Monday, January 3, 2022

Mediocre Advice for Dads Who Somehow Know Less Than Me

When I first left work, I imagined I'd be writing multiple posts a week again like I did in the early years of the blog. Without the forty hours and ongoing stress of corporate employment, I'd be able to write a post on Monday and another mid-week, for sure.

As usual, I was both too optimistic and missed some key details. Like how raising a newborn is time consuming, and how two children take more labor than one.

With Mrs. Done by Forty deciding to continue working instead of joining me in early retirement, there's a heavier lift than if we were both retired and tag teaming the kids during the day.

Parenting is harder than a desk job in a lot of ways. Take the deluge of meetings. I used to roll my eyes at a morning of back-to-back meetings, many of which I was invited to for no good reason. But those hours where I only had to be partially present allowed me some much needed mental downtime. 

There's no downtime with Toddler AF or Baby JC. One or both want and need some attention at pretty much every minute they're awake. Even when we break into our daily Mr. Rogers or Sesame Street episode, Toddler AF doesn't like it when I'm not watching with him. He wants it to be something we really do together. He wants me to be present. Which is great, and he is right. But you know, breaks are good, too.

In our house, I do the cooking and dishes, and our children have the nerve to ask for multiple meals. Three of them. Every day. These people.

There's the yardwork and cleaning and floors and the laundry. These are normal things and, though I'm doing a bad job of it, I'm trying not to complain. We're are lucky on every front. But leaving a job can still leave a lot of work to do.

It's also a lot of trial and error. So I thought I'd share some of the things that we've found to work for us, in case a new dad out there might benefit.

Skip the cloth diapers. I know, I know. This is a dangerous place to start. We did cloth diapers for the first six months of Toddler AF's babyhood. (Infanthood? Babiness?)We dialed in the right number of inserts to handle night time, got a routine of washing and hang drying that kept us in clean diapers when we needed them, found the right detergent & wash cycles got good results no matter the poop sitch. I stitched new velcro and elastic into hand-me down diapers from relatives. Figured out which brands worked best for the day and which we saved for night time.

But all that ignores the fact that cloth diapers can be a never ending pile of work, and the last thing we needed with a newborn and full time jobs was more work. Once we took a week off of cloth diapers, we realized, oh, disposables are way easier. And easier was what we needed with a new baby.

Embrace takeout & delivery. When Toddler AF was only Baby AF, we tried cooking almost every meal ourselves. We thought it would be healthier. More nutritious. Something. I don't know, but the constant preparing of meals for us, of blending baby food for him, it put too much on our plates. 

With Baby JC, we've made takeout & delivery a big part of our diet for the first year and we couldn't be more thankful for it. Our personal finance blogging friends generously donated to a takeout fund for us and we gloriously did not have to cook very much at all during the haze of those first three months. 

So, please, order the pizzas. Order the curry. Eat the ramen. Have the peirogies delivered.

Try to give each other breaks. This might not be something everyone else struggles with, but a lot of the time, each of us is occupied with one kid. Or, all four of us are together. While this is a nice and even joyous state of affairs, what this often leads to is every waking hour being "on" as parents. It can be exhausting.

So rather than each of us being on 24/7, we try to have give each other breaks, where one of us will watch both kids and the other can, you know, take a shower. Maybe read a book or zone out on the phone in peace for thirty minutes. Take a short nap. Go to the bathroom without a toddler present, asking about what you are making, in detail.

How can you make these breaks happen? Our tricks are a one-parent led walk, time in the backyard, or, if you can swing it, baby napping in the carrier while the toddler watches TV. (Gasp, yes, we finally allowed ourselves, & Toddler AF, to watch an episode or two of Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers a day. It is a good thing). 

Oh, and if your budget allows, please do get a baby carrier. (This is ours.) With our little ones, that was the only way they'd nap with me.

Consider therapy. It's a weird one, I know. But we were wholly unprepared for the stress & tension that maybe is just inevitable in that first year. Mrs. Done by Forty and I struggled in those early months with both with Baby AF and Baby JC, individually and in our relationship. Friends, there were disagreements. And fights. A lot of them.

So we went to counseling. A lot of it. Like, multiple times a month a lot.

Your budgets may not allow for that. (Though do check with HR to see if there are free sessions via an EAP program or similar.) But if you do have a way to talk to someone, please do. 

