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
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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

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Parenting Against the Memories of the Past

My brother showing me how to hold a baby.
My brother showing me the proper way to hold a baby.

A funny thing happened a few weeks ago, Cristian turned 18 months old.  A lot’s changed in a year and a half, I no longer look like a gorilla dragging a baby around the cage.  My better half doesn’t have to stuff the baby bag and leave three complete outfits for the baby—she still does—but doesn’t have to, and it’s been over a year since I looked at the extensive list of care instructions posted in the kitchen.

Cristian’s grown into a hyperactive toddler, kind of like the Tazmanian Devil on Red Bull, and I’ve become a functional Stay at Home Dad.  Getting here was twisty road of diaper blowouts (his not mine), empty bottles (mine not his) and unsolicited advice from just about everyone.

Feeding, bathing and dressing the baby is now part of my daily routine.  I no longer hear It looks like Daddy dressed you today, okay maybe from Esther—geez you forget to fasten the snaps on his onesie a few times.

A year ago, women at Target sniffed out diaper changes, people at the post office suggested he may need a nap, and families at Costco gave me stink eye when I put the baby into the same shopping cart with a few gallons of bleach, a case of motor oil and 10 pounds of seafood.  Imagine if I threw the live lobsters into the cart, like I wanted to.

What are you doing with those lobsters Daddy?
What are you doing with those lobsters Daddy?

The family has gotten better too.  They no longer rush to feed or change the baby when he cries, just when I thought I had them trained.  Watching me take care of him eased their anxiety, or maybe they realized they’ve become material for a post or two.

You think that would be the end of it, of course it isn’t.  Haven’t you been reading this blog?

Having graduated from feedings and diaper changes, Parenting 101, I’ve moved onto the advanced course.  It started with a few subtle hints from the family elders, who am I kidding about subtle.

To give you some background on the family elders, I once overheard them remark about how a new mom still had her baby belly—two days after a grueling 20-hours of labor ending in a C-Section.  To hear them talk they all went straight home from the delivery room and did three loads of laundry.

According to them when they raised us we always ate elaborately-planned home-cooked meals, didn’t fight them at bedtime, and never got dirty.  Oh selective memory is a wonderful thing because I remember being called a bad child, constantly being scolded for getting dirty.

Parenting guidelines and norms changed over the years.  When I was a child, parents barely childproofed their homes, small children rode in the car’s backseat without a child seat or seatbelt, and moms did the heavy lifting regarding childcare.  So I can only imagine their shock at watching us raise our own children.  I don’t need to, I hear it constantly, but that’s okay.  As Cristian keeps growing and hitting developmental milestones, I’m hitting mine as a parent.  I guess it’s a good thing I keep a blog.

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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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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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