Thursday, April 19, 2007

What To Do When There's No One Else To Hold Him

When my wife was at home during her maternity leave, I thought having her go back to work would be a good thing. She could go back to winning our bread, while I would be able to take care of two people instead of three. I could manage my days in terms of me, not us. It turns out, I was barely right and oh-so-wrong.

When I talked to other guys about being an at-home Dad, while my wife was pregnant, they usually gave me the, "You're so lucky!" attitude. No job to go to, no clock to punch, no bad days at the office. I was going to do the guys version of sitting on the couch, eating bon-bons. I'm lucky to have the unique experience of being the primary caretaker of my child, but not lucky in the ways that they admired. No Peggy Bundy here.

I would joke with them, "If I can fit a car seat on a golf cart, I'll be all set." I was joking, but part of me actually thought about it to some serious degree. I actually had to rationalize its impracticality. For starters, you can't have a crying baby on the course. Then, would a foursome want to wait for me as I changed a poopy diaper? Oh, yeah, there's the errant "Fore!" from the impatient group behind me. That would make my wife happy, for her to come home to a child with a big bruise on his head (or anywhere else on his body.) He wouldn't be the only one bruised that day, that's for certain.

When my wife was home, we sometimes had to do what she wanted to do. I'm occasionally selfish. I'll admit it. I want to do what I want to do, have lunch where I want, go to the gym when I want, watch the TV shows that I want. With her gone, I'd have it all in line.

Planning our days is up to me, for the most part. Our son is easy going, so he's able to be taken pretty much anywhere it's practical to take an infant. We belong to a health club that has daycare, so I go to the gym a few times a week. There are friends and family who want to see him regularly. We have lots of shopping to do. All of these things keep us busy. He naps in the car. I developed the parenting skill of holding him with one hand, eating with the other.

Then there are the times when we're at home for an extended period of time. In two weeks, it's only happened once where we were home together all day without going out. We played on his playmat for a while, I read a couple of books to him, some other activities. That took an hour or so, then what? He wasn't tired. I tried to make myself some breakfast, but he got cranky. I held him for a while, and he fell asleep. I tried to put him down for a nap. Not happening - he got up just as I put him down. Then I remembered having my wife at home during her leave.

One of the reasons I'm at home instead of her is that I'm more domestic. I have more experience cooking and taking care of kids. I'm more organized with respect to household chores (though my former roommates might disagree.) I pay bills on time. I'm easy-going when our son gets cranky.

When she was home, though, there was another person. There was someone to hold him or play with him while I cleaned up after a meal, changed laundry loads, or audited our credit card statement. Not anymore. It's all me. Actually, it's all him - everything revolves around him.

Getting "me" time is a challenge. I'm not a schedule guy. My son has his needs, but is not too demanding. One thing he doesn't like is being ignored (he's selfish, too.) If he's not sleeping, he wants attention, which usually involves cuddling. Again, it's all me. No one to pass him off on. I have even had to learn how to put him down and just let him cry while I do such selfish things as preparing his bottle or take tonight's meat out of the freezer. Just some of the things your deal with when there's no one else to hold him. At least I get to go to the gym.

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