The Stay at Home Dad
The tables have turned. Six months have come and gone. While my career as mommy is certainly not over, I am now the one trotting off to work each day, lunch, coffee and breast pump in hand, reluctantly pulling myself away from the cooing early morning baby wiggling around with his toys on the floor. I feed him. I dress him. I turn on the NPR. I make sure there are bottles a-plenty. I discuss his days menu and activities. But, then I gotta leave. For 9 long hours.
I’ve heard some moms who were really happy to go back to work. For the adult conversation. Because it got boring at home. These were not problems I experienced. Yeah sure, I spent my days talking to creatures who don’t talk back (dogs and babies), or maybe the six months wasn’t long enough for me to get fully sick of it. But, in general, I thrive on a schedule of my own creation. My gym trips, coffee dates, and errand running were enough to keep me feeling connected with the world at large. I suffered not one iota.
Now it’s Daddy’s turn.
He’s not alone. The stay at home Dad phenomenon is on the rise. And not in a temporary kind of way. Long term Daddy Care, with Mommy’s bringing home the bucks. That is not our plan. I’m not sure what our plan actually is, but that’s not it. As of right now, Daddy’s stint is limited. The Husband (who is now The Daddy because we’ve completely lost our identities apparently) has been home before. Sometimes (as in during the 2 job nightmare) for a while. He’s been The House Husband. For a period of time he’s usually happy. Coffee and dogs and puttering and to-do lists. He prefers to be at work, but he can tra-la-la his way through some weeks of this. No problem.
Heh. Plus one Baby. Equals a whole different ballgame.
Let’s not disparage the importance of Daddy. Our kid is super lucky to have a parent home with him, especially during this little dude, major brain growing phase. In some ways, I’d assert he’s even more fortunate to have had the tag team from the Mommy-Daddy duo. Not all kids get to spend a bunch of one on one time with their Dad. Daddy’s are awesomer at so many things. Dad seems to be funnier than Mom. Dad is more willing to go into the great unknown armed with only a diaper bag and a binky. Whereas Mom prefers a whole plan of attack and easy access to reinforcements. Daddy at home means a relationship with the bottle. Not just my boob. (Handy for those nights when I’d really like a margarita…or three). Daddy days are different than Mommy days. But no less good.
The stark reality of staying at home with a 6-month old though, it is not for the feint of heart. Your day is not your own. We strive for schedule and routine, but there is absolutely no part of that you can take for granted. Not a shower. Not a meal. Not an errand or a phone call. Or getting dressed even. You accomplish what you can in little snatches of time. During first, second, and third nap. All of varying and unpredictable lengths. During happy baby moments entertaining himself in the bumbo with an age appropriate toy or (even better) a fascinating lid to something not age appropriate. If the conditions are right with the perfect combination of items you can buy yourself 20 minutes (!!!) in which to accomplish some longed for task, whatever that may be. You better make it count, because it may be the only window you get.
This came upon me gradually during my time at home. As my baby became less sleepy, and more active, as the flow of our day solidified, when he was no longer content to nap in his swing until 10am (oh, those were the days!), I adjusted. The Husband, being thrown into this midstream, was at a disadvantage. He saw from a distance of course. Even experienced it on the odd 6 hours or so of Mommy being gone. But the daily grind of small person management is a different, ever evolving, roll with the punches, take no prisoners, cherish every moment you can while not pulling your hair out, kind of story. It takes some getting used to. Add in the growing of two new teeth, the general crankiness that ensues, and you’ve got a bit of a rough start.
Right now, I only have to go into the office 3 days a week. I have 2 days I can work from home. I’m not putting work from home in quotes because, no for real, I am working from home. Downstairs, in an office, door closed. Separate from Baby and Daddy unless I am needed. Easy access to my kid is not a privilege I want to abuse. Because me being around is infinitely valuable to all of us. If I’m mostly working, I can still feed my kid. I can be there for a melt down (Mommy’s are invaluable there). Daddy can get a shower. I can eat lunch with my menfolk. Besides all that, they have rhythm they need to work out. It’s coming. Things are getting easier. Boys, big and small, are learning. But, it won’t come any quicker with me butting in all the time. Its a fine line between ‘helping’ and ‘interfering’. One we are all trying to navigate.
But, I am still The Mommy. THE Mommy, even. I thought all (or at least some) of that would crumble with me going back to work. That I would lose my laser baby focus. My knack. Yet another assumption about which I was wrong. While, I still feel very strongly that one of us be the one to care for our son during these formative years, I’m sorta-kinda-maybe ok with it not being me. Right now. For the moment. I imagine this subject is going to be constantly revisited in our household for the next decade plus some. My preferences aside, in this current arrangement no one is suffering.
Childcare is a BIG topic. How do you wrangle quality of care vs. money vs. time vs.career?