After giving it some serious thought, I’ve got this to say about being a stay-at-home dad: It’s brought out all of the inadequacies in me, as a man and as a person in general. Everyone has a self-perception, who and what they see when they look in the mirror. Who you think you are. Taking care of a baby all day and night forced me to re-investigate how I perceived myself. Who am I? Am I really as patient as I thought? Am I selfish? Yea, I probably was.
My little angry bird.
Babies test your limits, they push boundaries. Not out of spite or for the sake of testing you, but because they need you. Screaming and crying are all they’ve got for the first few months. By nature, I think women are better equipped to adjust to providing for a baby. That’s not to say they’re better caretakers, or more efficient, or whatever. But after carrying a baby for 9 months and going through labor there’s this intangible but present connection. Rachel has a way of instantly soothing the baby without saying a word or having to bounce her in some complex rhythm to a song by G-Love (you can’t argue with RESULTS!). There’s a major adjustment that men have to undergo when leaping off the 9 to 5 cliff and into uncharted care-taking waters. The surf is rough and there are pirates. Baby pirates.
The single hardest thing for me was and currently still is attempting to establish a new set of habits. I’m a maintainer. I maintain a fairly clean workspace. I maintain a tidy bedroom. I maintain an over-all clean kitchen. But now I need to become a cleaner. I need a clean office with a clean baby mat and clean baby. I need a clean kitchen with clean bottles, etc, etc.
I needed to be proactive. The reactive Rick is dead and gone. When a baby is hungry, they aren’t going to ask you nicely for some chow. Baby gonna scream. And loudly. There are very few things on this earth that make my eyes twitch without-fail. One of those things is prolonged screaming from a hungry baby and another is being forced to watch a music video from “One Direction”. I’m going wherever they aren’t, that’s my direction. When woodworking, I measure twice and cut once. When baby-wranglin’, I bring two bibs, two burp-rags and two bottles. Go through 3 shirts and twice as many onesies in 30 minutes and I guarantee you’ll re-evaluate your preparatory skills.
While all of these changes are specific to child-care and “homemaking”, they’re much more than that. Going pro created order to my madness. It’s forced me into daily evaluation. It drives me to be better, to set daily goals. When “me” time is so limited, it’s beneficial to use it to the fullest extent. Doing this makes baby time one of the most rewarding experiences ever, every time.