It’s not for the baby, it’s for mom and dad

The daddy tips and general first time parenting advice keep rolling in as the due date fast approaches.  These well intended tidbits are coming from all directions and provide different perspectives to what the near future holds in store.  With all these pieces of information coming in and all the things that come from reading about parenting and first time fathers, there’s really no way to get a clear picture on what to expect.

The one consistent theme is that everything that will have to be done, to be given up, to be endured, and to downright just be survived will all be worth it since ‘it’ll all be for the baby’.  These things basically sound like this:

Oh, you’ll never sleep again.  But it’s ok since it’s really for the baby!

You should really start spending less today and start saving for the baby.

Yeah man, you’re never going out again since you’ll have to be there for the baby.  See you in 18 years.

Get used to having poo on your hands.  It’s gross, but it’s ok since it’s for the baby.

And on and on these examples could go, but that’s the general picture.

Well even though this theme of ‘it’s all for the baby’ is about the only consistent thing I’ve heard, I’m going to have to disagree.  It’s not fair to the baby.  He did nothing to ask for this.  In fact, all of this is really for me and my wife.  We are the ones who wanted a baby; the baby didn’t ask to be ours.  We are the ones who wanted to grow our family and pass on to the next generation, not the baby.  When we decided to conceive, we were well aware of all the things we’d have to give up and the changes we’d have to make to be good parents.  In short, we’re well aware of the things that we’ve brought upon ourselves.  The last thing we want is to get into a mindset that our son owes us something for the things we will do ‘for the baby’.  That’s not the way to start the relationship.  Imagine the kind of pressure that comes with being told by the two people you (hopefully) love most telling you that they made such sacrifices, all on account of you.  No way will we put our son in that position.  Everything we do and give will be done and given freely, with no expectations for any kind of return.

So future son, know that all that your mother and I willingly brought upon ourselves all the things we will have to do.  There is no responsibility on your part for the sacrifices we will be making.  There’s nothing for you to fulfill.  Just having you around will be enough reward.  I just hope one day you will tell us how much you appreciate the things we’ve done, for you.  That would be just awesome.

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Hello there, car seat. Good bye, self-image.

I have it, you have it, we all have it. If you are lucky it’s better, much better, than reality. I’m talking about self-image. There’s a certain way I have been viewing myself for all these years, and while this self-image has evolved over time the changes have come slowly as a result of personal growth through new experiences and interactions with other people. This newest journey of becoming a new dad has followed the familiar pattern over the greater portion of a year. Day by day, month by month, I grew as accustomed as one can to the idea of being a new parent. Even as my wife and I accumulated more and more baby items, made the numerous doctor visits, and talked endlessly about our future child, I have been able to fit these changes into the slow evolution of my self-image to one that more befits a dad. And of course that self-image resembles the coolest, hippest dad that ever graced the face of the earth. I’m talking about the daddy image where I’m in a t-shirt and jeans, shades on, muscles glistening, maybe a tattoo or two showing, smiling, hair flowing, baby boy strapped casually to me, making full-grown women swoon! Check the pic.  That’s how I envision parenthood. That’s about right, right?

cool-dad

My daddy self-image pre car seat installation

I loved this self-image and lament the day my new car seat effortlessly killed it. Oh how the mighty have fallen! Up until this point I have been able to maintain, nay, build upon, that daddy self-image. With every new baby item that found its way into my home, every uncomfortable vagina laden film I’ve watched (again, vaginas but somehow not porn), I have been able to fit them into that cool self-image. Imagine my surprise at how swiftly and completely the lowly car seat obliterated all those months of self-image building. The car seat simply arrived in the mail one day, and as we are now about one month away from due date it was time to install it in the car. Mind you I’m talking about just installing the base and not the whole car seat. Poof! Self-image gone. Why is this so?

I realized that for me it’s because this is the first item that announces to the world my impending daddy-hood. Now I’m totally excited about being a dad, but really up until now all the items and things learned I could keep private and are not noticeable on a daily basis. I mean, nobody can see on my face the birthing videos I have watched. At least I hope not. But the car seat is different. It is definitely out there, and really hit home recently when I drove some coworkers to lunch. As we approached my car in the parking lot I looked inside and didn’t even recognize this foreign object in the backseat. For no reason at all it felt like I had to hide it. Everyone was totally cool about it, in that it wasn’t even an issue to be discussed. But for me it was like they had all just seen my dirty laundry. After all, there is no car seat in that sexy dad image. From there I extrapolated the feeling forward. Am I going to be driving to the bars with a car seat in the back on a boy’s night out? There’s no self-image I can build that’s cool enough to sustain that kind of blow. So now I guess I’ll have to adjust that self-image. Or maybe just buy another car and not have a car seat in it?

