I’m about to be a parent of a newborn…again.
Five years ago with Will, I was equal parts amazed and confused about becoming a dad. What stuff do I need? What can I expect during delivery? What can I expect when we get home from the hospital? What diapers should we use? When is a good time to start solids? I had a smorgasbord of questions but when I went to find answers, I ran into a common problem in the Internet Age — I Googled “advice for new parents” and was hit with vitriolic and hysterical advice from every “kid expert” in existence.
Not only was each piece of advice incredibly inflammatory, it was delivered by the author with such force and certainty. The only problem was each person seemed to have a contradictory take on things. So the result was a ton of different people shouting about different viewpoints and taking it VERY personally if the other experts chimed in and disagreed in the comments section.
For a clueless first-time parent who didn’t know his Huggies from his Pampers, it left me utterly confused and lamenting the fact that no one could provide common sense parenting advice without it ending in a clusterfuck or pissing match.
So now that I’m a “veteran” about to be a parent for the second time, I couldn’t help but think of past me and how lost I felt. So I decided it’s my responsibility — nay, my duty! — to write a balanced, nuanced, common sense article that gives out parenting tips without exaggeration or hyperbole. Just the facts, absent inflammatory opinions. Hope you enjoy.
1. Formula Will Poison Your Baby
Not only is breast best, it’s the only option. Because everyone knows failure to breastfeed means your baby is screwed for life. You need to think long term from Day 1, and giving your kid formula from the get-go is pretty much kissing college and a better life goodbye. Sure your nipples hurt, but what’s a little bit of soreness compared to feeding your baby Satan’s elixir? Seriously, no formula. Or the La Leche League will find your ass. And you don’t want to mess with those crazy bastards!
2. Disposable Diapers Means You’re Basically a Terrorist
If you really love your new baby that means you should love the environment too. And if you’re doing anything other than cloth diapers, you’re contributing to the downfall of mankind by destroying the planet. Sure it means way more laundry and doubling your already stressful and sizable parental workload, but nothing good is ever easy. Disposable diapers? C’mon now. If new mothers are going to spit in the face of Mother Earth, we’re all screwed.
3. If You Don’t Wear Your Baby, You’re a Bad Parent
We need to do EVERYTHING for our children. That means simply holding your new baby isn’t enough. Nope, you need to Baby Bjorn the bejesus out of that kid. That’s really the only way to form the necessary bond with your baby and give it the attention he/she richly deserves. Failure to literally wear your baby close to your heart is basically the equivalent of hanging the kid off a stripper pole, because that’s where this whole scenario is headed.
4. Co-Sleeping is the Only Way
Don’t let the scaremongers bully you into thinking you’re going to crush your child to death by sleeping in the same bed. The alternative is raising a child who feels isolated and unloved because you selfishly stuck him in another room. And besides, it’s a surefire way to keep some distance between you and your spouse, who has probably been pissing and moaning about getting the kid out of the bed so you can have sex again. You’re a parent now — ain’t no one got time for that!
5. No TV — Ever!
They don’t call it the idiot box for nothing. Sure it might be tempting to sit the infant carrier down next to you and catch up on Game of Thrones. Because hey — it’s an infant right? They can’t possibly comprehend Joffrey being a sociopath or the violence Stannis Baratheon’s troops endured during the Battle of the Blackwater. WRONG! Your baby might open its innocent eyes and be scarred for life by The Red Wedding. Even if the kid is asleep all that violence could filter through baby’s eyelids and embed itself in the kid’s subconscious. In fact, any TV exposure before the age of two automatically means you’re worthy of having CPS called on your ass.
6. Daycare is for Deadbeats
So you decided you wanted a baby, got pregnant, went through 9 months of waiting, and endured a painful delivery to finally get your bundle of joy. And now that you have your precious cargo, why on Earth would you ever think about shoving him/her off to be taken care of by strangers? It doesn’t matter if you need two incomes or if you just really love working — you’re a parent now dammit! The only way to really, truly love your kid is to take care of him/her yourself. Paying some stranger to look after your most beloved treasure is abhorrent, and you will be justifiably judged for it.
7. Don’t Ever Let Your Baby “Cry It Out”
We all know you don’t do this with infants, but even when they’re older you should never let them cry. I mean really, are you a monster?? The little person you love most in the world is crying and your solution is to let the wailing and suffering continue for a prolonged period of time? You sicko! Get in there and coddle/cuddle your kid every single time that bundle of joy makes even the slightest peep. And if your partner suggests anything different, verbally eviscerate that clown until he/she never works up the nerve to question your authority ever again.
