The stay-at-home-dad “thing,” and a farewell

For much of the past three years, I’ve been a stay-at-home dad.

They say it’s one of the fastest-growing segments in our society, that it’s trendy, that it is the wave of the future. I don’t know about all that. I do know that for our family, it was not the first choice.

As I’m sure I have mentioned, Abbey and I moved from central Louisiana to Anderson, Indiana in summer of 2010. I left the only home I’ve ever known, all my family and friends and a job I really liked — okay, mostly liked — and came to this cold, different place. I couldn’t get a handle on it at all. That was a bad year. Abbey’s father died, our car was broken into, we lived in a rental house that smelled like sewage and we were hundreds of miles away from our closest family. I had an extremely demanding job an hour’s drive away, so I was gone 12-15 hours a day. I had no anchor at all. I was profoundly depressed and lost.

Miles came along in July 2011 and changed everything. The circumstances that led me to leave that job were difficult, but I can honestly say it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Of course, I am lucky in that Abbey had the earning power to support our family, because my piddly freelance earnings weren’t good for more than a few trips to the grocery store.

However, staying home with Miles was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It was rough at first – guilt, feelings of inadequacy, all that stuff you would think a man might feel in that position. But what I came to realize is that staying home with kids — even one kid — is HARD.FREAKING.WORK. It also completely absorbs your being.

And now I find myself getting ready to do it all over again with Owen, our two-month-old. Abbey returns to work next week and will soon take over as The Courier and Press’s lifestyles editor. I am proud of her, and although there is a tinge of guilt at not matching her on the financials, I know that what I’m doing is important.

But it will be one mega-balancing act some days. I’ve written enough stories on deadline with Miles literally hanging all over me to know it’s not going to be any easier with two munchkins on my hands. I’ll probably be stressed to the limit sometimes. But that’s not something that really scares me anymore.

I’ll probably never be one of those dads that grocery shops with a baby in one of those carrier things strapped to my chest, worry-warting over whether their food has GMO or preservatives in it. I’m not likely to be attending any stay-at-home dad conventions. It’s just not my style.

I’m also not going to be one of those dads who stays at home after the kids are both in school. I don’t plan to do this forever. Somewhere down the road, the right career opportunity will present itself again. But right now, when the kids are little, I really do feel like the best possible thing for them is to be at home. They’ll be going to work and school for the rest of their lives. I love the idea that they get to be at home and just be kids for now.

(I also love not paying through the nose for daycare. Sometimes, I wonder if I had a full-time job how much financial difference it would really make. The answer is probably not much. Such is the way of the world these days.)

And I love that I get to bond with them and teach them weird things. After all, I do have the only three-year-old boy in the world who knows all the words to Rush’s “Fly by Night” and agrees that the Atlanta Falcons are — and I quote — “yucky.”

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As I mentioned earlier, Abbey will be returning to work next week, which means that this blog will be handed over to its rightful owner. I enjoyed filling in during her absence and hopefully managed to hold your attentions. Who knows, maybe I will fill in from time to time with dazzling and bizarre tales from a household with too many Y chromosomes.

Thanks for reading.

– Michael

 

Throwback Thursday – Thanksgiving

Yes, Thanksgiving is a week away but this time of year is special. Every year we make the trek up to northern Illinois where Abbey’s extended family gathers.

Even better this year is the fact that most of the family will be introduced to Owen. Not so long ago, it seems, we were making the same trip where the family met Miles. Here are some pictures of Miles’ first Thanksgiving in 2011:

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Hanging out with mom.

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Being a turkey.

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Hugs from cousin Phila.

I am always surprised at how much I look forward to this trip. It’s one of the highlights of my year. I’m happy to be accepted into such a great family. If I can’t be near my own parents, sister and nephews during the holidays, there is no other place I’d rather be on Thanksgiving.

 

Wordless Wednesday – the snow day edition

 

 

1375965_10152547804773434_8303160038705441113_nMiles’ preschool was closed Monday with all the snow. Abbey took him outside to play.

I am from a much warmer part of the country, and as such have very little regard for being wet and cold. So I “volunteered” to stay in with the baby and we kept our toes toasty warm and dry. Afterwards, Miles came in and enjoyed a nice warm cup of “coffee” in his favorite chair.

I am soooooo not ready for the winter. Let’s hope this is just a false start and it warms up for a while.

 

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Two-wheeled wonder

As I mentioned yesterday, Miles scored big-time in the gift department when his grandparents (my parents) visited this past week.

MeMe and Pawpaw decided Miles needed his first real bicycle. A monumental occasion for a little boy for sure. So off to the stores we went.

We finally found a winner at Wal-Mart. Miles seemed to be drawn to two bikes in particular, both of them neon green. Then we discovered that one of those green bikes, a Hot Wheels-themed one, had a speedometer and made a revving sound when you twisted the handlebar, like a motorcycle.

Decision made.

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With just a little bit of a helping hand, Miles rode his new Hot Wheels bicycle all the way from the back of the store to the register. He sat on it the entire time we waited in line, and considering it was Wal-Mart on a Saturday, that line was not a short one. Then (again, with some help, but this time from my dad) he rode it right out the front door and through the parking lot to the car.