I hope we’re friends

Hi there future son, this is your dad. You’re not here yet, but you still make up 90% of the things I’m thinking about. Things about you run through my mind like water rushing over a waterwheel. The steady stream of questions I have about you literally makes my head spin. What will you look like? What will your personality be? Which parts of you will come from me, and which parts from your mom? Will you like chocolate or vanilla? Coke or Pepsi? Sports or music?

Father-Son

Besties for life!

I can’t wait for you to get here since there are so many things I want to know about you. The more I think about these endless things, the more apparent it is to me that I want us to be friends. I’m going to be your dad and you my son, there’s no way around that. Of course I will do everything I can to be the best father to you, and in raising you I will find out millions of things about you already. But there are going to be those things which are not apparent or are things you choose to hold close to your heart. As you grow and become more independent the things I’ll pick up about you by being your father will diminish and the things you hold within yourself will grow. When this happens I will have to rely more on you telling me things about yourself and less on observations. Who better to tell these things than a friend? I hope you see me as a friend, and hold me as close to your heart as you hold your dearest secrets.

Being friends will make it so natural for you to reveal things about yourself to me that once in a while I hope I surprise you with just how much I know about you. Hopefully I can gain your trust enough to confide in me your secrets and fears. I promise not to judge and to listen more than I talk. This can also be a two way street, where I will treat you as my dearest friend as well and let you in on my fears and dreams. The first time we meet, I will have already traveled almost halfway down this road of my life, and you will have just begun your journey. It would fill my heart with so much joy if we could simply travel together down wherever the road takes us.

They say that people lose half their friends every seven years and replace them with new ones. As I look back over my life I think that the losing part is true, but the replacing part seems to be missing. You see your mother and I have moved around a lot and that makes it awfully easy to lose friends but awfully hard to make new ones. With you on the way we’ll have even less time to spend cultivating more friendships, but that’s ok since we’re getting something so much better! And really, friendship is one of those things where quality really outweighs quantity. So the good news for you is that I will have all the time I could want to devote to being your friend. But don’t worry, there’s no responsibility on your part. You can have access to all of my time, even if I can only have a little bit of yours. While I’m more apt to lose touch with friends, you will be more apt to making lots and lots of friends as children and young men do. You will be busy with school and activities and hanging out, which is all just fantastic! It would just be great if you could check in with your old man once in a while and maybe offer to go grab a bite together. We could talk about anything that’s on your mind like that girl at school, your crazy idea about taking a year off after college to go backpacking, that movie you hated, whatever. You know, just like two friends hanging out.

Corner Dad

Today I met a potential future version of myself that I both admire and hate at once. He is the dad that lives at the end of my street, and has three young children. Let me explain.
I live in a townhome in a community of townhomes. This particular dad, we’ll call him ‘Corner Dad’, lives well, on the corner of the block. Our community is setup to where all the driveways face each other, and since he’s on the corner, me and everybody else has to pass by his house to get in and out. Refer to the drawing below. This information will be relevant in a minute I promise.

My neighborhood

My neighborhood

I admire Corner Dad very much. As neighbors I have often seen him playing with his kids outside, and he really gets into it with them too, participating in their games and having fun. In other words, he’s not just there watching them he’s usually present and active in his interactions with them. I live in the Midwest where the winters are long and cold, but even then I see him out there with his kids making the best of it. Sledding down hills of snow, building snowmen, what have you. Come the holiday season I even see decorations on his house that were obviously made by his kids and are the kind of artwork only a parent could love. These pieces of work are proudly displayed in his windows and on his door; facing out, no shame in his game. He obviously puts his kids first, which is why I admire him. Kudos to you, Corner Dad. Unfortunately his laser focus on only his kids is also why I hate him.

He seems to only care about his kids and not us neighbors. In his children’s frequent play outside, they are 100% of the time playing in the driveway area out behind his garage. Now there’s really nothing wrong with this unless you consider again the layout of our community. Because of the layout all of us neighbors have to drive by his driveway every time we come in and out. And as attentive as he is, even Corner Dad cannot keep tabs on three kids at once, especially when they’re playing outside.

In one of these instances several months ago, his youngest child who is an baby boy not capable of walking yet, apparently got away from Corner Dad and ended up just crawling around on the street. At this same time, which was around 6pm on a Tuesday, I happened to be coming home from work. As I rounded the corner (at a reasonable speed mind you), I found myself having to yell out ‘there’s a baby in the street!’ (refer to the drawing below). This exclamation was to nobody in particular since there was only me in my car and a baby in the street, with no other person in sight. But the shock of this random and totally unexpected thing caused me to cry out. Soon Corner Dad appeared to pick up the baby and rush him quickly back into the garage, with not a word to me while I sat in my car in shock.