8. Avoid All Immunizations
Let me ask you something. If someone came up to you and told you they were going to inject your precious baby with a live virus, how would you react? You’d clock the bastard, that’s what you’d do. And yet every single day in this country parents are willingly handing over their little babies to be stuck with needles containing strains of dangerous diseases, all in the name of supposed “prevention.” Yeah right. Doesn’t anyone listen to brilliant minds like Jenny McCarthy anymore? These vaccines cause autism and all kinds of other things. If you’re not going to listen to a former Playboy centerfold turned amateur scientist looking out for the best interests of your baby, then you’re a damn fool!
9. You MUST Buy the Most Expensive Items
Thinking about accepting that perfectly suitable but second-hand crib from your best friend? Do you have a relative who has a gently used stroller? Got a friend in a mommy group with a bunch of used newborn clothes? Well, tell them thanks but no thanks! You have a NEW baby, which means you need to buy all NEW things. Anything less means you don’t really love your child — at least not as much as the other parents who emptied their bank accounts at Babies R Us. After all, babies need the Cadillac Escalade of strollers that can go off-roading and climb mountains along with designer baby booties, because that shows people how good a parent you are. Everyone knows that. Now fork over your credit card.
So that’s it. Nine perfectly sane, reasonable guidelines for first-time parents. And by guidelines, of course, I mean absolute hard and fast rules you better follow or else you’re a shitty parent. You’ve been warned. I mean…helped.
I’m not a fisherman. Like, at all.
I know that’s dad blogger blasphemy because father-son fishing trips are a hallmark of daddydom, but I can’t help it. I haven’t been fishing since I was 10, and even then I only went because my friends wanted to go. I never had the patience to wait for a stupid fish to bite. And half the time I never even got to that point because — well, I didn’t like handling the worms. And I was never quite sure how to tie the right knot to secure the hook. And I may have cast more lines into the trees than the water.
So needless to say, “fishing with my son” was never high on my list of things to accomplish as a father.
Yet there I was at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning, standing side-by-side with my 5-year-old on the edge of a lake with Will’s Zebco fishing pole firmly in hand, preparing for the start of a fishing derby. The same fishing derby I entered 25 years ago with my dad standing next to me. And like him, I had only a basic idea of what the hell I was doing as I ineptly tied a hook on the end of the line and then secured a bobber. And that’s when I gave my impatient son a talk to temper his expectations.
“Will, you need to listen. When it comes to fishing, it’s really hard to catch fish. Sometimes you can spend a whole day out here and not catch anything. So if that happens, you can’t throw a fit OK? This is supposed to be fun and it’s not a competition. Well, actually it is a competition, but not for us. For us it’s fun. Let’s just enjoy our time OK?”
And with that, I cast the line and handed him the pole along with what would surely be agonizing frustration. For him and for me. Because even though I wouldn’t say it, fishing sucks and there are so many other things we could be doing instead.
Well, the little shit caught a fish less than 30 seconds later. His first fish ever — a smallmouth bass — on his very first try. And suddenly something happened.
Watching my excited boy jump in amazement when the bobber jerked underwater and then deliriously reel in his catch set off some kind of Mayberry, primordial fatherly instinct in me. And when I took the hook out of the fish’s mouth and let him hold it, I couldn’t help but soak in the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in his eyes. So I did the most stereotypical thing you can do in that Rockwellian moment — I put my arm around him and told him I was proud of him.
We caught four more fish on Saturday, but for as many as we got on our line it was the boy and I who were hooked. We went again on Sunday and caught two more, including a foot-long bass Will reeled in almost entirely by himself. And we’ll go again this weekend.
I still don’t know what I’m doing. My knots are all wrong and I couldn’t get the hook out of one fish’s mouth, so I just cut the line. I also lost two more hooks and bobbers by casting into the trees. We released all of the fish because Will said — and I quote — “Dada, I want to make sure all our fish don’t die because I don’t want to be mean to Mother Nature.”
But none of that matters.
In the end, my son and I now have another activity that’s ours. Another memory of the two of us, together, doing something fun and memorable. And creating positive memories that last a lifetime is really what’s at the heart of being a good dad.
