One of my biggest fears in life was realized over the just-completed, interminable two holiday weeks. Two separate three day stints with me and a baby, alone. No wife/mother to help me. I was on my own with an 11 month-old baby. I don't recount my feelings or acknowledged failings to engender sympathy. In fact, I suspect that my parenting abilities could easily be ridiculed as lazy and stereotypical. The point is, I'm a dad, not a mom and I knew the days alone with my baby were coming and I looked forward to the inevitable like an impending root canal.
Our home day care provider shut down for the two weeks of Christmas and New Year so my wife and I decided to split those two weeks of work, four days in each week that we'd have to cover. Each of the weeks I took off work the Monday before the holidays, Christmas and New Year's days and the Wednesday after. This meant three straight days home with a baby. I know, the holidays really didn't count because I was not alone, but it sounds better when I say that I was home for three straight days taking care of a baby.
This is not my first rodeo. With four older children from my first marriage, the youngest being 18 and in college (kind of), and my wife having two kids from her first marriage, 18 and 15 (he still lives at home with us), I have taken care of young children and babies before. However, I really don't remember those times all too well. Hell, I'm 50 @!#$%# years old so I don't remember too much from 20 years ago anyway besides the general feeling that I could never really bring calm to a crying baby situation. My then-wife was a stay-at-home mom so this type of dread wasn't really a factor in my life during those years.
A sad baby wishing her mother was home.
It's not that I don't try. I've tried and tried, in fact. The results of my attempts at expanded patience with things like little board books, blocks, baby cash registers and toys that play music are generally short-lived. When I'm home, I'm not the kind of guy who can sit around and just "play." I constantly have to be doing things and babies just don't want to cooperate. A dad, home alone with his baby, can't be down, can't be morose, can't be contemplative, can't call in bets on NFL games, can't read a book, can't watch tv and can't screw around on an iPad.
My theory is that there's just so much patience in a man's body and that patience is better suited for co-workers or teammates who don't produce or perform satisfactorily than it is for trying to get a little baby to stop crying or stay occupied. As I looked out over the holiday horizon, particularly on the day before New Year's when I was about to spend my last day alone with our baby, I literally dreaded the prospect of another day of trying to be patient.
In contrast, my wife couldn't wait until the next day when she could be alone with the baby and away from work; while I counted the hours until I could go back to work and concentrate on the things I'm good at.
I do feel guilty about my lack of patience, but don't have a quick and easy cure to make me a smiling, bubbly dad around the house. What's weird is that I truly don't mind the things that other dads bitch about - changing diapers doesn't bother me; I don't feel less masculine pushing a stroller down the street; I don't have a problem cleaning up poop or puke when the need arises.
Does it make me a bad person? Maybe not, but it sure makes you seem like a less worthy person when you see women who are eager to stay home and spend time doing whatever a baby wants to do. Moms are remarkable and something special. Their ability to take whatever a baby can throw at them, literally and figuratively, can't be duplicated by any "stay at home dad" or any dad who stays home a few days a year.
It makes me wonder about two men, who can now get married in several states or those who are in a civil union, and who adopt a baby. Who is going to be the one to stay home when the baby is sick? Who is going to be the one to stay up during the night while the baby is sick and nothing can get her to stop crying? And who is going to be the one to smile and say, "The day care service is closed this week, I'm going to stay home from work." I know it couldn't be me and I wish them luck.
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