Back to work! The Au Pair transition and realizing I’m definitely not an expert.

Just when you feel confident, everything changes.

The day before Thanksgiving break, I asked my students what they were thankful for… several of them thought carefully and said that they were just grateful to be alive, breathing and happy. It was profound to hear that from 10 and 11-year-old fifth graders because it’s a message that so many adults (myself included) need to be reminded of. 

Back to work:

I have not updated this blog since I started teaching again and it was weighing on me, but I am finally back with some semblance of normalcy in my schedule. To give you an idea, my day starts at 5:30 A.M. as I wake up, get ready and then arrive at school at 6:20 A.M. My day is completely focused on lesson planning, printing, teaching, grading and communicating with parents until I get home at 4:15, in which my day is completely focused on my daughter. I take a “break” when my wife gets home at 6:00 so I can go upstairs and work on more lesson plans. Then we make dinner and have family time until my daughter goes to bed at 9:00 P.M. (I know it’s late, but she sleeps through the night and often wakes up at 8:30 a.m., which is awesome on weekends.) After she goes to sleep, I usually do laundry and/or run errands while listening to podcasts… It’s a busy day but at this point in my life, waking up at 5:30 A.M. and working on tasks straight through until late night is surprisingly LESS exhausting than it was being a stay at home dad (even though I got more sleep when I was at home with my daughter.)

I don’t know how it’s possible, but it means that we need to recognize and value the hard work of other stay-at-home parents. I’m so happy for my family and I want to say that it’s essential we act as a community to raise our kids and make an effort for more family-friendly activities.

The Au Pair Transition:

As I decided it would be time for me to go back to work, we decided to try the Au-Pair program and have a live-in nanny in our house. Initially, It was a strange transition to be a part of this program as we had differences in communication and expectations with our first Au-Pair, but our second Au-Pair has been amazing and is like a member of the family. The value of an Au-Pair truly comes in when you have more than one child, since the cost is per family and not per child. While there can be a transition process to have someone living with you in order to take care of your child (Au-Pairs work a maximum of 45 hours a week), However, it can be major time savings, since you do not have to transport your child to daycare and can simply leave each morning and head off to work, without making an extra stop to drop off your child. The program has been essential for my ability to return to work.

I’m definitely not an expert:

Thinking back to what my students said about being thankful reminds me of what I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for my family friends and for the ability to write whenever I can. As another day passes in which I fail to follow my own parenting advice (which my lovely wife always thinks is comical), I wonder every week if I’m making the right decisions and choices. I started this blog because I remember the initial weeks of being dad, where I was clueless. It seemed like I could have spent a lifetime reading mom blogs, but the rare circumstance in which I found a useful dad blog, it was often a collection of jokes or memes that were interesting but didn’t always offer useful and specific details. As I see dads navigating multiple kids and facing a variety of challenges and making it work, I recognize that I’m not an expert. I’m a dad with only one kid and I don’t face the same circumstances or challenges as everyone else. But I do know that for friends of mine who recently have had, or are having their first kid, it’s pretty fun to share advice based on what I’ve already written down.

I challenge you to do the same! 

If you’re a parent reading this, I invite you to add your thoughts and insight to others. It can seem overwhelming initially, but sometimes all you need is another person to guide you in the right direction and tell you that you’re going to be fine. I wish I had more time to dedicate to this, but I am proud of the concept of sharing thoughts and answering questions that I wish someone had told me. It’s a different world since I’ve been back to work, but it’s one that I’m thrilled to live in. 

All the best to you and yours.

– Guy

New Dad Tip #35 Turn off the colors on your phone

Babies are instantly attracted to the brightly colored, noise making devices that we always seem to be reaching for. When the baby gets a hold of your phone, they can be locked in and often fuss if you take it away. However, if you go to accessibility settings for color filters on an iPhone, you can make the phone a grayscale color that is far less appealing to baby. Accessibility shortcut also allows you to toggle colors on and off by tapping on the home screen three times. If you use android, go to Developer options and select “Simulate color space” to enable “Monochromacy”. Grayscale also saves battery life and when you’re not around baby, feel free to switch it back to normal

GuyDidAsk Tip #34 Contribute to the Dependent care FSA

Maxing out your dependant care FSA can save major tax dollars.

If you utilize day care or babysitting services, you should consider using the pre-tax dependent care Flexible Spending Account. You can contribute any amount up to $5,000 for married couples and a maximum of $2,500 if you are a single parent. The Dependent care FSA allows a larger portion of your paycheck to pay for the care of your child under 13, as well as adult dependents if necessary. The child care provider must be “on the books” to utilize the FSA for payment and the funds must be used before the end of the year or they expire. When your child gets older, you can also use Dependent care for other eligible expenses such as summer day-camp. (As always, consult with your HR Rep or an advisor before making financial decisions).

Dad Tip #33 Download grocery/pharmacy and big box store apps for discounts –

Grocery store dairy section.

If you absolutely despise clipping physical coupons, remembering to bring them with you and using them before they expire, then this might be a wise strategy for you. The majority of major grocery store chains and pharmacies now have apps with keyword searchable coupons that you can add and apply automatically with one scan. You will often find multiple discounts on diapers, wipes, toiletries and other baby related items that add up to significant savings over time.

If you’re waiting in a check out line, instead of checking sports scores, texts or social media, use apps that will actually save you money.