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When we opened the hatchback to Abbey’s SUV and hoisted the bike inside, Miles scrambled in right after it. “I want to ride with my bike-cycle!!!” he said. Obviously that was not an option, but it was a lot of fun for all of us to see his enthusiasm.

The real surprise, though, came when we got home. It was just a little too cold to stay outside, so we carried the bike down to our basement, which is a big open space with plenty of room to ride around.

Within 10 minutes, Miles was riding that bike like a champ. I mean, yes, it has training wheels, but if you think about it, that whole pedaling thing must be pretty tough to figure out.

But with just a little push to get started, Miles can keep that bike going just about as long as he wants to. He even understands how to steer himself around obstacles (or into them, when he chooses to). I’m no expert on child development, but it’s pretty impressive for a three-year-old, if you ask me.

Probably won’t be too long before he’s zooming up and down our street and I’m struggling to keep up. Guess I’d better start practicing myself.

 

Meet the grandparents

Please forgive the lack of blog over the last week or so, but with the Doyle parents in town, I took a mini-vacation of a sort.

My mom and dad made the 12-hour car trip from south Louisiana to stay with us for a few days. They got to meet Owen, see how much Miles has grown since the last time we visited them in the spring, check out the new house and see a little bit of Evansville.

It was a very enjoyable, relaxing visit. We didn’t do anything monumental, but in general we just enjoyed each other’s company. Abbey and my mom hit a few arts and crafts stores, my dad helped me out with a few projects around the house.

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We all sat down and watched the LSU and Saints football games – both improbable last-minute losses in what seems to have become the norm for both teams this year – but hey, I can’t remember the last time we all sat down in the living room and watched a football game. Despite the final scores, it was a good time.

And in a pretty rare happenstance, both sides of our family got together. Abbey’s mom and sister came over one night and we all had dinner. I can count on one hand all the times that has happened. Actually I can count it with just two fingers. It was really nice and something I hope can happen a little more often from now on.

Needless to say, we all ate very well. It’s the Louisiana coming out, I guess. We went to one of my very favorite places in town, Los Bravos for Mexican food. My dad wanted a good local cheeseburger – naturally the choice was G.D. Ritzy’s. They were maybe most impressed by Papa Murphy’s pizza. I am pretty sure my dad is right at this moment starting a petition to begin that company’s expansion into the south.

Owen obviously got his fair share of attention, lots of hugs and holding and that sweet sock monkey hat, among I am sure many more gift and baby clothes I haven’t yet noticed.

 

Miles also made out like a bandit, scoring his first big-boy bicycle (more on that later in the week) and somehow stole the spotlight away from his baby brother a few times. His MeMe (my mom’s grandmother name) read him books at bedtime almost every night. I found myself just watching as Miles squeezed into the recliner with my mom. I don’t get to see them interact that much, but it’s amazing how natural it was. I guess family is family no matter how far apart you are, or how seldom you get to see each other in person.

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Miles helped me see them off this morning, luring them back out of my dad’s truck for one more goodbye hug. We both waved until they drove out of sight.

Of course, there I was, a grown adult, struggling not to cry when my parents left. It’s hard to describe why exactly. When you live no further than 40 miles from your parents all your life and suddenly live 12 hours away, those goodbyes are a lot harder.

But we hope to make a trip down to see them in the spring.

In the meantime, I will be trying to figure out if there’s any way to mail a Papa Murphy’s pizza.

 

 

Thinking healthy

Last week, I wrote a story about a very nice man, Larry “Ox” Townsend, from Henderson, who has recovered from a stroke he had earlier this year. It got me thinking about a few things, mostly that I need to start taking better care of myself.

I’m 35, staring down the barrel of 40, and some days I feel like I’m 80. Too much bad food, not enough exercise, poor sleep habits, too much stress – all those risk factors that I am sure affect a whole lot of us.

As Mr. Townsend told me his story, I knew exactly what he was talking about.

The main thing is food. I like food. I really like meat, and salty things, and spicy things and cheesy things and fried things. And sugary drinks. Pretty much all the stuff you’re supposed to stay away from.

Of course, as I type this blog, there’s a commercial on the radio for Subway’s new pastrami melt sandwich. See, I love pastrami. I am kind of obsessed with it, actually.

I haven’t even really started the “health kick” and I’m already feeling like it’s going to be an uphill battle.

It’s not like I haven’t tried before. I’ve gone on diets before, dropped 20 or 25 pounds and thought, “Hey this is not hard at all.”

But I’ve never really stuck with it. That’s the hard part. You start to think you have control, and hey, I lost all that weight. I can eat that whole pizza, just this one time. But then one time becomes twice, then three times, then before you know it you’re supporting the Tri-State pizza industry all by yourself and back to your old weight.

I know what you’re thinking. “Hey this guy is talking about starting a diet with Thanksgiving coming up, good luck with all that.” And you’re probably right.

But I think if I start slow, cutting down on the soft drinks …

(Down south we call them “cokes” regardless of whether it’s Coke or Dr. Pepper or whatever, but that’s another blog entry for another time)

… I think I can build up to a better overall plan. Cutting out a few things at a time, instead of just dropping everything at once and expecting a miracle.

With two little kids around, I need to do a better job this time. I’m not committing myself to a “full body transformation” or anything crazy. I won’t be doing P90’s or crossfit or any of that stuff right now. I just want to start eating a little better.

Now if they’ll just stop running that darn Subway commercial…