Stay-at-Home Nerd: New Year, Same Job
My son was born the week between Christmas and New Years in 2009. That made him an excellent tax break then and makes him a year old now. That also means that I have been a stay at home dad for an entire year. Here’s what I remember.
Labor and Delivery: My wife went into labor some time after seeing Avatar on Christmas Eve. Maybe it was 3-D glasses, I really don’t know. Whatever it was, it was something different, something new and something scary. We called the on-call doctor that night. He said not to worry – it was early labor. We called the next night too. Again he said not to worry, get some sleep, and have a glass of wine. We did. Monday we were in the Hospital at 5 AM and shortly after noon we had a son.
In between I was mostly responsible for getting my wife whatever she needed, snapping a few photos and wrangling friends and family in and out of the room. It was exciting, scary, exhausting and ultimately worth it. I can’t imagine not being there, which I think is a part of what allows me to be a stay at home dad.
The Fourth Trimester: By far the toughest time on new parents. If you don’t know by now the fourth trimester is the three months after the baby is born that only occurs because our melons are too big to stay in the oven. Imagine taking out a roast and letting it finish cooking in the pan, only the roast needs to be fed and changed every two hours for three months. I have a vague recollection of this being one very long day with occasional naps. Some people call it baby amnesia, but the actual difficulties of this time are now lost on me and I imagine I could do it again, willingly.
Home Alone: My wife has a real job and thanks to the FMLA, Ted Kennedy and her employer she was able to take off 13 weeks and still bring home some bacon for the fourth trimester. My itinerant work history and penchant for freelancing made me an excellent alternative to daycare. As is so often the case neither one of us knew how we would feel about the arrangement until we were in it. So when the first three months were up, my wife packed up her breast pump and a bag lunch and went off to work. I stayed home with a kid that occasionally smiled and/or farted, took a lot of naps and needed to be fed and changed with great regularity. After getting over the initial fear of being home alone to care for an infant, I gotta say I really enjoyed this time. I watched a ton of daytime baseball on DirecTV, sport shouting on ESPN, and even managed to get through some books. It’s also an incredibly easy time to take an infant to the Zoo or out to lunch. They fall asleep in cars, in strollers and really help you get good service from adoring waitresses.
Baby proofing: My son crawled early and as soon as he crawled he started shoving everything he could into his mouth. The most common object was the never-ending supply of carpet lint. The scariest was the ant poison. A few calls to poison control, some well timed particle removal from his throat, and a few bumps on the head (his, not mine) from crawling accidents and we got through it. This is also the time to buy and install latches, outlet plugs, cabinet locks, and baby gates. We also padded our coffee tables and other potentially sharp furniture with those pool noodles. That didn’t last long, but it did last long enough to prevent more unnecessary head trauma and that’s good enough for me. This is also where the real fun begins. More smiling, more laughter and even some playing. My son’s favorite activity was knocking over the soft blocks that my wife or I stacked up for him. He found this endlessly amusing and so did we.
Little Boy: People will always tell you that your baby looks like you or that your baby looks like you did when you were a baby. This is almost never true. My son’s baby photos don’t look like my wife’s or mine. There will, of course, be similarities, but what I see in my son and what other people see are two different things. Even though a lot of people say he looks like me, I can’t help but see my wife in him. This only becomes clearer as he gets older. By his first birthday he looked like a little boy. He had a haircut, he cruises around, he speaks incomprehensible gibberish, and he has opinions and preferences about what he wants to eat and what toy he likes best and who he wants to hold him. He recognizes people and he can say mama and dada. His favorite word is ga, which he exclaims with great excitement. He can spend an hour or more figuring a toy out by pressing all of its buttons and turning it over and over. And, he can do it all again the next day. This must be what people mean when they talk about looking at the world through the eyes of a child.
Up Next: Year Two!!!
featured image credit: benefit of hindsight