Dad Tip #32 Clean bottles and sippy cups thoroughly

Baby milk bottle on beige background

Anything that your child drinks out of must be cleaned with soap, water, cleaning brush and bottle cleaner almost every time. This seems obvious, but many sippy cups have semi-hidden compartments that trap liquid and can start to grow mildew if left unscrubbed. As your child grows and uses sippy cups more frequently, use a thin straw cleaning brush to make sure the soap is properly washed out.

Dad Tip #31 – Make sure you refill the diaper bag with all of the necessary items.

A baby diaper bag
Rockstar dads fill diaper bags.

Diapers and wipes run out, toys and snacks get moved from place to place. It’s important to refill the diaper bag to ensure you have everything you need before you leave the house. Make sure to also include a backup outfit for baby in case of spills.

New Dad tip #30 – Google the phrase “diaper coupon code”

There a number of diaper rewards programs with a multitude of manufacturers that are fighting for new parent loyalty. While it feels like you have a million things to do, if you take a few minutes to Join Diaper Rewards coupon clubs you’ll get savings pretty quickly.

image of dollar bills
There are tons of coupon codes for new parents.
Don’t leave money on the table.

Dad Tip #29 – Use Alexa “Drop-in” or Google Home Broadcast to communicate with your partner

Image of a Google Mini
These devices can work like a Walkie Talkie

While a large number of people have mixed feelings about these smart speakers, I find that they can help play a critical role in the process of communication with your partner. Imagine this. You’re in the baby’s room playing with toys and the baby is smiling and laughing. All of a sudden, you discover a poopy diaper. As the baby is laying on the changing pad, with diaper open and poop bordering the edges of the diaper core, you find out you are down to your last wipe. You call your partner to bring you the spare wipes, but she may not be able to hear you in the other room. When you’re stuck in place or not able to freely move, you can use smart speakers like a walkie talkie throughout the house. It’s a great option when your hands are full of spit up, poop or other baby fluids and you may not want to text or make a call on your phone to reach out to someone.

Millennial Mistakes: Five Lessons I wish I knew growing up.

Father holding daughter in the air
Define your own hapiness

Now that I have a daughter, I am reflecting on happiness and hope. Growing up, I believed that society took the high aspirations of my generation and turned them into unrealistic expectations, but now I see that many of the challenges I’ve faced in life were from a lack of expectation setting. Some of the most important lessons I hope to teach my daughter are the things I wish I could have told myself when I was younger.

1) It’s OK if you don’t get into your dream school at 18:

It’s not easy to be a high school Junior and to spend the majority of your life focused on the tests, applications and the overall prospect of getting into college. Despite the pressure of seemingly all of your adult interactions asking about your future, it’s important to remember that your life is not “over” based on whether a committee decides that they should admit you into their university at the specific age of 18. Many of the top schools are highly selective, but allow transfer students to apply year after year. Some schools even give you a better chance of gaining entry as a transfer. At the end of the day, your future resume only says where you got your degree from. It does not say, “First-year spent here, Second-year spent there, etc.” Work hard, make the most of wherever you end up and remember this world is full of opportunities and that this will not be the last.

2) Find Internal Happiness:

If you listen to those who say that education is the key to happiness and success, you may graduate and not feel immediately happy, or successful. If you pay attention to the endless number of negative events and stories in the media, it can bring you down if you don’t have internal positivity. We often make it seem like wild levels of success can happen very quickly, but fail to realize that it takes time for many of the things that matter. If you are saying, once I get this, I’ll be happy, or once I achieve that, I’ll know that I am successful”, then you will be searching for the idea of external happiness, instead of the incredible accomplishments you can make each and every day. Write down a specific list of goals and try to look inward to define your true happiness.

3) Praise in your early career is very rare:

When you start your career, you are not likely to find immediate and worthwhile praise in your organization. In school, success is measured by report cards and by moving on to the next grade, but in the real world, even minor promotions generally take a minimum of two years, and rewards often go to employees who have truly transformed their organization over a sustained period of time. Additionally, even the most seasoned employees often receive marks like Successful or Successful plus, instead of Excellent on their performance evaluations. Workplace satisfaction is at a low for many in my generation, however, we must remind ourselves that there is always the chance to be an innovator who works on transformative ideas and concepts. In fact, many of the world’s innovators were rejected over and over. If you feel passionate about something, do it for yourself, not for the praise of others and you will see that what tremendous impact you can truly have.

4) Create your own definition of success:

Father holding daughter
Success is what you make it

The world bombards us with the idea that we MUST seek out and attain major accomplishments quickly and it’s telling us to do it while we are YOUNG. You might fall into the idea that you must avoid being “off track”, but try to take a moment to think of the people in your life who you admire most and why you admire them. Is it solely because of what they have accomplished? Or it because of the time that they have spent with you? We often seek out the idea of being accomplished for the purpose of proving our success. But we forget that the greatest gift you can give someone is your time.  If you maintain your hope, you can be special because of what you mean to someone else. As long as your heart is beating, you are never off track.

5) Dreams do not arrive on-demand:

The best way to get started running is not to try to “make a certain time” but to focus more on “beating your personal best”. Focus less on worrying about what everyone thinks and focus more on maintaining healthy relationships with those who matter. So much of happiness comes from accomplishing goals, but that requires that we set incremental goals that are increasingly achievable as you navigate your way through the process. You can’t save a dream, or replay it, or catch it next week. A dream is a story that must be experienced first-hand, with an ending that can only be ruined if left untold. We need to have dreams, because we need to have things in life that are not handed over with the expectation that one day, we will be able to obtain more. Whether you are living the dream, working to live your dream, or just daydreaming, the simple fact that you have the opportunity to dream at all makes life great.