been eye-opening. Things changed since the early days when friends stopped by to “see the baby,” These days we hear everything from, “It’s been tool long” to “We were giving you space.”

I understand that spending an afternoon at the zoo isn’t for everyone, Neither is spending an evening with a toddler bouncing off the walls like he’s in a pinball machine. We all have busy schedules, but I learned – some will make an effort, and others will make excuses. I never thought starting a family would make friends disappear like they were in the Witness Protection Program.

If Things Are Too Quiet, Be Very Afraid – Say goodbye to any semblance of quiet time, once your child reaches toddlerhood.  A child playing quietly in the other room is not your friend.  If you think you scored a chance to binge watch Game of Thrones, guess again. When things get too quiet, I immediately grab a broom and a box of hefty bags.

Spontaneity Is Replaced By Structure – Remember the days before parenthood, also known as the good old days.  Being spontaneous was easy, we could go to the movies or away for the weekend at a moment’s notice.  I miss those days.

With parenthood comes responsibility, or the ability to fake it for those who don’t know better.  Once your child starts daycare parents start establishing routines and schedules.  Vacation and time off from work revolves around school.  These days our evenings are about keeping Cristian on a schedule.  Although we mix things up, it’s some variation of playtime, dinnertime, bath time, bedtime.  Deviating from this will have dire consequences.

Despite the Challenges, Parenthood is Rewarding – Since becoming a Dad, I’ve congratulated new parents the same way, Congratulations, your life is about to change, but it will be worth it.  Being a Dad is the toughest job I ever had — and I’ve had many.  The hours suck, you don’t get weekends off, and the boss is extremely demanding.  Looking at Cristian playing happily with his tablet as I write this, fills me with awe.  I still can’t believe I helped create this awesome little being.

Share This:
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedin

A Letter To My Son On His Fourth Birthday

The Birthday Boy

Happy Birthday Cristian, today you are four years old. You looked so happy when we put you on the school bus this morning. Mommy and I have a surprise for you, we planned a birthday party for you later today. You’re going to love the yummy cupcakes Mommy’s friend Angie made for you – they are so good that Mommy and I will probably have one too.

We have special memories of your very first birthday four years ago. We didn’t get much sleep because the nurses spent the night trying to induce Mommy.  Daddy kept making Facebook posts to keep everyone up to date. We knew then that you inherited your parent’s stubborn streak, and Mommy’s habit of making everyone wait for her. You’ll understand more about that when you get older.

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

You were born at 1:20 pm on a sunny Thursday afternoon. We were anxious to meet you and curious to see who you looked like. I remember you were crying and Mommy asked me to try and soothe you by talking to you. Since we hadn’t agreed on your name yet, Daddy put on his best Darth Vader voice and said, “Son, I am your father.” The nurses all laughed, but don’t worry, Daddy knows how to talk to you now.

Your first few days were a blur of feedings, diaper changes, and watching you sleep through bloodshot eyes. It took us a few days to establish a routine, but every time you smiled at us, you made us forget how tired we were.

A few weeks later, Mommy’s maternity leave was over and she had to go back to work. We spent a lot of time together as you gave Daddy a crash course in Stay at Home Dad 101.  Although no one admits it, there were a few concerned family members. To be honest, Daddy was a little worried, too.

Getting Cristian ready for our morning training run.

We had fun together, we watched Sid the Science Kid, discovered the Sprout Channel, and Daddy introduced you to Sesame Street. I took you everywhere, you rode along on Daddy’s training runs, we went to MyGym classes, and you helped Daddy deliver documents when he worked as a medical biller.

We are constantly amazed at how much you are learning and we love seeing your personality develop. Mommy and Daddy took turns chasing you around the playground and the Rockaway Beach Boardwalk.  We love how much your face lights up when we take you to the zoo or the aquarium, and were both happy, yet a little sad when you started daycare. You have to understand that when we look at you, we still see the spunky, chubby-cheeked little guy, who peed on the pediatrician during his first doctor’s appointment.

I know you don’t remember your grandfather, but you made quite an impression on him. He waited so long for a grandson, and you will never know the joy you brought that old man. The smile on his face the first time he met you is my favorite memory of him. You are also too young to comprehend that although you drive grandma crazy from time to time, having you around helps her cope with your grandpa’s loss.

