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

Dad Tip #26 Do exercises to strengthen your back and hip flexors

Image of weights
Strong Dad!

Lifting things is an absolute certainly in Dad life. Whether you are picking up the car seat, reaching down to grab dropped items or holding baby in one arm, strengthening your back and hips will provide you with critical support for these everyday activities and reduce back pain. If you can’t make the gym, consider resistance bands, dumbbells or doing at home exercises like side planks. Consult a doctor, trainer or medical professional before trying new workout routines.

Dad Tip #23 – Put things back where you found them

New parents spend countless hours looking for keys, toys and other items that have been moved throughout the house. Consider taking a little time to purchase and install a key holder right by your door and to find an exact place where you always put your wallet and other critical personal items. When you’re short on time, there’s nothing more frustrating than a delay because you’ve lost track of something you can’t leave the house without.

Photo by Becca Stanghelle on Reshot

Dad Tip #22 Make sure all stuffed animals are not male

Picture of a stuffed animal bear
Is this Mr. or Ms. Bear? Does it matter?

My wife noticed that I had a habit of calling my daughter’s stuffed animals names like Mr. Bear, Mr. Bunny or Mr. Lamb, even though these animals weren’t specifically male. It was almost like I was expecting an animal to have have a particular color or “look” before I considered it to be female. Try to be aware of how you refer to your child’s toys so they can be accustomed to having friends from all walks of life.

Dad Tip #21 – Go to library story time

Story time is almost often the most peaceful time of my week. You sit there with your kid bouncing on your knee while everyone sings wheels on the bus, the itsy bitsy spider, and the librarian reads a few books aloud. It’s a great way to get your child out of the house and it’s for me, it’s oddly relaxing. From my experience, the kids are smiling, fully engaged and the babies rarely seem to cry or fuss. At the conclusion of story time, they usually bring out a box of toys. The good libraries clean and wipe down the baby toys, but I still recommend using a baby wipe to wipe down your child’s hands before and after each session. Keep an eye out for the monthly event calendar as many of the libraries have family programming or story hour sessions during flexible times, including after work.

Father and daughter at the library during story time.
Learn, play and have fun during story time

Dad Tip #20 Keep an eye out for family restrooms

Image of bathroom signs

Family restrooms are generally ubiquitous in libraries, airports and many public spaces, but they can be hard to spot if you’ve spent your life ignoring them. Going into a family restroom allows you privacy and quiet while you change your baby at your own pace. Remember, even though it says family restroom, you can still enter if it’s just you and the child. The reason this is important is that since men’s restrooms often have changing pads, you might never think about using the family restroom. Family restrooms generally are less noisy and let’s just say… they have a more pleasant smell than a large public restroom. Additionally, family restrooms often have a seat that you can strap your toddler into if you really need to go yourself and have no other option.

Unconscious Bias Check: Look at the image above. Do you notice something off about the sign with the changing pad? Do you notice that it is showing the image of (only) a mother changing the child. I’ve changed my daughter dozens of times when I am outside of the house and I felt a major anxiety about it because it just seems like something men normally don’t do.

While this tip might seem obvious, I want you to think about it. If you are alone with your child and they need to be changed, which sign would you choose? With so much going on, how quickly would you process that the picture of a woman in a skirt changing her child is also a place that you can go to. While many family restroom signs feature a man, woman a child, sometimes you have to fight through those moments where the world simply forgets that you’re capable. I hope you remember this tip and that you have a great traveling experience with your child.
– Guy