Things To Do As Dad When You’re Ahead
I’m not here to tell you what to do, but, well. . . Here’s what you need to do.
No, it’s not that simple. You’re going to miss out so much if you treat being a stay-at-home dude as some kind of office job, working for just another space on the cubicle farm. Your baby deserves more than a picture or two tacked to the side of your cubicle “wall” next to that Dilbert that was really funny nine years ago.
Not that there’s anything wrong with working in a cubicle. I’ve done it and survived. The thing is, though, you as a SAHD have the opportunity to make your occupation so much more than a job. Admittedly, you’re not going to be getting a paycheck, but you’re also not having to clock in at a set time. Overtime, yes. Over time pay? Sadly, no. Unless you count getting paid in smiles and drool.
There’s a big difference between having a daily to-do list on which you feel you must add a bunch of new stuff and then cross off the achieved objectives every day and having goals to accomplish as a stay-at-home dude. That last part. . . That’s what I wanted to talk to you guys about today.
For the first little while staying home full-time with Hyper Lad while Zippy the Travlin’ Boy and Sarcasmo went to school was a huge adjustment for me. At first, I was content to simply roll with the days, do whatever came up and not really plan at all. I was a bit resentful, but I got over it. Another story for another day.
The thing is, though, when I wanted to start doing more than simply feeding, changing and burping Hyper Lad, I didn’t have anywhere to turn for advice. See, I was one of the early adopters. This year, there are more men staying at home to care for their children than there were last year, and the year before etc. When I started, there was none of that.
I was just about unique. At Mother’s Morning Out, I was the only man dropping off a kid. At the playground, I was the only male there who wasn’t in diapers (as far as they could tell). At school? At Kinder Music? At kid gymnastics? At storytime. Only male, only male, only male. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but it was hard to chat up a lot of the moms without looking like I was trying to hit on them.
“Hey,” I say, sitting down on the far end of the bench from her.
“Hey,” she said, not taking her eyes off the playground.
“Nice park,” I say. “You come here often?”
She gets up and walks off, grabs her child and strollers away at speed.
So that’s the first thing you need to do when you decide to stay at home with the kids. Get a support group. There are more stay-at-home men these days than ever and a bunch of new men’s parenting groups out there, both online and IRL. Not only is it a great idea to whine to someone who understands you, but you also can get some great ideas for stuff to do with the little guy or gal.
Another goal you should have foremost in your mind is one we’ve sort of covered before. Make time to have fun. Staying at home with the kid means it’s your job to do the shopping and the cleaning and the wash and, probably, the cooking. That means you’re going to have errands, but don’t let them consume the whole day.
If the sun is out and it’s a beautiful spring day, take an hour out of the errands and go pick flowers or chase grasshoppers in the park. Sit on a couch and read a favorite book. Understand it’s your job to rear your child and this is exactly the kind of stuff that will make the best and most lasting good impression on her developing psyche.
Find a good storytime or music play or rhythm/movement class and attend regularly. It helps to get some kind of structure in a little one’s life and these are some of the best ways to do it. You’ll be with other parent/child combinations, often the same ones week after week This gives you a chance to get to know each other, find people with whom you can set play dates, and let your boy develop friendships. They also can be a lot of fun for you. Oh, and the kid, of course.
Know your glitters. You might think this is only for dads who are rearing girls, but you’d be wrong. There’s something about the sparkly glittering bits in glitterglue that just absorbs young-child attention. My young boys used to love glitter glue. We’d draw with the stuff, do paper work with it, make glitterglue fingerprints with it even.
You also can use regular glitter in science projects. Create your own tornado in a bottle. That’s cool. Put some glitter in the water and it’s even cooler. Glitter. Know it. Use it. Love it.
Nap time. When she naps, you nap. It’s really the only way to get through the first year or so without cracking.
Penultimately, let me make this important recommendation. Learn to solder. No, seriously. You can’t imagine the amount of fun Hyper Lad and I have been having since we learned to solder. There are great sites like Make.com and Instructables.com that are jammed chock full of great projects you can do with your young daughter. My son and I made a working digital watch, soldering the electronic connections in the body of the watch, created a watch from an old iPod and a bunch of other stuff. It’s amazing how much fun it is to sit down with a pile of garbage and then, through your hard work and inspiration, you’re suddenly sitting there with something you made. Something that works. Something useful.
Making things that work is an astounding skill for a young kid to pursue. It’s a real feeling of power and confidence to know your hands are capable of creating something other than a mess.
Finally, one last suggestion for your goal list. Learn to cook. No, really. A family can’t live on grilled cheese and tomato soup alone for years. You will get sick of it eventually.
Get a four-ingredient-or-less cookbook and get to work. Make a bunch of different dishes. Experiment. Your kid will develop an ecclectic palate and won’t be picky. You and your partner will enjoy dinner instead of surviving it and you all will be healthier. Remember that feeling of exhiliration I mentioned earlier in discussing making things that work? Same thing here. Except you get to eat what you produce.
There you go. All the things you need to stay at home, rear a child and not drive yourself crazy at the same time.
Okay, fine. Yes, yes. Not all the way crazy. Partially crazy is simply unavoidable.