If you think about your standard list of romantic gestures, then dinner, flowers and chocolates may come to mind. When you’re living in a time in which you can’t go to dinner, you’re weary of the person delivering flowers and you feel like have to go to “battle” each time you walk into a store equipped with a mask and gloves, it’s certainly not easy. Last Saturday I waited until the baby was napping and took the time to set up my DJ equipment. I had been secretly pulling out the speakers and equipment out of storage without my wife’s knowledge. I waited for a time in which my wife was working in a separate room, put everything out and got ready to play. When my wife saw the set up and was completely surprised. Later on, I was able to a spin a DJ set with some of our favorite songs. Obviously, since we are parents, I couldn’t play as long as I used to, but it was fun to play a bunch of songs from when we met and think back to some sense of normalcy.
If you are Dad…
Think of all of your innate talents, skills and abilities. Are you creative or good at building things? Maybe you have a lot of tools or you are a writer. Maybe you make a really good dessert of dish. Think of what you are good at and try to plan some sort of surprise during this challenging time. Take your time with it and maybe order or safely pick up supplies if you can (mask, gloves, curbside pick up is recommended).
YES, your partner is going to ask what you’re working on, or what package you just received and you may have to state that it’s a personal project, or for work… (you can apologize for the white lie). But if you pull ofd a surprise at a time in which there’s not really anywhere to go, and you are spending more time with your partner than ever, it will go a long way.
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.
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.
We have all heard stories about the blow out diaper, the endless crying, and the growing piles of clutter around the house. Talk through your challenges over a cup of coffee or tea to decompress and come up with solutions. And while you are doing that, share the fun and sweet moments of parenting. Remember when you sang songs to your baby, and he or she smiled back. Celebrate new developmental milestones, and acknowledge the small parenting victories along the way.
And while we’re talking about celebrations, take a look at your partner. You dated her. You married her. And now you share this wonderful new human being. Maybe your relationship with your wife completely turned on its head when the new baby arrived. But by using these strategies you have a good chance of enriching the intimacy that you have with your wife—and remaining the stud she fell in love with.