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At-Home Dad: Expectations vs. reality

Posted June 26, 2012

Editor's Note: It's stay-at-home dad week on Go Ask Mom! On Monday, we featured Triangle Stay at Home Dads, which meets regularly across the Triangle. On Tuesday, Mike Slawter, a Raleigh stay-at-home dad of two girls, offered the first of three post on his experience. Here's his second. Read his third post on Thursday.

Katie, daughter No. 2, was born in December. I had eight weeks with my wife and new daughter at home before my wife went back to work.

Phyllis, my wife, told me that she was so much less stressed with this childbirth knowing that our daughter would be at home and with someone who could be with her one on one. Our first child care experiences were horrendous. Imagine having to take your nine-month-old to the ER because her elbow had become dislocated at daycare! UGH!

This time was going to be different. Katie would have a permanent teacher/role model/parent at her side.

Superdaddy was here.

HA! My expectations of what this job entailed versus the reality of it were so far off the mark that I wondered to myself during the first two weeks what I had gotten into. At first, I had days when Katie was sleeping fine and eating fine. Then, about three weeks into our journey, which made Katie about three months old, she “changed” overnight.

There was fussiness, screaming, crying, and the kind of behavior that made me second guess myself. What was going on? I don’t remember this from our first daughter Abby. Oh, that’s right. I wasn’t there during the daytime for Abby. DUH! Now I was seeing firsthand each day, all day what having a newborn infant was like. I thought for some reason it was all sleeping, eating, pooping and that kind of stuff.

I figured she would sleep several hours during the day so that I could do things around the house like cleaning, the laundry, prepping dinner, etc. NO WAY! I was lucky to have time to do some basics. Like, um, take a shower. The routine, though, had become set. Drop mom off at 8:30 a.m., carpool until about 8:50 a.m., and home by 9:15 a.m.

Then it never failed, she was screaming for food before I got home.

So, the first solo feeding of the day came. We finally settled into a routine. The only true issue about the day is that there is still little routine to it. There are no days alike. NONE.

My wife tells me she has read that babies respond to daddies differently and that they see us as “fun.” They want to play and do other stuff versus sleep and eat. That can make for one tired daddy. I am not sure where I got my expectations about what a baby is like. I saw my sister take care of her three at this age. But I had never heard this side of the story from any friends or other family members.

As for any expectations I had, they are gone. Each day is new and I embrace it. I find joy in the little things much more now in life than ever before. Like her pulling on my beard when I have it or wanting to do other things.

I am getting used to this stay-at-home daddy stuff.

Mike Slawter is the father of two girls in Raleigh. He has been on his stay at home daddy adventure now for six months. You can follow him on his blog.


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