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There is surely more and better parenting advice from dads who know more and have more experience. As always, I only know enough to be dangerous. 

But just like science tells us that due to the billions of planets out there, surely one of them must be inhabited with intelligent life, then with all the new dads out there, someone out there must know less than me, who can read this and make the next year easier. Thanks for reading, friend.


*Photo is from Kathleen Tyler Conklin at Flickr Creative Commons.

18 comments:

  1. While we only have one, who is now preschooler (he doesn't want to be called a toddler anymore), I so identify with this. That first year was hard. It has become easier, but I can't imagine doing two. And we are in our late 40s so one is enough (unless foster care). Kudos to you. You are doing much better than you think.

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    1. Thanks, Jason! I agree that we are often our own worst critics. I hope we're doing okay: all we can do is our best.

      Our oldest is ready for preschool and as soon as we can get some shots in his arm, he's raring to go.

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  2. SavvyFinancialLatinaJanuary 4, 2022 at 8:52 AM

    Thank you for sharing your experience and letting me know that parenting is hard. Lots of people only talk about the rosy aspects of it. Also, does parenting full-time make you want to go back to work? If you used your income from your full-time to work to hire a nanny or put the kids in daycare? I don't have kids...but it would tempt me too much.

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    1. Hi, SLF!

      Parenting is for sure very hard: harder than my desk job. But no, I have no desire to go back to work yet. I think once both kids are in grade school I think I'll do some work (maybe substitute teach so I can still get those hours after school but before dinner & bedtime with them.) But I'm very, very happy to have avoided year end in procurement this December (you know what I mean).

      So Toddler AF actually was already in daycare and was up until the pandemic. If it weren't for COVID he'd still be there, and as soon as he is vaccinated the plan is to start preschool (already have the school picked & the deposit paid). But yes, daycare is a great idea when parenting.

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  3. Your advice is spot on! In the early months, we relied heavily on Amazon for diaper and wipe deliveries.

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    1. Right? So many diapers. It's amazing how quickly they size up, too.

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  4. Hang in there! The first 4 years were super hard for me. It only got easier once our son started preschool. And we only have one kid.

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    1. I can't wait for Toddler AF to get the jabs and start preschool. I think it'll make for a much easier lift.

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  5. I love your titles. I can imagine you'll be #1 rank for the Google search of "mediocre advice for Dads" in no time :)

    Nodded along to all of these. We bought cloth nappies (as we call them, sorry can't bring myself to use the word diaper haha!) and used them for literally one day, huge poo explosion that went everywhere, ended up in a whole wash just for one change. Decided that is not worth the agro and if you factor in hot washes probably not even that much better for the environment anyway.

    We didn't do therapy but probably could have used some!!! I will say no more haha.

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    1. Hey, I got the snarky comment about my titles here in the comments and on Twitter. Cool.

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    2. I think you've misread my intentions with my attempt at comedy there. I genuinely do love the title! That wasn't snarky.

      I was trying to poke fun at the majority of bloggers out there who do slavishly tailor their titles for the Google algo, and end up with really boring titles (I've done this many times in the past, with rubbish results anyway, so you are better off with a fun title as you have gone with here)

      All the best mate ;)

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  6. Hey. We also have 2 young ones and think we have had/are having an equally exhausting experience. The good bits are absolutely magical, though, aren't they! Hang in there, brother

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    1. They are magical. The good times are very good, and the hard times are very hard. :)

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  7. No kids yet or any time soon but this post was lovely! I am glad you have compassion for yourselves by allowing more help via disposable diapers and takeout. People often talk about doing it all but like even if you can why the f* would you want to?

    Also this really cracked me up! "In our house, I do the cooking and dishes, and our children have the nerve to ask for multiple meals. Three of them. Every day. These people."

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    1. Hi Caitlyn. As you said, even if we could do every little thing, we probably shouldn't try.

      For what it's worth, we were able to relax quite a bit more with our second than our first. The first year with Toddler AF was rough stuff.

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  8. Ahh this resonates with me! =) My kids are older now (5 and 8)...I don't know if it gets easier. Well some things get easier and others harder...lol. I'm glad you mentioned therapy...while kids are a wonderful addition, it is bound to also cause more conflict. There is no shame in seeking someone to help parents through that journey. I have definitely considered looking into that, especially during the pandemic lockdowns.

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