Dispatches from the Daddy Front – I

My first two days of full-time, stay-at-home fatherhood have been interesting. My wife headed back to work on Monday, her maternity leave over, and I took over, armed with a page of notes–written by my wife–detailing what my daughter’s schedule was to look like; its most important components were, obviously, her nap and feeding times. (The exact times vary from day-to-day; it’s the intervals that are crucial.)

Monday was not a good first day. I was slightly hungover from a Sunday birthday party in New Jersey; my daughter’s nap schedule had been disturbed by our attendance at the party; her sleep on Sunday night was interrupted by our late return by car; the day was hot and humid. So, nothing quite went to plan on Monday. My daughter did not sleep well during the day; her naps were shorter than usual, and she woke up with no sign of her customary wakeful cheeriness. As I dealt with the sticky heat, my grumbling head and stomach, a cluttered, messy apartment, and an unhappy, fussy baby that did not take kindly to being set down for even short periods, I felt myself slowly unravel. I had planned to clean our apartment and do laundry, but nothing got done. Music, blogging, feed times, and a couple of episodes of Arrested Development provided momentary succour but full-scale relief was only forthcoming in the evening, when I handed our baby back to her mother, and went to work out.

Tuesday went much better for my daughter woke up cheerful, inquisitive and engaged after a long first nap.  I realized after she had taken her second nap that I was not utilizing these nap times properly; I should have done some reading or writing, but instead spent most of the time aimlessly grazing on the ‘Net. Later in the afternoon things turned for the worse. My daughter became progressively fussier–an eventuality I had been warned about by my wife–and needed increasing amounts of attention as the evening drew near. She did take a third nap, a short one, which provided both her and myself some relief before her mother returned from work.  Later, my wife and I went out for dinner with some good friends; our kind neighbor and friend downstairs agreed to carry out some high-tech babysitting i.e., via wireless video monitor.  It was our first ‘date’ since last year.

Unsurprisingly, these two days have resulted in my gaining added respect for my wife’s babycare skills: even though I was on paternity leave over the past few months, she was still the primary caretaker all that time. I’ve also realized, rather quickly, that if I want to get any reading and writing done, I’m going to have to be extraordinarily efficient during her nap periods. Even that won’t be enough for serious writing so daycare looms, an expensive and unsatisfying option, but one that seems unavoidable.

Parenting was never going to be a bowl of cherries.

Note: In case you were wondering, I’m writing this post during my daughter’s first nap today; blogging will be easier than academic writing when it comes to writing in these compressed segments of time.

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