After many discussions, my wife and I decided I would become a stay-at-home dad (SAHD) when our child, The Understudy, turned 2 months old.
At the time, I worked as a very important master of the burrito industry. It took a lot of time away from my new family and caused even more distractions when I was actually at home.
At first, we were both skeptical about whether I would thrive in my new position. Would it be enough daily stimulation, interaction, conflict, etc. to get my juices flowing? And then, I left my job and it suddenly became very real.
I initially looked at it like this: I won’t have a real job. I’m taking the summer off. I’m going to spend some amazing time with The Understudy. This is going to be awesome, and I am going to win an award at the next Amazingly Hot Dads That Rock Festival.
As the excitement rose for my new “job,” I decided to make a SAHD list of all the things I would get done.
Stay-At-Home To-Do List
A few things I plan to accomplish this summer…
- Read 3 books.
- Get back to my pre-baby weight.
- Ride my bike with the baby trailer up that big hill.
- Organize my photos in iPhoto.
- Miscellaneous jobs around the house: organize garage, organize office
At the end of the first week of staying-at-home … I had accomplished nothing.
I was beaten and broken like Humpty Dumpty after he fell off the wall. AND, I was starting to gain weight so I actually LOOKed like Humpty Dumpty.
Something wasn’t working. The Understudy napped sporadically. Sometimes it was 15 minutes before he was screaming and I had to hold him to get him back to sleep. He couldn’t roll over, crawl or do anything really except lay on his back for a short amount of time before he wanted to be held again.
I vowed that the next week would be better.
I would get him into a routine. He would sleep better. I would be a better homeowner. I would be a better husband. I would be the best dad. I would feel better about myself. I would get rid of stress which would eliminate the growing number of grey hairs and reverse the trend of my balding head. I would get stuff DONE.
So, I did the only thing any clear thinking new stay-at-home dad would do. I revised my list.
REVISED Stay-At-Home To-Do List Manifesto
The things I WILL accomplish this summer…
- Teach The Understudy sign language
- Read 5 books (probably all at the same time).
- Learn how to trade stocks online.
- Get back to my pre-burrito weight.
- Cook dinner every night.
- Ride my bike with the baby trailer up that big hill (with ease).
- Organize ALL my photos in iPhoto.
- Start an advice column for new parents.
- MORE miscellaneous jobs around the house: Organize garage, office, shed, crawl space; install soffits around entire house; fix that small part of the roof that was leaking; re-stain all the wood around windows; build a man-bookshelf downstairs
At the end of the second week … I resembled a mix of Robocop after the goons shot him up and Lard Ass from Stand By Me.
I was lucky if I was able to get the dishwasher unloaded before my wife came home each day. The Understudy broke me so badly that all the King’s cookies and all the King’s beer couldn’t put me back together again.
One day, my wife came home to find me on page 63 of my latest revised list where every task was: “All work and no play makes Pat want cookies.”
Fortunately, I married an amazing woman. She brought me down from the wall. She made me realize I was putting too many expectations on myself for what I would be able to do with our baby at this stage in his life.
At that moment, the most important thing was to make sure that the baby was being cared for. Keep him safe, fed and happy.
I took her advice and I revised my SAHD list … again.
A few things I can do right now …
- Keep child alive
- Shower every day (or two)
- Keep child fed
- Shave at least every three days (or four)
- Keep child clean
- Go outside every day
- Keep child alive
This SAHD list made more sense for that moment in The Understudy’s life. This list wouldn’t drive me into the Cuckoo’s Nest, staring at walls repeating, “I’m tired. I’m tired.” This was a list that I was able to stick to and get things DONE. Like, keeping the child alive.
SAHD Lesson Learned:
Stay-at-home dad is a real job. It is not a vacation. I don’t sit around playing games and working on projects. This job is about helping your family at the expense of yourself.
Eventually, the Understudy will do more than just eat and poop. We will get into routines and I can add things from my original list to tackle. Most importantly, I learned I need to enjoy this amazing opportunity to spend time with my son. I’m 30-something and I have waited for this moment all my life. If I don’t take the time to enjoy it, it will be over before I know it.
Relax. Enjoy. And keep that child alive!
A version of this first appeared on Just a Dad 247.