Unless you’re one of those people who commits to never, ever using anything except the Queen’s English and proper scientific terminology with their kids — and actually follows through — as parents we all end up using our own lexicon with our kids after a while.
With a 5 and 3 year old, I long ago stopped with any semblance of real “baby-talk,” with the exception of when I am doing a funny character voice for a book or to bring a toy or puppet to life. But there are still a few “toddler words,” as I call them, that I use so often with my kids, that I am having a hard time breaking the habit of using when talking to adults.
Contrary to what many people would assume, more and more fathers today say they would jump at the chance to be a stay-at-home dad, even just for a little while. That definitely jives with my own experience, where working fathers express to me that it’s something they would do if it made sense for their family. Others say they would do love to do it in theory, but aren’t sure they could pull it off very well.
Fair enough. It is sometimes tempting to warn people not to fall for a “grass is always greener” attitude, blinding to what being a full-time stay-at-home parent actually entails. Those of us who have been fortunate to do it for a while know that while it is almost certainly the most fulfilling job we’ve ever had, it’s also in many ways the hardest. It can feel far more lonely, frustrating, and thankless than anything we’ve done before. Every child is different, and every stage of a child’s development has pros and cons when it comes to the demands on their caregiver. But in general it seems like we all know that the image of the stay-at-home parent doing nothing but playing Candy Crush or watching TV all day is a total fallacy. It’s hard work. And like any vocation, to be happy and successful at it you need to be intentional about treating it like a job, with clear expectations and preparation.
Here are a few lessons I have learned along the way that I would pass on to any man who is going to be a stay-at-home dad, just thinking about being a stay-at-home dad, or maybe already is one but is finding themselves floundering.
(This is written from the perspective of a SAHD with a working wife. I’ve tried to make it as inclusive of other family arrangements as possible, but forgive me if I unintentionally exclude anyone. Honestly, moms, I think you’ll find most of these apply to you too.)
We all make mistakes as parents. It’s just part of the deal. But what most new parents don’t realize is that the most far reaching, life-altering mistakes you make are not things like putting a diaper on wrong, poorly baby-proofing your house, or choosing a sippy cup that leaks. No, the biggest mistakes are always the most well-intentioned.
Here are a few regrets that you should have, that should keep you up at night with worry about how you broke your child.
Election season is not only well upon us, but for many it’s been all-consuming for some time now. Years, even, for some.
It’s the season for primaries, conventions, debates, speeches, commercials, more debates, robo-calls, press conferences, fundraisers, gaffes, yet more debates, changes in position, clarifications, and news of the day trying their best to keep the election within the confines of “the story” and based mostly on what’s trending on Twitter.
This morning, as I heard the cries of victory emanate from the bathroom as my son successfully did his thing all by himself, it occurred to me how much in common there is between the weary process of potty training and the (almost) equally as draining process of electing a President.
It’s Messy, But Necessary
That’s little comfort, I know. But both of these things need to happen.
Tons of Promises, Little Follow Through
Really, is there a difference between a toddler promising that “next time” he’ll stop playing long enough to use the potty, and a politician promising that he’ll do everything you want done on Day One?
Everybody Has an Opinion
And they’re not afraid to share it, are they?
Just Not Getting Poop On Yourself is Sometimes Considered a Victory
“Well, you didn’t actually do what you were supposed to do, but you also didn’t make an entire mess of it this time. Gold Star!”
It’s Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back
Every time you think things have made some real progress, something happens that feels like a big ol’ slide backwards.
You Find Yourself Posting About It Too Much on Facebook
And your Friends either agree with you, try to correct you, or start ignoring your posts.
It Got Old, Fast.
When things began you were so excited about this new phase, but now that you’ve spent days, weeks, months dealing with this stuff, you mostly just want it to be done.
Eventually, It Will End.
Seriously. Just hang in there. Before you know it, it will be over.
What do you think? Did I miss any other similarities?
I had such a great weekend at the 17th Annual At-Home Dads Convention in Washington, DC.
Leading up to it, I know that one of the most common questions I (and many of the other dads who attended) have been asked about the convention is some variation on “What do you do there? What would you talk about?”
Having never been before, I was never really sure how to answer that, but it turns out that answer is really not that complicated.
We talk about parenting! We talk about the strategies, struggles, and successes. We talk about potty training, teaching your kids about bullies, and how to get them to eat their veggies. We talk about developing good communication with your spouse, and about finding, starting, and building a local dad’s group. We talk about beer and sports and movies and George R.R. Martin and how to plan a toddler’s birthday party without going insane.
You know, parenting!
To top it off, we get to do this in a way that helps drive home not just the importance of what we do as dads, but also that we’re not alone in doing it. This sort of community support is one of the things that most at-home dads are lacking where they are, so a weekend like this to recharge and get connected with a community from across the nation is huge. HUGE.
Here are a few of the highlights for me…