Category Archives: daddy care

Dadchelor Parties: A Dream or a Disaster?

I saw this segment on ABC Nightline last week about “Dadchelor” parties becoming all the rage among soon-to-be daddies. In fact, according to one expert interviewed during the segment, roughly 1 in 5 dads has a dadchelor party.

If you’re like me and don’t know a single dad whose had such a party, a dadchelor party is a man’s version of baby shower. And because its usually given by men for men, it tends to end up looking seriously similar to a bachelor party, with loads of booze and questionable entertainment generally lasting well into the wee hours of the morning.

It would appear that most soon-to-be mommies aren’t exactly big on this idea. It’s totally immature, but I personally think it’s brilliant.

Leave it to men to figure out how to take the idea of a baby shower to the next level. How lame do ladies lunches with traditional shower games seem next to a party bus full of raucous friends with a final destination of the nearest casino? And the diaper keg is ingenious. Basically how it works is every dadchelor party participant brings a box of diapers to the party in exchange for booze. I also really like the idea of bringing a new stroller full of beer or drink-with-me Elmo games, as shown in this dadchelor party spoof:

But while I find this whole dadchelor idea totally creative on the part of soon-to-be dads and their degenerate friends, I sincerely do think it’s a good idea. From what I gather from a lot of my mommy friends, nearly every husband has a freakout moment before the birth of his first child. (Mine most definitely did.) It most often looks nothing like a soon-to-be mommy freakout. Rather than coming on fast and furiously like a freakout does for soon-to-be moms (thanks, hormones!), soon-to-be daddy drama usually builds builds slowly and sort of festers before exploding, usually after some serious nagging by the moms to get off their duff and do something on that honey-do-for-baby list.

That trigger for a lot of soon-to-parents is the issue of the nursery. Moms totally stress about getting the nursery ready and especially about setting up the crib. Dads generally don’t have the same urgency in dealing with those tasks, which drives most moms absolutely nuts. I see this lack of urgency almost as a subconscious refusal to deal with the reality of having a baby. It’s like a last grasp to hold on to life as they’ve known it. No crib roughly translates to more time to still be the kind of married-without-kids carefree that they’ve enjoyed for some time. Conversely, the crib is a physical reminder that those days are seriously numbered. And this reticence has nothing to do with not being excited about a baby or the prospect of being a dad.

So, maybe a dadchelor party is just the cathartic experience that some dads need to reconcile their fears with reality. Sure, life changes in a big way post baby, but it’s in a good way. You don’t just stop being the person you were, but you do start to learn more about the person you are. I get that for a lot of dads it’s scary to be looking at an overnight change. Personally, I wished I’d have known about these dadchelor parties back when I was pregnant. I think my husband would’ve totally benefited from one last blowout before getting down to the real business of baby.

Admittedly I would’ve also been jealous had he had one. I’m not sure when I’ll get a night on the town dadchelor style. But maybe that’s where a compromise is in order. Dad gets a dadchelor night out and mom gets a post-baby moms-gone-wild night. Sounds like a deal to me.

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Filed under daddy care, dads, diapers, family, infants, marriage, maternity, mom style, mommy care, moms, nesting, newbie parents

Dads on Duty

Today is Father’s Day and being as we’re a military family, I can’t help but think about all the military dads (and boy do we know a lot of them) who didn’t get to spend today with the people who most love and adore them–their kids.

Every day I am lucky enough to be able to see my baby’s smiles, hear the patter of his hands and knees as he crawls across the floor, make him giggle, and hold him close at night. How far away those simple pleasures must seem to those deployed dads when they are in places where it can often be hard to see the good in things or people. I bet some days a diaper blow out or two sounds way better than anything they’ve got to deal with.

During the past two years, my husband has been gone a lot for military-related activities. He missed out on a lot of my pregnancy, a lot of the new baby lovefest, and a lot of baby’s firsts. It’s definitely been frustrating for him at times even though it doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. I mean, missing out on birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions is pretty much in a soldier’s job description.

But despite all that he’s missed out on in the name of duty, he has still managed to grow so much as a dad. He lives more deliberately, with a greater sense of purpose. He’s simplified his needs and reshuffled his priorities. He’s learned to celebrate some of the littler things in life. And his emotional range has expanded to include new varieties of joy, pride, and heartache. In some ways, you might say he’s become a better person. All because of baby.

He never needed to change for me, but it’s been interesting to watch his transformation. It’s clear that he’s had an idea in his head of what kind of dad he wants to be and has been working very hard to deliver on that despite the challenges and limitations that come part and parcel with being a soldier. And for that, I am grateful.

So, with that said, my thoughts go out to all the military dads who inevitably had a pretty lonely today, as well as their families who miss them so much. Here’s to their ability to be as good of dads on the home front as soldiers in the field. Happy Father’s Day!

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Best Birthday Ever (Almost)

My sweet bundle of boy is definitely more of a boy and less of a bundle now that he’s turned a year old. I have been a bad baby momma and not been terribly on the ball in getting any images of this major milestone up to share. So, I’m hoping this post will rectify that situation.

I had debated not doing a party of any sort for the wee one–just a little cupcake and candle action at dinner with me and Mimi, perhaps–but then I gave in. I realized that if hubby was able to be around for baby’s big day, he would most certainly have made a much bigger deal of it than I was planning. So, I really decided to have the party for him and less than baby because he was missing it, if that makes any sense at all.

At any rate, I am so glad I did, although it was a lot of work for just a couple of hours. That’s about as long as any of the mommas could stay, as babies would begin early stages of meltdown at around the 90  minute mark. And meltdown was definitely the word of the day, given the temps of 90+ degrees. (Thanks to all the moms and kids who came and sweated with us to celebrate a very special first birthday!)

Baby was well prepared for the event. We had done some pre-birthday cupcake tasting (which was good because neither Mimi nor I remembered to give him one at his party–whoops!) and also given him a long overdue haircut. He also got a new outfit to let everyone know it was his big day, although that got dirty and thrown into the laundry before the party even began. (He was less of a fan of costume No. 2.) But he totally enjoyed seeing all his little buddies crawling and toddling around with him, turning my living room and back deck into a Gymboree session. And then once the last guests left, we finally opened presents  (there had been way too much going on during the party to tackle that fun) and spent the rest of the afternoon beating the heat with cold drinks, popsicles, and sprinkles from the hose.

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Needless to say, it was a near perfect day. The only thing missing was dad. But that just means next year’s baby birthday bash is bound to be better than ever because he’ll be in charge of planning it.

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Is Your Marriage Babyproofed?

I recently ran across the article, “So Cute, So Hard on the Marriage,” in The Wall Street Journal. It was all about how about two-third of married couples find the quality of their relationship go down the tubes within three years of having their first baby.

I don’t know about you, but I was surprised to read that stat. I even took the poll that went with the article to see what real people had to say. (Results below.) Out of the 63% of people who responded who actually had children, roughly half said that having kids hurt their marriage. So, if I got this right, first comes love, then comes marriage and the baby carriage, and then all hell breaks loose.

But even more interesting to me was this insight:

Men and women experience the deterioration differently: Mothers’ satisfaction in their marriages plummets immediately; for men, the slide is delayed a few months. Hormonal changes, the physical demands of childbirth and nursing, and an abrupt shift from the working world to being at home with an infant may explain that, says Renay Bradley, the director of research and programming at the Relationship Research Institute.

So, I tried to think back over what has almost been a year since baby arrived and think if my husband and I went through any of this. Honestly, I don’t think so. At least not yet. But statistically speaking, we’ve still got two years to go until we’re out of the danger period.

Part of me thinks we didn’t (so far) because, first, I went back to work, so I didn’t have that whole stuck-at-home-with-baby feeling that I imagine all stay-at-home moms have to feel at some point another. Second, with my husband’s job, he was gone for a big chunk of this first year. So, we didn’t have to fight about who was going to be getting up at 3am to feed the baby because it was always going to be me; not only was I breastfeeding but he wasn’t even around.

But playing a single parent even when you technically aren’t one certainly has stresses that could create similar rifts in a marriage. For me, there are days where I’ve found myself in full mommy meltdown. On those days it seems like everything is out to get me–from the baby to the dog to the house to my job to our finances. (Yes, I have cried several times on the phone to my mother and even once to my dad.)  And I’m not going to lie, I have cursed my husband up and down for things like not being around to help me fix the tire on the stroller or never putting his tools back in the right place so I can find a stupid screwdriver.

But being apart at stressful times like that might actually be a good thing in our case. I can curse him up and down in moments like that and not even have to try and say it under my breath. Subsequently, he never hears it, so he doesn’t feel compelled to roll his eyes or say something snippy back, which of course would set me off and voilà, voilà, voilà, we’re in a fight. By the time we get a chance to connect, I’m mostly put back together and can actually have a decent, constructive conversation about whatever it is that’s stressing me out.

I also think one thing that my husband does that really helps our relationship is not pull a father-knows-best and question my decisions. Although he doesn’t like how much he’s had to be away, he gets that I’m the primary caregiver in this scenario, so I have executive decision making authority. He trusts that I have our family’s best interest in mind in every decision, from what time baby needs to go to bed to how often the cleaning lady should come. Relinquishing control to that extent is probably really hard for some people, husband or wife. But he’s found a way to that place and I think we’re better for it.

In fact, I have been so impressed with his ability to not be so controlling that I’ve found myself similarly letting go. I don’t worry about how he, or his mother, or the nanny, or anyone else who’d fall in the category of friend or family does things when it comes to the baby. I’m okay with the fact that I diaper differently than my husband, that my mom prefers to bathe the baby in the kitchen sink over an infant tub, or that my nanny doesn’t mix rice cereal with his food like I do. Seeing how my husband trusts that I’ll take care of things the best way I know how has made me not sweat the small stuff that can seem like big stuff to a newbie mom. I just look at it that anyone who is going to be that close to my baby has his best interest at heart, so I just leave it at that.

The other thing my husband and I also have both gotten very good at doing that has taken a lot of stress off our post-baby life  is accepting that our lives are so jammed up with obligations and responsibilities that we have to outsource some functions. The alternative is not pretty. Whereas pre-baby we would’ve never hired someone to till up the garden or even clean the house, we do now. Yes, we acknowledge that these are things we are capable of doing, but it’s also about time. That whole business concept about the time value of money certainly has currency in post-baby family life.

Point in case: It takes my cleaning lady less than five hours to clean our house; pre-baby, when Ian and I would clean, it would take the two of us the whole day. So, for $100 a week, I get five hours of uninterrupted time to go to the gym, walk the dog, or spend time with my son–all things that I would prefer to be doing over scrubbing the floors. That to me is a good value. I come home feeling better about myself and then my house is all put back together and clean and sanity is restored all around.

That’s probably a good segue into the whole topic of money, which after who gets up for 3am feedings, is like the No. 2 source of fights for married-with-baby couples, according to the article. As weird as it may sound, for us, having a baby has made us much more fiscally responsible. We really don’t have any more bills than we had before, but because we’re home more and out at bars less, we’re more on top of them. And because they’re not piling up all the time, there’s less end-of-the-month stress to transfer money from different accounts to make sure there’s enough in the right account to take care of everything.

Not only that, but it turns out that staying home is a lot cheaper than going out, even if it’s not quite as exciting. (We might be the only parents who actually saved more money after we had a baby than before.)

But when I think about what having a baby has done for us, it’s hard not to see it as strengthening our relationship rather than tearing it apart. Maybe it’s just that whatever the chemistry is between my husband and I, it’s of the sort that we get into trouble when we are not focused on a shared goal. The worst years of our relationship have definitely been when we were just kind of going with the flow, not specifically living with a purpose; alternatively, the best years of our lives have been when we were focused on achieving something together. We do better as a couple when things are hard than when life is easy. I think it’s because neither of us can accept losing or giving up, so when there’s a challenge, we kind of let go of the petty stuff and get down to working as a team to, as they say, get ‘er done.

And if a baby isn’t a challenge, I don’t know what is. But because of that, I think our bundle of joy has brought us closer than I could have ever imagined. Post baby, I feel like we are so much more grateful of each other and more appreciative of all the skills and talents the other possesses and less focused on the shortcomings. It’s like our baby is a mirror, reflecting–and reminding us of–the good and amazing parts of each other that are sometimes so easy to overlook in the daily grind.

Maybe this all sounds a little too “perfect” to be believable. But I can assure you, like most every couple, we’ve experienced some seriously dark days over the course of our relationship. But these you-and-me-and-baby-makes-three days are not any of them.

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Buggin’ Out

My husband and I reached a parenting milestone this week. We were both taken down in a big way by some nasty bug or another that no doubt came from a crumb cruncher. It’s like a game of Clue to try and figure out which crumb cruncher.

Was it the wee one in the nursery with the teething toy? With everything that he touches, drops on the floor, and puts in his mouth, it wouldn’t surprise me if he picked something up that way despite all my efforts to sanitize. But he really never exhibited any symptoms more severe than the sniffles and a little cough.

Was it the nanny in the kitchen with the warmed bottle? Possibly. She has had a bit of a runny nose and a cough. And then there’s the question of the nanny’s two kids, ages 2 and 7. I know she had to go pick up her 7-year-old from school the other day because he threw up. But I saw him later that day and he seemed perfectly fine, so maybe it was that his breakfast didn’t agree with him, as his mom suspected.

Or was it a neighborhood parent in the living room with a brunch plate? I hadn’t considered this option until my husband pointed out that we had gone to a meet-and-greet brunch last weekend for a neighborhood new parents group. There were a bunch of kids there, although at the time I wasn’t looking at them as pint-size petri dishes.

While Patient Zero remains unknown, the end result is not. I started feeling bad Sunday night, so I decided to go to bed early. I went upstairs, pumped, and as I came back downstairs to put the bottles in the fridge, I had to take an emergency detour to the bathroom. I think the last time I threw up like that was Colgate Spring Party Weekend ’98 after my roommate and I tried to drink 3 bottles for $10 Andre champagne out of a two-story funnel. (True story.)

Monday morning was just painful. I had spent the whole night alternating between my face feeling like it was on fire and my teeth chattering and had a wicked headache. Fortunately, the nanny was on duty, so I pretty much handed the baby off to her like a baton in a relay race and holed myself up in my room with my computer for the day.

Just as I was starting to feel better by the late afternoon, I get a call from my husband. He wasn’t feeling well. By the time he got home, it had gone from bad to worse.

If I thought I was sick then he might as well have been on his death bed. His symptoms were like mine times 10. So bad, in fact, that he woke up this morning and said, “I dreamed I had a disease.”

“Really?” I said. “What disease?”

“TTS,” he said.

“What’s that?” I said.

“Toilet to sink,” he said.

We’re both on the mend, thankfully. But the experience was definitely eye opening. I had no idea baby germs could take down–and with such wrath and fury–two healthy adults. I always sort of thought that the parents who worried about their kids getting sick from daycare or church school or wherever else kids interact were a little on the paranoid side of things. Or, if they were getting sick all the time, a little more immune deficient or susceptible somehow. After all, in the decade plus that my husband and I have known each other, neither one of us has been remotely close to as ill as we’ve been in the past two days. But down we went. For the first time but certainly not the last, I’m sure.

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Baby Daddy Drama

Over the past week I’ve found myself watching a lot of crap TV. I guess that’s what happens when you combine a new mommy with hungry baby and cable television. You see all sorts of stuff at all hours of the day, from documentaries on Benjamin Franklin to reality series like Basketball Wives.

I’ve been particularly obsessed with this show on Vh1 called Dad Camp. The premise of the show is that six soon-to-be baby daddies (and their pregnant teen partners) go through an intense parenting course to learn to become respectable fathers. As part of the coursework, they not only get graded on how well they complete child care exercises (installing a car seat or comforting a crying baby, for example) but they also have to go through therapy with their baby mommas (and sometimes baby mommas’ mommas).

Part of the entertainment of the show is that these dads-to-be are complete disasters. Immature, irresponsible, angry, clueless, and most often jobless, it’s surprising that any of these miscreants would even show up to a show like this, where they are expected to submit to a behavioral overhaul. Point in case is the guy who calls his girlfriend that she’s a “stage five clinger” (bad). Or the guy who makes out with another girl the first night the couple is at Dad Camp (worse).

But for all the daddy drama on the show, the whole idea of dad camp is completely intriguing to me.

For as excited as my husband was about the idea of us having a crumb cruncher to call our own, there were times in my pregnancy where I had to wonder if my husband had any idea of what bringing up baby actually meant.

Part of the disconnect I trace to my husband’s personality. He’s a natural-born extrovert with a sharp wit, a combination that often makes it seem like he doesn’t take much seriously. The other part is that he has been wrapped up in some intense training for the past 14 months, which has kept him a little out of the loop in terms of the day-to-day stuff at home. And then there’s the fact that he’s an only child, so he hasn’t gotten much , if any, practice with babies. (Not that I really know what the hell I’m doing either.)

So, thinking that we (but really more him) needed a crash course in all things babies (I was the one reading the baby books, after all), I signed us up for the birthing class taught by Juliana Parker of Birth-n-Babies. Then on second thought, I also signed us up for her breastfeeding class.

But for as much as we felt like we got our money’s worth out of the classes, I still felt like sometimes he didn’t “get” it. He was definitely excited, but it was like he had no concrete idea of what life was going to be like when our wee one arrived. And it was freaking me out.

Here’s an example: We were invited to a wedding in Hawaii in December. My husband really wanted to go (so did I), especially since I’d never been there. Plus, we had airline vouchers that we could use to book the flight, which was a bonus. But I was stressing over what to do with the baby. We couldn’t drop him off with the grandparents, so what to do? Do we try to upgrade our seats to business class and keep the baby on our lap? Or do I just book a third seat in coach for the bambino?

These are the things that stress mommies like me out, but dad had nothing to say other than to roll his eyes when I told him how expensive flights to Hawaii were (it is Hawaii, after all, it wasn’t going to be cheap). And then he made the fatal mistake of saying, “Does the baby really need his own seat?” (The flight from D.C. to Honolulu is how long?) I won’t share with you my reaction to that.

There were a few other moments like that in the later part of my pregnancy where it was clear that he had no idea how life was going to change. And if I had known about a sleep-away daddy camp, I would’ve had him on the first bus.

Unsure if what I was seeing in my husband was an anomaly or not, I’ve asked a few friends if their husbands were similarly as infuriatingly clueless the first baby around. I’m sure that there are exceptions, but my conclusion is that it’s totally a guy thing.

I talked to a therapist friend of mine about this phenomenon. Her professional take on it was that while mommies-to-be and newbie mommies are so acutely aware of baby–baby is top of mind 24/7–for many newbie daddies, it continues to sort of be “all about them” for awhile even as mommies are doing the hard work of carrying the next generation. And when it’s not, they can sort of act out. They get frustrated, irritated, annoyed, pouty, and sulky about all the things that they suddenly can’t do (or, alternatively, all the things that they now have to do that they don’t want to do) now that baby is in full focus.

So, I asked my therapist friend how long this sort of alternate reality lasts. When do the daddy instincts kick in in full, putting them on the same page as mommies?

Month four. That was her professional opinion as to when men, in general, really start to bond with baby and grow fully into the daddy role. Why month four? She says it’s because by month four baby has started to really respond and interact. Baby smiles, giggles, recognizes the ‘rents, etc.–and dads really connect with that. Those outward expressions serve almost as mini validations of their role and importance in the life of the wee one.

Her theory makes a lot of sense to me, but I wish, as mommies, we didn’t have to wait so long sometimes. And even though I realize that this is part of a natural progression, I still wish there was a baby boot camp that normal first-time dads could go off to for some pre-baby training. I’m talking not only car seat installation and crib construction, but diapering, burping, swaddling, and round-the-clock feedings. If nothing more, it would hopefully give newbie dads a little perspective on everything moms have been stressing about for months while hardly any of it has been more than a fleeting thought in dads’ minds.

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