Friday, May 31, 2013

Dear New Dad: Advice from Your Fairy Godmother

Dear New Dads,

After writing some advice to my pre-baby having, younger, new mom self I realized that we aren't the only human in the equation that needs some guidance. As moms, we've at least had 9 months of intensive and intimate training for this baby and while you've had some changes in your daily routine, nothing will ever prepare you for baby in the way that we have been preparing for baby. It's like the difference between joining the Reserves and becoming a NAVY seal... the difference in level of preparedness is astronomical.

Soooo... lucky you, New Dad, I've decided to help guide you, like a fairy godmother, except younger and way hotter. These are just some things to keep in mind in helping your NAVY seal baby mama not want to NAVY seal kick your ass.

No need to thank me.

1. Attention! We will pop out this baby and you will go back to work, if you are lucky, a week later. You will go back to the adult world where people use their mind and wit and will engage in intellectual conversations. We, on the other hand, will stay home talking in a voice two octaves higher than normal to a blob that eats, sleeps, and poops and who will not talk back unless it is screaming or crying at us. (In all fairness, they have no other form of communication.) We will watch The View, The Chew, or The Talk and be updated in the latest happenings of Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez... who by the way are back together. That will be our only source to the outside world. So when you get home, we will be wagging our tail like a puppy left home alone all day wanting his owner to play fetch. Play with us. Give us attention. A lot of it. Let us talk until our voice sounds raspy like we've smoked too many cigarettes.

2. This is not Mad Men. Your stay at home wife is not Betty Draper. (Although, New Mom, if you decided to be you could drink in the middle of the day and make no excuse for it - see picture below.) She will not be dressed up in her best pearls, vacuuming the carpet, cooking a 3 course meal, and taking care of baby so pleeeease don't come home disappointed or wondering why the dishes aren't done or the laundry isn't folded. You'll be lucky if she's wearing something different than what she wore the day before and remembered to brush her teeth. Staying home doesn't mean that she has hours upon hours to catch up on things. It means no set lunch hour, no pressure-free bathroom breaks, no minute to herself that isn't shared with that little baby. That stuff will get done, it just might not be in Betty Draper Housewife Style.

3. Check yourself. Most dudes I know say they like their women strong, that they are modern day men that don't want a cooking and cleaning machine but rather someone with ideas, someone smart and with a little fire. (Insert cough...) liars. When push comes to shove some of you guys have at least a small expectation that taking care of baby falls mostly on mom. But knowing that you are actually more this kind of man than you would like to admit is half the battle. I get it. I do. I am the at home parent. Most of the responsibility will fall on me but that doesn't mean that it all should. You need balance. One night for you. One night for her. Many nights for the both of you. Everyone wins. 

4. Choose wisely. Men are never quite sure what to say in certain situations and because of this sometimes you end up putting your foot in your mouth. Be careful what you say right now. Like the old man protecting the grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, you must choose wisely or face grave consequences.

Phrases to Memorize for EMERGENCIES
1. You look skinny. Did you go to the gym?
2. Wine?
3. No one would believe that you're a mom (of two).
4. I bought you a red AND a white.
5. Do you want me to take (Insert Baby Name) to (Insert location) ?

5. Do you want me to take Rafaella to the park?
5.  I promise, she won't always be an emotional wreck. Hang in there and know that for now, you must love her more than ever. Love her wreckage like its the reason you married her because nothing you say will prepare you for the emotions that come with being a mom and sometimes nothing you say will make it better. She is vulnerable right now. She is doubting herself in so many ways. Remember, a human life is in her hands... and women tend to be a little psychotic about that kind of thing. 

6.  Your job is hard. But not as hard. It isn't. What?! It just isn't. And I don't mean your "dad" job, I mean your out of the house job. And here's why... as stressful as your job might be, you get to leave. Imagine that you wake up in the morning and go to work. You arrive and your boss is already yelling at you. You feel like you are putting in so many hours, so much hard work and it's still not right. You work through your lunch break. You sprint through bathroom breaks. You don't socialize with anyone. You work for free. And then the 5:00 whistle blows. But instead of leaving your job for happy hour, you stay...and never leave. You sleep at the office and do it all over again tomorrow. That's being a mom. It is a job that you never clock out of. The other day, I had to use the bathroom and for a half second I was alone and then Rafaella began to knock her baby strong hands into the door and yell, "Mami...MAMI." She wasn't upset or crying, she was just wanting to know where I was. But my moment of solitude was gone. Don't get me wrong here, dad, you get paid and financially support our family so that is important. But in comparison to what baby mama is doing at home, well... you've got it easy. 

7. Your job is hard. No this is not a typo. Your job IS hard. You have to get up early and go to work and come home to a crazy woman who has been talking in the language of Baby all day so when she sees a human being over 2 feet tall she wants to talk and talk and possibly get in a quick shower. I can't imagine it's easy to come home to us sometimes. We know this. No need to remind us. Choose wisely.

8. Mid Life Crisis. Dudes are not the only ones who get to miss the life they used to have. Not all of us are instant moms. Some of us grow into it. It is not lost on me how lucky I am to be a mom, to have these two incredible little people who I get to teach things to and give hugs and kisses to and watch grow but sometimes I still just wanted to go to happy hour with my friends without the responsiblity of having to get home by 7:00 to put the kids to sleep or  the guilt for leaving Mike alone with the kids - even if they are sleeping. We hear a lot about dads who just want the freedom to be who they were in their glory days but remember that she might also miss the person she used to be in those days. 

9. Be her ally through the ally(s). Being a new mom is hard work in every way you could imagine and in ways you couldn't: physically, emotionally, spiritually, personally, mentally, sexually, socially, and any other ally I haven't named. She probably doesn't feel very attractive, she has probably cried a few times already today, she will wonder if she is good enough to be a mom, she will never regain full capacity of her once very intelligent brain. She will need you to not judge these things. Not even a hint of judge. Shh. Zip. She will need you to back her up and talk her off the ledge not push her over. If breastfeeding isn't working, let her know that it's ok to not breastfeed. If the schedule you are trying is working as well as a square wheel, let her know you are fine with trying something new. Be on her team no matter what. NOW is not the time to split hairs or debate why your plan of attack might be better than hers. Now is the time to join forces.

10. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Dad, you 've been gone all day, of course you're happy to see baby. And guess what? Baby is happy to see you too because baby is seeing you after baby has had a full day of seeing nothing but mom's tired face.  So when you get home, you've missed baby and baby's missed you and you get to be FUN dad. But mom doesn't have that luxury. She's been home cleaning baby's butt, wiping baby's spit, putting baby to sleep, feeding baby endlessly - and when baby is older - telling baby no. We get to be the unsung hero while you get to sweep in and be Superman. Your kids won't fully realize how awesome mom is until they're older and understand that behind Superman is a SUPERWOMAN so understand that she has worked hard all day to have you come home and be awesome parent and that sucks sometimes. So be super nice to us and sometimes the bad guy to your kids. Not a lot, just enough to have them think mom is awesome too.

11. You are ready. You have spent much of your adult life trying to understand women and all roads lead to this moment. Pregnancy and motherhood are the absolute most bat shit crazy that you will ever see us. You have prepared for this moment you're whole life and the most important thing to remember through all of this is to LOVE YOUR LADY. Just be there. Hold on to each other and be strong together. Talk. Talk a lot. Talk about what you want together as a family but more importantly what you want together as a couple. Cook dinner because you know your wife has had just about enough of today. Offer to take care of Baby and allow her some alone time. We ladies are huge suckers for real men like that.

11b. Believe in the Power of Dad. Many dads that I know don't like to admit that they haven't the slightest idea of what they're doing when they become fathers. It comes from the same inherent gene as not wanting to ask for directions. But here's the secret New Dad... New Mom doesn't know either. And contrary to popular knowledge it doesn't necessarily come "naturally." Trust yourself. Maybe some of the things you do won't be "right" (like the first time Mike changed Rafa's diaper and it took him 5 minutes - do you know how long 5 minutes really is?? - to change it, only to come to the end and realize he had the diaper on backwards.) but they won't kill Baby (images of Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom come to mind). Baby is way stronger and smarter than we give them credit for. You're learning to care for another human being and with any relationship there is a learning curve. Always remember: If you could make your sleep deprived, non brushing teeth, hasn't left her house that day, bat shit crazy woman happy... babies are a piece of angel food cake.

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