I woke up this morning at 6:00 am. Laying in bed listening to Ellie and Lily sleep I thought about what I wanted to do today. If I wake up early I might get an hour to myself to do some chores or blog or something. Should I work on the fence? Put away dishes? Clean the bathroom? Blog? This morning I thought blog. Its been a while. Then, as I slowly started to slide out of the bed. The little worm started wiggling. She turned, smiled at me and then let out a loud coo. “I’m awake bitches! Let’s play!”
Two and half weeks ago Ellie and I went back to work. The first day back we gathered as a whole network. Friends and colleagues were all curious about Hen and how she was doing. My principal from last year, who is now working for the central office, asked me if I had any advice for him. He and his wife are having a baby at the end of the month. I didn’t get a chance to answer his question, but its been on my mind ever since. I’ve been a Dad for four months now. What wisdom have I gleaned? What secrets do I now know? What could I tell soon to be parents? Well, I’m not sure really.
To be honest, I’ve started, stopped, edited, and avoided blogging for the past month for a lack of coherent thoughts. Whenever anyone asks me how its going as a dad I usually give some quick and simple reply. I’m still grappling with this question. So, as I lay in bed this morning, I decided it was time to belly up to the computer and write. Instead of sage wisdom and well worded thoughts, here’s a post about my struggles and joys of being a dad so far. (And, now four hours later, Lily is napping for a moment and I can write.)
Thought #1: I’m jealous of Ellie breastfeeding. There I said it. It’s hard to be what I sometimes refer to as the “non-essential” parent. I cannot fulfill Hen’s needs for nourishment. When she is yelling because she’s hungry there is nothing I can do. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about the boob juice and want Hen to nurse as long as she can, however, it’s hard to not be able to meet her needs. It’s hard to pass her off and watch her cuddle up with Ellie. As a side to this, Lily will also only ever cuddle with Ellie. Cuddling and nursing seem to be one and the same in Hen’s mind. I know she loves me, but I often think she sees me as more of a playmate.
Thought #2: Lily means “ruler of the home.” Already her name is ringing true. Nothing happens anymore unless Hen says so. We are all on Hen’s time. Those who know me well know that I am a doer. Like my father I can’t sit still. I have a perpetual to do list running through my head. Finish painting the fence. Weed the garden. Clean the bath tube. Finish trimming and painting the guest house. Make kimchi out of the cabbage that has been sitting in the refrigerator for a month. Cut the grass (and by grass I mean weeds). Build the sheet metal shed in that’s in pieces in the basement. Train for the 50k coming up. Clean out the gutters. Write down that poem for Ellie. And on and on. As everything happens on Lily’s time these things of course don’t get done. Each week I might be able to pull together an hour or two for house work. It’s never going to all get done. I need to learn to relax and let go. The funny thing is when I stop and think about it, I’d so much rather be spending time with Lily than doing these things anyway. But how do I let go of the fact that these things need to get done? How do I stop thinking about them as “need to’s”?
Thought #3: I work a lot. I used to say it with disdain, but the fact is I love my job. The people I work with are awesome. My students never cease to amaze me. I do invaluable work, and everyday I get to make a difference in the world. However, at minimum I leave for work by 6:00 am and don’t get home until after 5:00 pm at the earliest. Weekend planning and grading is sometimes needed too. My days are often highly emotional and hard to leave behind too. So, how do I balance my identity as Father and Husband with Teacher and Professional? I feel an incredible amount of pressure to make the two separate. To make them two distinct identities. In doing this I feel as though I am tearing myself apart. I don’t think I can do it. I want to be both, and I want to do both really well.
Thought #3.5 There is nothing wrong with childcare if it is good childcare. Ellie and I often feel judged and looked down upon when we tell people we are both going to continue working. Hen will go to a great and really wonderful place 4 days a week for ten hours each day. In explaining our decision, I often feel as though I have to say things like “I really wish we didn’t have to.” Or “it’s really the best of a bad situation” etc… In truth though, I think it is going to be really good for Lily to be away from us for a bit each week as she gets older and more aware of her surroundings. She needs stimulus and social outlets that we can’t provide her with. We as parents need sometime away as well. We need the stimulation, struggles, and joys of our own jobs. I often get the impression that many people super disagree. They imply that a child might love you less if you bring them to childcare. Or imply that you are not doing your job as a parent. I just fundamentally disagree. Yes, it will be hard to be apart from her, but I think it is best for us all. Spending sometime apart does not push you apart. The happiest and most stable families I have ever met are the ones in which each member has and takes time a little time to themselves and their own pursuits. Plus, I just don’t know how you could survive on one income? Especially as a teacher…
Thought #4: Friends? psh. Spending time with friends seems to be getting harder and harder. I like being social, I want to raise Lily with friends and family always around, but balancing the time with others, with time for just the three of us, with time for myself is very tricky. I feel bad when I tell someone I can’t do this or that. I can never keep up with the multiplicity of family to call and skype. I start and stop and re-start writing letter and e-mails to far away friends all the time. (Ben and Jeff, I’ve tried writing you both about six times in the past three weeks alone.) As you might have picked up on the previous thoughts, I’m increasingly realizing there will never be enough time for everyone and everything. With such a lack of time how do you let friends and family know you love them and think about them all the time?
Thought #5: Lily is awesome. Shes funny. She is so happy and smiley. She is a J-factor jackpot. While I grapple with thoughts of how to be a father and husband, of how to be a working father and husband, my thoughts and worries melt away with the smiles, smells and clammy palms of my little baby. She makes everything worthwhile. I don’t think there has a been a single 15 minutes in the past for months when I haven’t thought about her. She is our world. Seriously look at that smile. How could she not be?