I guess fishing isn’t so bad after all.
My 20s are a blur of important Boston sporting events and bars. Back then it was easy, because if a big game was on I either had tickets or was automatically meeting up with friends. The only unknowns were whether we could afford “good beer” (defined as anything greater than Busch) and where we’d host it. But wherever it was, there would be a guaranteed 20 guys showing up.
But now, as a husband and a father, it’s not that easy.
Almost all my friends are married with kids. Once upon a time all it took to get guys together for the Bruins, Celtics, Patriots, or Red Sox was a phone call and promises of alcohol 30 minutes before game time. Now? I tried setting up a party for the Bruins-Leafs game with a few days notice, and it was a nightmare. All my friends checked their Google calendars and told me about dance lessons, tee-ball games, kids birthday parties, etc. And the ones who were free expressed some hesitation about being granted freedom from parental responsibilities for a night to watch a hockey game.
It was clear I needed a new approach (and also the Bruins to pull off a miraculous come from behind win against the Leaf in Game 7 to allow this party to even happen).
Here’s what I did to ensure my parent friends could actually come over for the game.
- Invite Kids Too
It’s not ideal to watch a hockey game with tons of kids (and significant others who don’t care about hockey) around, but it’s necessary. It increases the odds of people coming, and it also ensures the non hockey-watching parent will look after the little one while you catch snippets of the game. Slightly sneaky, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
- Invite Family Members
This includes family. It jut so happens both sides of my family are huge sports fans, but having my parents there was great because they helped out with the kids, allowing me to watch the Bruins put the Rangers out of their misery.
- Convince Pregnant Wife It’s Really a Memorial Day Party
If you happen to have a wife who is 7 months pregnant, she won’t like the idea of having to help you throw a big party at your house just to watch hockey (which she doesn’t enjoy). But if you can plan it on the Saturday of a holiday weekend, you can convince her it’s a Memorial Day party, and — wow, what a coincidence — the Bruins are playing too. Imagine that.
- Make Sure Everyone is Well Fed
You can’t have an NHL playoff party (or ANY party for that matter) without good food. I went with burgers, dogs, brats, salad, pasta salad, fruit salad, shrimp, and lots of cookies and cupcakes. All the old reliables — just like understated Bruins superstar Patrice Bergeron.
- Have Plenty of Beer
Because we’re in Boston and it was the unofficial start of summer, we stocked up on Sam Adams Summer Ale. Smooth as a Torey Krug slapshot (and a nice step up from Busch).
- Remember Your Spouse
If your spouse doesn’t like hockey, you’ll need to keep her/him happy. This means having the foresight to invite other non hockey-loving people. In my case, we invited some of my friends who are in a similar condition as my wife. It was like the Pregnancy All Stars in our house as the Bruins cruised to a series-clinching win and my wife was able to chat with other pregnant women about…whatever pregnant women talk about during a hockey game.
And the party didn’t stop there — it continues to this day and now it involves you!
For those who don’t know, Enterprise Rent-a-Car is an official sponsor of the NHL. And just like Enterprise and the NHL provided me with a gift package to host my watch party as a thank you for writing this post (even though the views and opinions expressed here are my own), they want to do the same thing for you.
That means if you leave a comment on this entry telling me which NHL city you’d drive to if you could rent a car and why, I could choose you as a winner. That winner will receive the same prize pack which consists of: a Brookstone Prime Barbeque Kit, Coleman 16 qt. Wheeled Cooler, Mixed nuts to snack on, Coby Slim Wall Mountable Sound Bar with Bluetooth Technology, and a $100 e-giftcard to NHL.com where you can buy some great hockey gear.
Oh and one more thing — LET’S GO BRUINS!!
Pregnancy test. Ultrasounds. Decorating the nursery. Buying baby supplies. More ultrasounds. Feeling the baby move in MJ’s stomach.
I’ve done these things now. All the usual things that make the baby “feel real.” Except it doesn’t feel real yet for me. Not at all. Not even a little.
I know how odd that sounds. After all, we did IVF — which means I literally watched as doctors inserted a fully fertilized embryo into my wife, so none of this should be surprising. I know some of it is because of all the problems we’ve had in the past. This is our sixth pregnancy with only one so far resulting in a live birth. That’s a lot of dashed hopes, so I know in some way I’m just protecting myself because you can only get crushed like that so many times.