You don’t understand this yet, but you are a little different than the other kids and may have a few rough years ahead of you as you learn to adjust to things. Watching you adjust will be rough on Mommy and Daddy too, but remember we love you very much and will be there for you. We may not give you everything you want, but we will always have your back.

Happy Birthday, Little Man!

Daddy, can we go for ice cream?
Share This:
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedin

Exorcising the Demons of 2016

How I’m feeling these days.

The beginning a year is for dreams.  Dreams of self-improvement, of being healthier, happier and more productive. It’s a time for resolutions—you know change the things you didn’t do last year—or the year before that.

When 2016 ended people were bitching and moaning on social media sites about what an awful year it was.  John Glenn, Prince, and Carrie Fisher died, there were numerous terrorist attacks, and an alligator attacked and killed a two-year old child at Walt Disney World in Florida.  A lot of things about 2016 sucked.

I spent most of 2016 as a Stay at Home/Work from Home Dad, and although I spent much of the year chasing an active toddler, I wasn’t as active as I hoped.  I didn’t need to step on a scale to know I gained weight—I knew by the way my clothes fit—I just didn’t know how much I gained.

Judgement day fell on New Year’s Monday, when my better half and I stepped on a scale, like we do every year, to see how bad the damage was.   For me it was pretty bad, it said 242.2.

242!   That’s not bad, that’s enormously bad, 12 pounds more than a year ago.  How did things get so out of control?   Too much beer, fast food, and binge eating, spending more time waiting in line at the drive-through window, then at the gym is usually a good indicator.

 

Denial is a wonderful thing.  I’ve been here before, gaining weight, and losing it, gaining it back, and losing it again, and again and yet again.  Over the years, I’ve lost 200 pounds, twenty pounds ten times.

Like many I have storage bins of thin clothes and really thin clothes neatly packed in storage bins in the garage, ok maybe not so neatly, and fat clothes hanging in the closet.  The difference is these days my fat clothes are fitting tight.  During my job interview in October, I couldn’t button the jacket of my suit.

Running and climbing a flight of stairs, takes more effort these days, and going down a few flights of stairs feels like I’m wearing a 30-pound backpack.  I spent more time walking than running during this year’s Hangover Run on New Year’s morning.

So once again, I’m beginning another weight-loss journey.  The task seems daunting and although I don’t have a specific goal weight in mind yet, I’m keeping things simple.  One day at a time, one meal at a time, one pound at a time.

Esther, Cristian and I during this year’s Hangover Run – Photo Quicksilver Striders
Share This:
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedin

The Last Days of a Stay at Home Dad

Enjoying my days as a SAHD

It’s been awhile since my last post—too long.  A lot’s changed in the four months since I posted about sore nipples—they’re still a little tender by the way.  Cristian turned two, an orange narcissist was elected President, and I’m no longer a Stay at Home Dad.

Shortly after Mommy and Me Class, (my last post), Esther and I discussed putting Cristian into daycare three days a week.  We figured spending time with kids his age is better for learning childlike-behavior, instead of spending days with his old man learning childish behavior.  We signed him up when he started throwing his sippy cup at the TV whenever CNN aired a Trump Rally.

Around the same time, I started receiving job offers.  A steady gig as a school photographer was a bit scary—not because of the workload but photographing elementary school kids was a sneak preview of the next few years of parenting.

Shortly afterwards I scored an interview for an academic advisor position at a college, my alma mater.  Since I was already working steadily as a freelancer with a possible full-time job lined up, we added two more days to Cristian’s schedule.  I had mixed emotions—I was excited at the challenge of a new job but was a little bummed too.

Getting his daily dose of CNN.

I’ve taken care of Cristian since Esther went back to work from maternity leave.  We’ve gone to MyGym classes, shopped at Costco, and he came along with me when I delivered documents for my medical billing job.

I knew I’d miss chasing him around the playground, watching him hit new developmental milestones, and miss the vein popping from my forehead as he tested Daddy’s patience time after time, (usually after the playground and hitting developmental milestones.  Life was changing yet again.

My mornings are different now.  Instead of taking Esther to work and Cristian to the playground, before settling into a few hours of spreadsheets and billing codes, my mornings are now a blur of shave, shower and get dressed.  Once again Esther and I are tag-team parents, one of us watching the baby while the other gets ready for work.  Sure my new job has nice perks like an office, but I still miss watching Cristian goofing on Wolf Blitzer after coming home from the playground

Share This:
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedin