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.”

—————————————————————————————————————–

 

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:

309858_10150394347943434_1071114841_n

 

Hanging out with mom.

392226_10150394348168434_90922266_n

 

Being a turkey.

DSC_0269

 

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.

 

10600537_10152547804703434_794358303221077493_n10360630_10152547804868434_3322688721241708048_n

Three going on 14

I think my son is becoming a teenager.

The thing is, Miles is only three, but with some of the things he says and does these days – if you closed your eyes you would honestly think there’s a 14-year-old in the house.

Lately he calls us “mom” and “dad.” Not “mommy” and daddy” like you might expect from a child who is practically a baby, still in diapers. No, it’s “mom” and “dad” now, and he says it so matter-of-factly we know it’s not just a put-on.

That is, of course, when he uses a parental designation at all. About half the time, he calls me “Michael” lately. Now this behavior, I am sure, comes from hearing his mother call me by my given name all the time. (Surely, it’s a good thing he doesn’t hear all the other things she calls me from time to time.)

Yesterday, he approached me with an orange in his hand: “Michael, could you peel this orange for me?”

Again, the way he said it was so matter-of-factly. I almost fell off my chair laughing.

Now, I grew up in the South. Calling your parent by their first name when I was a kid was like cussing in church or something. If I ever did that with my parents, I am sure it did not happen a second time.

Of course, the most frightening teenage prospect of all, he also wants to drive the car. Every single time we go somewhere. “I want to drive!!”

I tried to tell him he could drive when he was 16 years old. He gave me a dirty look, the kind I would not expect to have gotten until at least eighth grade.

It also shows up occasionally when he’s upset about something. We’re used to the tantrums. He usually will hurl himself to the floor, kicking and screaming. This is cause for a timeout.

Except for times like last week, when he decided to forgo the usual histrionics after being denied free reign with a spray can of air freshener.

“I am sad,” he said despondently, but with no tears or pooched-out bottom lip — just resigned disappointment.

“I want to go to my room and be sad now.”

Off to his room he went, closing the door behind him, the weight of the world seemingly on his shoulders. Emo-toddler.

I had a vision of him going to his little boombox, taking out the Yo-Gabba-Gabba soundtrack and putting on a Depeche Mode album instead.

 

 

 

The chaos has begun

Most of last week was spent at the hospital, with Abbey and Owen both doing really well but stuck there for the longer-than-usual time that is exceedingly common with Abbey’s heart condition.

The days were mostly quiet and peaceful. We would have lunch together in the hospital room, and after Miles got out of preschool, we’d pick him up and bring him back there for a visit. It was all very lovely.

DSC_0853

Then we got home.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a special moment to bring Owen home for the first time. It was even more special to have all of us at home together for the first time. And when we all sit in the living room together, I feel all warm and fuzzy inside, like we’re all the subject of a Saturday Evening Post cover or something.

But the chaos is something else. Miles has this habit of exuberantly screaming at the top of his lungs for no reason whatsoever; the dog is incapable of sitting still or relaxing and is usually pacing a trench in the floor; Owen has his own set of newborn problems; and mom and dad spend most of their time shooshing one child or another.

With the baby, it’s of course a gentle “shhhhhh, now let’s go to sleep in our wittle bitty bouncer” and with Miles it’s a furiously whispered “SHHHHH!!!!!! USE YOUR INSIDE VOICE!!!!!! YOU’LL WAKE UP YOUR BROTHER!!!!!”

And yes, sometimes I forget who I am shooshing – ironically the shooshing only adds more to the feeling of general disarray. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

The dynamic of noise and movement is tough for me personally. I’ve always been a quiet person. I would guess it is hard for many people to relate, but any more than two conversations going on in a room at the same time and my nerves just get twisted into knots.

Over the years, I have learned a few ways to calm myself. I am increasingly thankful for the quiet moments that break up the mass of noise and confusion. Such as now. Owen is asleep. Abbey is watching some bad reality show. Miles is napping —

(in actuality, he’s probably playing with his trains on the floor in his bedroom and would bolt back to his bed if I went and opened the door, but at least he’s being quiet)

— and the only real noise in my vicinity is the clatter of my keyboard and a Dave Brubeck record on the stereo. Ahhhhhh.

It’s these quiet moments that kind of “recharge” me for the not-so-quiet ones.

Because, sometimes, the not-so-quiet moments can also be the most rewarding.

Vacation from toddler

From a weekend vacation with my toddler to a weekend vacation from my toddler — I really don’t know what to do with myself!

We moved into our home in April. We got all the important stuff unpacked and in it’s “right” place — the kitchen, Miles’ room, the bathroom, our living room, Michael’s office… you know, the important stuff.

But then there’s all that other stuff. Granted our ratio of “other” stuff to every day/critical use stuff is way down after the fire, we still have some of it hanging around, much of it stuff for baby to be that we’d handed off to my sister for her son and that she is handing back to us. So the basement and the nursery to be have kind of become these gray, dark, bottomless pits.

And these pits, well they’ve been mostly unattended to other than when I’m frantically looking for a particular pair of shoes or a bag for vacation last weekend. We had a huge unpacking and organizing push early on. My mom and sister helped with entertaining Miles as we got the bulk of it done. But since then, we’ve kind of gone back to life as normal with busy weekends that lead the exhausted evenings and no further unpacking/organizing of the pits.

The time has come though for the pits to go away, hopefully forever. My mom, who is also quite the social butterfly with a busy calendar, has carved away a weekend for her and Miles so Michael and I can really get to work.

I know, I know — a kid-free weekend, and we’re going to clean, organize and unpack? We aren’t going to sleep in, escape somewhere with sunny beaches, bon-bons and golf or go have a nice dinner? We may do one of those things (a kid-free dinner out sounds AMAZING) but what we both really want done is a house that really feels settled and a lack of PITS!

The end of September (when Baby Doyle is expected to make his appearance) is creeping up on us very quickly. And I want his nursery to feel as special and welcoming as Miles’ did.

So here’s to our kid-free weekend filled with cleaning, unpacking and organizing (and hopefully at least one morning of rising after the sun and a quiet dinner).

What do you do if you get a quick reprieve from your kiddos?