This is the baby in the street and me in my car barreling down on him

This is the baby in the street and me in my car barreling down on him

I was feeling terrible for days about what happened and how close of a disaster that was. However as time passed I just got more and more angry at Corner Dad, and his selfishness. It’s great that you play with your kids, but please don’t ignore the rest of humanity, especially your neighbors. I realized how unfair a position he put us all in. Every time we come in and out there may be a human obstacle course where it should not be. The community should be able to expect that its roads are clear of pedestrians for the most part, and especially babies that can’t even walk! Add to the fact that our community actually has large grassy areas where children can and do play, it is even more ridiculous that Corner Dad sees fit to let his three kids roam on the street (Again look at the picture. Yes, all the green stuff is grass, and is perfect for playing on. There are also sidewalks for bikes). God forbid anything ever happen, but if it does, then surely Corner Family would suffer the greatest but the unfortunate neighbor who was just trying to come home from work would have to live the rest of their days with overwhelming guilt. Everybody loses.

For these reasons I hate you Corner Dad. But you teach me a valuable lesson. Make that two lessons. The first is that even though I will put my kids first, I will not ignore the broader situation. It is unfair to ask others to sacrifice or risk themselves because of my kids. Secondly, I learned to watch for babies on the street!

Goodbye, happy hour

Another week gone by, and again most of it spent at work. It really does not matter what you do, how much you like doing it, or how long you have been doing it for. There is nothing like a good happy hour with coworkers (hopefully ones you like) to cap off another work week, be it good or bad. It is the best part of many a work week. As I prepare for fatherhood, I am mentally preparing myself to part ways with this magic time called happy hour. I know that becoming a dad will be much more rewarding, and that in time I will be back, but for now I must say farewell to you happy hour. I will miss you, let me count the ways.

I will miss having my bosses buy me drinks.

I will miss making fun of coworkers in ways that are kind of true. Whereupon hearing such jokes everyone kind of knows the fault being exposed but all laugh it away because it is the magic time of happy hour, when these things are fair game.

I will miss the telling of stories that are not appropriate for work. These stories, and not work, are the best way to get to know your coworkers.

I will miss witnessing the awkward sexual tension between coworkers as they dance on the border of actually hitting on each other and just being friendly.

Most of all I will miss the freedom borne of having absolutely no responsibilities outside my own well-being until next I go to work.

I knowingly trade all of this in to become a dad. Soon, after another long day of work is done, in the last of five long days of work, I will skip happy hour and come home to my son. He will have crapped his diapers, and I will change them. When I change them he will try to pee on my face. As I dodge the pee I will drop a diaper full of poo on the carpet. While I am cleaning the carpet of infant poo, I will wonder how my coworkers are getting along at the happy hour. What stories are being told? Who did something inappropriate? What are they going to talk about the next morning at work? When the poo is finally cleaned off the carpet I will pick up my son. As I look at him, and he looks back, I will forget about happy hour.

I see the future

Literally, I see the future everywhere. It’s skipping down the street towards me, it’s riding in the backseat of the car driving next to me, it’s on the train, it’s on TV. Sometimes the future looks like a little boy, sometimes a little girl, and some other times the future is a mom and dad pushing a stroller down the street. Everywhere I look I see it, and there is no escape, and I don’t want to escape it. I fully embrace the idea of my future. Whenever I see kids, babies, or families now I cannot help but picture my life in the future, doing those same exact things. To me all these scenes are the future and my heart is gladdened by it. Sometimes I just want to grab hold of that kid or new dad and ask them: What is the future like?! Is it as awesome as I have imagined? But alas, I know I’d just get punched in the face or kicked in the shins, so I wait until it is time for me to take part in that future.

Becoming a new dad makes me fully appreciate the sentiment that you can prepare all you want for the future, but you will never know what the future holds. I’ve imagined my son a million ways knowing already that he will be none of those things but somehow fulfill everything I ever imagined and more. Just the idea of him makes my future seem brighter and fuller than my present.

I feel ready to be a dad already but know that’s still a few months down the road. So the best I can do now is to keep arming myself with all the knowledge I can gather and prepare future me as much as possible for the enormous task he has at hand. The version of me sitting at the keyboard today is full of bright hope and idle time. If I do my job right the future version of me will be full of even brighter hope and more meaningful time.

I’m off to the future friends, see you there!

You win, daycare

My wife and I both work fulltime, and would both like to continue to grow our careers.  We enjoy the opportunity to develop and learn that having a career gives us, as well as the social aspect of interacting with coworkers.  Furthermore, even though the cost of full-time childcare is astronomical, it still makes financial sense to have us both continue our current positions (purely from a numbers perspective).  All this is to say that in our specific situation, it seems to make sense to utilize a form of full-time child care instead of having a stay at home parent.

Live-in Nanny

We evaluated several types of care, the first of which was a live-in nanny.  This is a very good option for several reasons.  With the nanny you get more flexible schedules than with other forms of care since they are living with you and aren’t going anywhere after 6pm.  Nanny’s will also often do things for you around the house, like some cooking and cleaning.  This is a big win.  If the cooking and cleaning is reduced for you and your spouse, everyone is happier.  And depending on your cooking ability, possibly even better fed and more satisfied.  Pricing for nannies varies, but is generally cheaper than daycare centers.  And of course your child is less likely to get sick versus those kids being cared for in a group setting.  These are the major points that have floated up in our discussion and research into the live-in nanny situation, and they make a strong case.
On the other hand, there are several aspects to having a live-in nanny that could be considered drawbacks depending on your views.  For us the biggest drawback is having another adult living with us five days a week.  This means that our current world of two people will not just expand to be three but four, and that fourth is another adult.  So no more running around the house naked and no more impromptu songs sung loudly.  Even if you were brave enough to continue these types of habits, there’s not a nanny out there that would stick around after the first naked sighting.  Also with a nanny you have to get very comfortable and trusting with someone you have known for basically no time at all.  You will be trusting this person with your whole life.  They will have access to your house and everything in it for 9 hours a day, not to mention sole access to your brand new child.  All the security spy cams in the world cannot mitigate a bad intention or even just plain laziness (ie nanny takes a nap).  Related to this potential issue is the fact that you are basically putting all of you childcare eggs in one basket.  If a nanny is sick or has a sudden emergency, you are hosed.  If a nanny goes nuts you are hosed.  If the nanny doesn’t feel like giving your baby any attention, your baby is hosed.  This list of drawbacks is also not exhaustive, but these were the main things we considered in coming to a decision.

Daycare

Daycare centers were an obvious thing to consider.  They offer many good qualities, most prominent of which is the reliability in schedules.  Daycares are basically open when they say they will be open, and all the risk of schedules not working is with the new mom and dad.  They have an entire staff so one sick teacher does not mean you will have to find other care for your child that day.  There is also the reduction in risk of things like a caregiver going nuts or acting inappropriately, because there are numerous other adults around who will act as a natural safeguard against unacceptable behavior.  The last major point is the social aspect for your child.  They will be exposed to interactions with many different adults and children, better socializing them from a young age.  All these major points of benefit drive strong piece of mind if you have found a good daycare center.
Major drawback: price.  Daycare is expensive, and to me it is offensively so.  To have someone watch your newborn child (our boy will be about 6 months old when he goes off to daycare) on a fulltime basis can range anywhere from $1,000 to over $2,000 per month in our area.  The low end of that is about the same as our mortgage, and the high end can cover the mortgage, HOA fees, homeowner’s insurance, property tax, and all utilities combined.  Let that sink in a bit.  Then consider the fact that some places had the audacity to tell us they charge $5 every minute you’re late picking up your child.  Excuse me?  Are you a $300 per hour attorney disguised as a daycare worker?  Am I getting some kind of legal advice, or at the very least a physical checkup for my $5 a minute?  That’s crazy and offensive.  Add to this the second biggest drawback of increased illness.  Babies get sick a lot at daycares.  You will be able to navigate from work, to daycare, to the pediatrician’s office blindfolded within a month from what I hear.  If you need any more cons beyond this, there surely are some, but these two major points were enough to base decisions off of.

Grandparents

This really isn’t an option for us since our folks live in different states, but having grandparent daycare is a strong contender to consider.  It’s free, reliable, and flexible, while it has the added benefit of having your child bond with more family members.  What’s not to like?  I would imagine the major drawback is you asking a few more years of childcare from the person who already spent 18+ years of their life raising you, and even more years in childcare if you had siblings.

You win, daycare

So with all that we concluded that daycare would be the best choice for us given the reliability and piece of mind it provides.  I say here that daycare wins because to me it is a fight where I’m trying to resist but just don’t have the power to do so.  I really do want to avoid the exorbitant price tag and germ exposure for my child, but my desire to cling to what independence I have left before my child can kill it is very strong and I don’t want a live-in nanny to do it first.  You win, daycare.  You win.