When we found out that my wife, Gretchen, was pregnant, we were both working full time jobs. Gretch works a normal 8 – 4 desk job. My job was not so normal. Let’s just say it was retail. Wacky hours, weekends, call-in’s on days off, the works. I was compensated very well for what I was doing, but Gretch did make more than me. And I was okay with that. We thought about daycare for the child, even though it wasn’t how I was brought up and I really didn’t like the idea. Gretch would work her regular hours and I could work nights and weekends to minimize the time that the baby would spend in daycare. Then we found out we were having triplets. That changed everything. We looked at daycare and figured out that putting three infants in daycare would cost us more in a year than I was bringing home. So we sat down, discussed it, and decided that when the babies were born, I would “retire” and become a stay-at-home dad.
I was scared out of my mind a little apprehensive at first. These were our first children. I’d never really taken care of babies before. I’d been around friends’ kids, but was usually a little clumsy and uncomfortable around them. How was I going to deal with three, and be solely responsible for their wellbeing? And the diapers? Forget it! No way! Not with my weak stomach! I get queasy when I hear someone puking, or see a mess that someone has left in a public restroom. How would I ever be able to deal with a dirty diaper? Of course, these were all feelings and thoughts that I was keeping to myself. I would never have voiced any of these concerns to anyone else. They might think I was weak, or that I just wouldn’t be able to do it. No, I couldn’t let anyone know I was scared. People would ask me how I was going to do it and I would simply answer “I’ll just do the best I can” or something to that effect. And I might mention that I would have my beautiful wife, my mother, and my mother-in-law there to help if I needed. That was usually enough to quiet the questions.
Then the babies arrived, and being that they were triplets born at almost 32 weeks, we knew they would have to stay in the hospital for a while, and they did. Which was both nerve wracking and a good experience for me. No matter how many childbirth education and parenting classes you take, there is no substitute for hands on experience. And having a small army of trained nurses there 24/7 to help you along the way is not at all a bad thing. They taught us how to do everything, and by taught I mean they were looking over our shoulders while we did it, walking us through it step by step. And I didn’t mind at all. Everything from feeding to diaper changing, to giving a bath. Which pretty much covers what a preemie needs, besides one-on-one time with mommy and daddy! And I learned how to do it all. A lot of it came naturally, except dealing with a baby who likes to poop in the middle of a diaper change, which my daughter did to me the very first time I was changing a diaper, and my son did to me the last day he was in the hospital. I only really got queasy two or three times of the thousands of diapers that I’ve changed since they were born, and I have never hurled because of a dirty diaper.
Then the babies came home. The girls came home first, on a Friday, and the following Monday my son came home. My parents, brother, and sister were there to help us the day the girls came home. If my memory serves me right, my mom stayed for quite some time (maybe a week) to help us get through the transition from hospital to home. And it was tough. Gretchen stayed home for twelve weeks after the kids were born. For the first few months my mom would come and stay with us for a few nights during the week, and my mother-in-law would be here on the weekends. As time went on it got easier and easier, the visits were less frequent and shorter in duration, Gretchen went back to work, and I found myself being a stay-at-home dad. Just doing the best I could, like I had told everyone. Now don’t get me wrong, there were blunders, times when I was home alone with the kids and couldn’t get them to stop crying, or couldn’t get them to take their bottles, or whatever. And I would call for help – usually Gretchen, since our parents all live about an hour away and she works about ten minutes away. But eventually even that stopped, and I don’t think I needed any more help than a new mother would have. I remember my mother telling me stories of how she called upon her mother and mother-in-law when she needed help. As the kids get older, and we grow wiser, we need less and less help. I do still get help, about once a week my mom comes to stay with us for a night. She helps clean up around the house and gives me a chance to get out and run some errands, which also gives her a chance to play with the babies on a regular basis. And most weekends Gretch takes the kids down to visit her family so that they get to enjoy the kids as well, which then gives me some alone time. Everyone wins!
All of that said, being a stay-at-home dad is the greatest job in the world. The training is intense, and seems to go on forever (as it should), but the benefits are unbelievable. I get to be here to watch my children grow, instill my beliefs and values into them, teach them right from wrong, good from bad, how to use a sippy cup instead of a bottle, use a fork and spoon, eat from a plate instead of a high chair tray. I got to be here when they started rolling over, sitting up on their own, crawling, walking, running, jumping. I hope to be here when they start using the potty, to teach them how to throw a ball, play soccer, and jump rope. I’ve seen the joy they experience when they know they did something good, and the remorse they show when they know they’ve done something they shouldn’t. I get to take them out for walks in the stroller and enjoy the beautiful weather or help them put puzzles together or play with blocks on the rainy days. I get to watch them play on the playset that we put up for them in the back yard, draw on our driveway with chalk, try to blow bubbles (we’re still working on that one, they want to chew on the wand), and just run around and explore their world. And I get to do these things almost every day. And the pay, well, that comes in the form of smiles and giggles, and hugs and kisses. Who could ask for better pay than that!
Of course I do get the occasional “Mr. Mom
” comment, or the one lady who asked me if I was okay with doing a woman’s work, but I don’t let those comments get to me. I’m not doing a woman’s work, and I’m not a mom. I’m a dad. A dad who stays home to take care of his kids while his wife works and provides for the family. Do I do things the way most moms would? Probably not. Do I do things the way most other dads (stay-at-home or
working) would? Probably not. Some people might ask me how I feel about not providing for my family. I believe that I am providing for my family. I’m providing my children with the tools and knowledge that they will need to survive and be successful in our society. And I’m providing my wife the opportunity to do something that she loves while knowing that her children are cared for and loved while she is at work. Am I a provider? Absolutely.
A big thank you to Kevin for being out guest blogger today! Be sure to visit Kevin’s blog
and say hi! Have a great weekend, MoMs and Dads!