But it’s more than that.
I love Will so much it’s frightening. More than I’ve ever loved anyone or anything. And for five years MJ and I have devoted ourselves almost entirely to him. Everything we do and decide in life is done with him in mind. Will is our first child, and I have to imagine the love and care we give to our first children is the kind of all-encompassing love that consumes us entirely. Which begs the million dollar question:
How in holy hell am I going to love another human being like this?
I know I’m not the first parent to ask that question. I also know the answer I hear most is “You just do — and it’s automatic and easy.” I’m sure that’ll hold true and in a couple of months I’ll be able to give the same advice to parents having subsequent kids. But for right now, it boggles the mind. I mean, I know I’ll love this kid. But to feel about him/her like I do for Will? It doesn’t seem possible that my heart has that capacity.
So parents of multiple kids, tell me some stories and set my mind at ease. Or tell me the truth and prepare me for the imminent future. How did you feel when your second kid was born?
How many times have we heard that men need to do more at home?
I know I’ve heard it. A lot. Online parenting sites and message boards are filled with frustrated moms lamenting the fact that their husbands spend too much time at the office and not enough on household and childcare chores. If only they’d focus more on family, change some diapers, clean the house, and cook a few meals. Hell, if only they’d pick up their socks off the living room floor, right? Whatever the case, these guys need to do SOMETHING to take the burden off poor mom who is stuck at home with the kids all day, because Lord knows she needs the support.
Well, it turns out a new survey just released by Salary.com shows a potentially ugly flip side to that argument.
Salary.com (where I work as the content manager, for full disclosure) surveyed more than 2,100 people about work and shifting gender roles in April, and a couple of the questions were about stay-at-home parenting. The results of two questions in particular raised some eyebrows, dispelling some myths regarding the attitudes of men and women toward full-time parenting and gender roles in general.
The survey asked people “If it were financially feasible, would you give up your own career to be a stay-at-home parent?” The long-held belief is that women are natural born caregivers who are automatic nurturers, while men are predisposed providers who bring home the bacon and leave the child-rearing to the lady folk.
Yet when asked if they’d give up their careers to be a stay-at-home parent, just as many men as women answered in the affirmative.
Yup, that’s right. The survey showed 57% of both men AND women expressed a desire to give up their careers to stay at home full time. Some might argue that number is high because more men are out of work these days after the recent recession, but I disagree. A study called The New Dad from the Boston College Center for Work and Family showed men are placing an increased importance on work/life balance, and making a concerted effort to be more involved at home than their fathers were. That shift in attitude is probably why the number of stay-at-home dads has doubled in the past decade, according to U.S. Census statistics, and now sits at close to 200,000.
But as staggering as that number is, this next stat startled me even more.
When asked if they’d financially and emotionally support a spouse who expressed a desire to stay home and take care of the kids and house full time, 91% of men answered yes. That shouldn’t surprise too many people as the arrangement of a working dad and a stay-at-home mom has been the status quo forever and a day. But what about women? What about the moms who have been calling for men to pick up the slack on the home front? Surely they must be thrilled to hear that 91% of men seek to support a woman’s choice to stay at home AND just as many of them want to stay home with the kids as women. It’s a no-brainer they’d be just as supportive, right?
More than one-quarter of women surveyed (26%) said they fundamentally refuse to support a spouse’s decision to be a stay-at-home parent. So even though the men in this survey are just as open to sacrificing their careers as women, women are more than three times as likely not to support the same decision for men.
Why is this the case? I’m not sure, and the survey didn’t ask. But here’s what I do know:
Men are facing a similar battle attempting to make home life a priority as women did when leaving the home and entering the workforce. There’s no doubt women faced (and still face) obstacles and obstructions from a good old boys network who didn’t want to see things change in the workplace, and they made progress by being relentless and eventually gaining support from men and women already in positions of power who became allies to working women.
And just like that old boys network, I absolutely believe there are women who look at parenting and the home front as “their turf,” and don’t want to give up control. Any dad who has gone to the playground with his kid sans wife, or tried to join a real-life or online parenting community can attest to the sideways glances and disapproving stares from many of the mothers present. Sometimes it’s the very same women complaining about a lack of help who end up being opposed to the idea of stay-at-home dads. And that has to change if progress is to be made.
This survey tells me men have realized they need to make family a priority. But it also seems some women have a scorching case of “be careful what you wish for.”