Dad as a Stay at Home Mom

After Sophie was born, Betsy was upset. She felt she wasn’t doing a great job as a mom (but she was and is!), and she felt like something was missing from her life – her career. She was used to traveling, meetings, selling, etc. All those things that you complain about when you are out in the workforce. Except now, she wasn’t able to do those things. Instead, she had to deal with a daughter who had a number of nicknames from her parents, none of them very complimentary (Sophie Spit-Up was just one of many).

My response was, of course, the wrong one. “Sure, go back to work – then I’ll stay at home with Sophie.” I didn’t mean at all that it was easy, just that I thought that one parent should stay at home with her. After all, we were lucky – we didn’t need two incomes in order to support our household. Yet, what Betsy really needed was options, and my response didn’t provide them. This was frustrating for her, and a learning experience for me.

Fast forward eighteen months. Sophie is almost two, and Maggie has just been born. Betsy’s still at home, and I’m still working at the same place I did earlier. However, this time around, I took two weeks off to help out, and since I’m an “old pro”, I actually know what I’m doing. This time, I can see what it’s really like at home. This time, I can see if I have what it takes.

My brother-in-law was the stay-at-home dad. My sister was a nurse, and he was attending school. It made sense, and he seemed to be handling it just fine. When I started tagging along with Betsy however, I entered a strange new world. A world in which men are temporary interlopers, like the UPS man or the contractor working on the house.

During the time I was at home, I was the only man around during the day. Everyone was very friendly, and glad that I stayed at home; but at the same time I was still just on a guest pass. I’m not the person that others come around asking for advice about breastfeeding, or recommendations for babysitters, or how to deal with a willful two-year old. I’m more like the goofy kid brother who can be trusted with a task that’s not too complicated. Of course, it didn’t help that everyone knew who I was, and I can’t remember a name unless it’s repeated to me about 20 times.

I think the other thing I realize is how much easier Sophie (a two year old) is versus a new baby (Maggie). People say, “Babies don’t move, they’re easy to take care of, don’t worry.” Forget it. I can’t tell what a baby needs. Did she poop, is she hungry, does she need to be held, does she hate the show I’m watching, etc etc. At least Sophie can tell me what she wants. Plus, like most guys, I have the mentality of a two year old, so she gets my jokes. At least the good ones.

So what happens now? I go back to work, Betsy stays at home (for now), and we get as much babysitting help as we can possibly afford. The kids don’t need college anyways.

Day 3

We’re on Day 3 of the No Bah-Bah Solution, and so far so good. We have adjusted – we still allow the Bah-Bah at naptime and bedtime. I wonder how easily she’ll give that up when the time comes. Of course, now she’s actually eating a lot of food (since she’s no longer drinking milk), so we’ve had to scramble a little bit. When we were eating breakfast I gave up my yogurt to her once she finished hers – it didn’t seem fair to make her play rock-paper-scissors for it.

One of the parenthood laws took hold, though – The Conservation of Children’s Problems Law. At no time will things run smoothly for both children. Now Maggie (#2), our sleeper, is showing us how much she loves us by staying up all hours. Now, I understand that is her right, but it’s not fair that she faked us out with the first week of her life.

I’ve taken to holding her on my chest, which grows boring and tiresome very quickly. The alternative (crying and screaming), is much worse. The only thing that keeps me level is that I know it will end. Soon. Please.

Bye-Bye Bah-Bah!

We finally decided to force the issue with Sophie. We felt that she had been addicted to milk from a bottle (street slang, “Bah-Bah”) for too long. It was taking over her life. First thing in the morning, Bah-Bah. After breakfast, Bah-Bah. In the car, Bah-Bah. Before nap time, Bah-Bah. And so on…

We sat her down and had an intervention. We told her that we thought that her milk addiction had taken over her life, and that she needed to stop it right away. We offered her alternatives – “How about some raisins? How about water? How about some crackers?” Her response? “How about Bah-Bah?”

So we took the next step. We cut her off cold turkey. Yes, it was tough love, but we felt it was the only way. We decided to do it today for one reason – we both had a good nights sleep the night before and were at our strongest. We were ready to face the onslaught that only a two year old can bring to bear.

It was like a scene out of Trainspotting (or perhaps The Man with the Golden Arm). First there was the demands (“Bah-Bah!!!!!”). Then there was the begging (“Daddy, Please!”). Followed by the negotiating (“No CiciLala, Bah-Bah!”). Finally, my personal favorite, the vomiting. Not much, mind you, but enough to make a nice mess of herself.

After putting up with this for what seemed like several hours (and was actually several minutes), we were able to distract her with multiple episodes of Caillou and Maisy. That, combined with lunch at the India Pavilion was enough to keep thoughts of Bah-Bah out of her mind.

I feel like an “AA” bumper sticker. One day at a time. Every time she starts asking for the Bah-Bah, I have to say, “No Bah-Bah – would you like X?” (Where X is something random that I think will get her mind off of it) If I don’t post tomorrow, you’ll know that I ended up going on my own bender.

What’s so Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and a Good Night’s Sleep?
(With apologies to Elvis Costello)

I admit it. We watch Reality TV in this house. Survivor, Amazing Race, and even that most guilty of pleasures, “The Apprentice” (starring Donald Trump’s hair). One of the ways that Mark Burnett gets the most drama from his contestants is simple – sleep deprevation. Make people sleep under the stars on a bed of rocks for a few nights, and watch the sparks fly!

All it takes is one night for me. One night of staying up too late, followed by the alarm bell of a crying infant. I get cranky, and it takes more than a good hot shower and a strong cup of coffee to break the spell.

I thought that with Maggie it might be different. She was quiet, and slept more than Sophie, right from the start. We were lucky. It was baby karma – while Sophie was the cranky baby who kept us up all night, Maggie would be the “quiet” one – and finally we would be the ones who could proclaim that our baby slept four hours(!)

It’s not meant to be. My shift ended at midnight, and I just finished giving Maggie a bottle. Ahhh, bedtime at last.

Of course, the night has just begun for Betsy. Maggie wakes her up at 1:45AM, and decides to keep her up for the next two hours. We know the drill – try feeding, try holding, check the diaper, try burping, try the music on, try the music off, try the mobile on, try the mobile on with the music off, try the pacifier, try another pacifier, etc etc etc.

They were both back to sleep around 4AM. Just in time, since Sophie wakes up at 5:30, which is when my shift begins again.

What does that mean for the family dynamic? In our “reality” series it means a lot of stomping around by me (a skill I still retain from being 4 years old), and Betsy goes around cleaning things up (a skill she learned from…well, you can guess). I guess her “coping” mechanism is more constructive – at least it means the house is neater.

If there is one hting we learned from Sophie, it’s that this sleep deprivation can last only so long before all the stomping and cleaning comes to a head. So, we’ll be getting a night nurse this week, and it won’t be soon enough!

What’s to love about Charlestown?

Living in the city has its disadvantages…just look at my dinged/nicked/dented car, for example. (Of course, I only caused 75% of that damage myself with my bad parking jobs) And there are some problems between the various groups in the neighborhood.

But it’s weeks like this that make me glad to live here.

I say this after eating some baked ziti that one of our (meaning Betsy’s) neighborhood friends dropped off. Or maybe it was after the lasagna we had the other night from another neighborhood friend. Or perhaps after eating the koogle that we received from yet another friend. These were all delicious things from people who knew that we had just had a baby and another toddler at home. It was a way for people to simply help out when there was a need.

Of course, what they didn’t know (perhaps) was that Betsy is no Julia Child in the kitchen. Which makes the gifts even more appreciated by me.

Thank you!

Happy Birthday, Curious George!

Saturday was Curious George’s birthday, and what better way to celebrate than to go down to the Boston Public Library and hang out at his party? We thought it would be a great event for the whole family to attend…but Maggie thought otherwise. Five minutes of screaming (from a baby that rarely screams) was enough to cause us to leave her at home with Mimi (Betsy’s mom). Instead, it was like “the old days”, with Mom, Dad, and little (or not so little) Sophie.

We finally have a working elevator at the Community College station on the “T”. I wondered what took so long (it was supposed to be finished two years ago), but then read that it was part of the Central Artery Project. Insert your obligitory comment about cost overruns and elongated schedules here.

The family took the “T” over to the Library, hoping to take part in the Birthday Cake that was made by Ming Tsai. We got to the room where the celebration was being held, and it was obvious we were way late. It was a madhouse….kind of like a children’s birthday party. With hundreds of kids. In one room. There was even a camera crew taping the event. We did find some cake, but it was my least favorite kind – floor cake.

Luckily, there were some fun things to do. We got our picture taken with Curious George and the Man With the Yellow Hat (or, as Sophie calls him, “Yellow Man” – there are days I wished I would spend more time with that guy). She talked up Curious George and “Yellow Man” the whole way. For three hours before we left. During the train ride. During the walk to the library. Etc, etc etc.

Until she saw them. Curious George was larger than “Yellow Man”, and “Yellow Man” was taller than I am. Actually (as someone else in line put it), “Yellow Man” looked like a jockey ready to ride CG at Saratoga. Sophie’s excitement turned to pure fear, especially since dad was bringing her over to these giants.

I found out yesterday that Sophie’s “death grip” is pretty strong. I blocked her view of the creatures so we could get our picture taken. As you can see, she has fear in her eyes. I am just hoping to get one more breath of air before being choked by the death grip.

The best part was that after a half hour of running around the room she became comfortable enough to say, “Hi George!” to CG, but only from 10 feet away. Once I tried to bring her any closer, her pincers closed in on my neck.

The moral of the story – Showing up fashionably late to a party only works if the invitation list is less than 600,000 people.

A second moral – Storybook characters are better left there.

My Ladies…

Here’s a picture with all three of my ladies…just hangin’ out, waitin’ for the bus to take ’em home. You can see Sophie, she’s rfeady to push the stroller all by herself. She’s had a lot of practice. Somehow all toddlers love to push doll strollers around. We have two, since we left one at the playground once. Some other toddler was running around with it I guess.

Also, there doesn’t seem to be a real color preference – a lot of the little boys are strutting around with pink doll strollers (not their stroller…heaven forbid!), and the girls with the oh so masuline baby blue strollers.

Meanwhile the dads are trying to coax the sons away from the strollers with a ball or bat or something more macho. Luckily I will never have that problem. I’ll be the one with the bat in a few years.

Yes, I look forward to being that father that all prospective dates fear. I’m already working on the gut, I just have to make sure I have a couple “wife-beater” t-shirts around when the occaison arises. My only problem is knowing what new scams those rotten boys come up with over the next 15 years or so.

I still say they all look alike.

I really can’t see any difference between Sophie (here), and Maggie (down below). This is in spite of the fact that Maggie just had a big suction cup stuck to her head so she looked like this year’s Toilet Plunger Queen.

Oh that’s right…I can tell. Look who’s screaming.