How to Prepare for a New Baby

changingtable***I have partnered with Similac for this piece.

I will never forget the day in late 2007 when I entered a Babies “R” Us for the very first time.

If you’re a first-time parent who has no clue about anything baby or parenting related, walking into that store to pick out things for your baby registry is absolutely terrifying and overwhelming. I saw products we couldn’t afford, didn’t know we needed, and didn’t even know existed. I stumbled around the store like a zombie, wide-eyed and confused holding that little electronic scanner but not knowing what to point it at.

As a result of being shell-shocked, we ended up with some things we really didn’t need. Also, years later when were having our second and had gathered a little more parental wisdom, we realized we didn’t get a bunch of things that would’ve been nice to have.

So what do you need and what can you leave in the store? Here’s a few thoughts on baby items that are either must-have or heck no.

*******************

You don’t need a wipe warmer. We put this on our registry the first time around because, well, I thought how nice it’d be if my buns were wiped with toasty warm paper, so why wouldn’t I extend that courtesy to my newborn son? But while it’s good in theory, in practice it’s terrible. Even before it broke, all it really did was dry the wipes out and render them borderline unusable during changes. Totally useless.

You do need a diaper disposal system. We didn’t do a diaper genie, but we did get the generic system that’s pictured above. I guess you could empty the trash every single day but honestly, it’s nice to just toss them in a bucket until it fills up and then take them out. The one we have doesn’t let the stench out and the refill bags are inexpensive, making this a must-have in our house.

You don’t need a changing table. My wife disagrees with me on this one, but this is my site so I win. I just didn’t understand needing to buy an entirely new piece of furniture in the changing table, when all it looked like to me was a small dresser with a frame on top for the changing pad. If you have an existing dresser, just get a pad and put it on top and use that for changing. Boom, you just saved hundreds of dollars and retained the same functionality.

You do need a rocker/glider. I didn’t want to spend the money on this with our oldest because I thought it was unnecessary, so we didn’t have a glider. Then, with our second, we were in a better place financially so we got one. And let me tell you — it’s fantastic! The chair we have is comfortable and Sam falls asleep almost as soon as I sit down with him and start rocking. Totally worth the money (if you can swing it).

You don’t need a standalone high chair. There was nothing wrong with our first standalone high chair, and it served as quite well. The only problem is it took up a lot of space and we were in a small condo. You might be asking how do you eat a meal at home without a high chair, which brings us to…

You do need a portable high chair. These things are glorious, and became popular by the time our second was born. Instead of being a big wooden high chair, these things are small seats that strap to existing chairs. That saves a ton of space and, as a bonus, you can also easily pack it up and take it with you to restaurants or on trips. Huge advantage.

You don’t need a video monitor. A lot of people will disagree with this one, but I’m sticking to it. With Will, we only had an audio monitor and it was fine. We learned his cries and knew when to go in and when not to. But with Sam, we got a video monitor and I drove myself crazy with it. I spent my nights watching him and making sure he was breathing, which can be tough to do with a grainy monitor in the dead of night. I fixated on the monitor and suffered even further sleep loss because of it.

You do need two strollers. One is the Cadillac Escalade sized stroller for when you need storage and you’re going to be out all day. The other is a smaller umbrella stroller for when the baby is a little older and you don’t need to store all of your belongings. For too long we relied on the huge one which was a pain to pack up and stow in the car. When we made the switch to the smaller stroller it was so much easier.

So that’s my short list. Did I miss any must-haves or must-avoids? Leave some suggestions in the comments.

***************************

ABB_SIM_BloggerBadge_250x151I was compensated by Similac for the “Sisterhood of Motherhood” campaign (#SisterhoodUnite), which aims to unite all parents in a judgment-free zone. But as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. I hope you enjoy this fantastic video Similac developed that shows we’re all #ParentsFirst when it comes to raising our kids. You can visit Similac’s website or go to its Facebook page to learn more.

Share Button

7 Horrible Parenting Moments No One Warns You About

horribleparentmoments

Parenting — especially in the age of social media — requires spending ample amounts of time wading through a superfluous amount of bullshit.

I’m not sure why it happens, but parents routinely lie to one another without hesitation. Perhaps it’s because we’ve all been force fed fairy tales of how happy babies should make us 100% of the time, and we feel guilty saying “truthfully, some of this really sucks.” But the fact of the matter is, some of it does suck. And in the very beginning, I’d argue MOST of it sucks.

I know you love your kids. I love my kids too. Kids really are fantastic, and in the end it’s all worth it. But it’s not all fun and much of it is really, really hard. Denizens of Facebook and Pinterest already see all the good moments (since that’s all most parents put out there) where babies fart rainbows and spit up sunshine, so here are a few distinct moments of terror most parents face but seldom discuss.

**************

7. The Moment You Realize It’s All on You
When my oldest was born in 2008, I was over the moon. First kid, tons of excitement, the novelty of the childbirth experience — the adrenaline from all of that combined was enough to get me through the craziness of the first week. But then the nurses were gone. The family members lining up to hold the baby so you could take a nap were nowhere to be found. I distinctly remember holding Will during a crying fit late at night and not being able to calm him down, as an insane thought crept into my head — I’m in charge of his life. I know it seems like something that should already be clear, but it’s not. It doesn’t happen in the delivery room. It happens at 3 am when you’re sleep deprived and the reality that life as you know it has forever changed because every decision you make now affects another human being and it’s your job not to screw him up and parenthood is FOREVER! Eventually this is a positive turning point, but in the moment it’s a tsunami of fear and anxiety.

6. The First Time You Use Google for Medical Research
Everyone talks about how scary it is the first time your kid gets sick. That’s a no-brainer. But something that is under-discussed is how terrifying it can be if you plug your baby’s medical maladies into Google and spend the next few hours getting sucked down the hypochondriac’s rabbit hole until you’re nearly catatonic because you’re convinced your kid’s slight rash is actually lamellar ichthyosis, and he’s going to start shedding his skin like a snake at any moment unless you get to the ER, stat! If you think your kid is sick, don’t trust the yahoos answering questions on Yahoo! because you’ll make yourself crazy. Talk to your trusted friends or better yet, just call the pediatrician. They’re used to first-time parents being unsure and scared, and they’ll guide you through it.

5. The First Explosive Public Poop
June, 2008. Boston Beer Works right across the street from Fenway Park. Father’s Day. That was the first time Will had, what I now refer to as, a “World Ender.” It’s wasn’t so much that he pooped, it was that he summoned all the poop that was, is, and ever will be and released it upon the world using some sort of infant physics I’ll never understand, which allows that much shit to come out of a space so tiny. The diaper never stood a chance, and the poop went everywhere. Every. Damn. Where. As new parents, we were unprepared for the possibility our son could suddenly become a shit demon, so we didn’t bring a second outfit. Suddenly we found ourselves in the middle of a crowded bar with a baby covered in shit, carseat carrier covered in shit, clothes covered in shit, and my hands covered in shit from picking him up. I honestly can’t describe the panic in my heart having never gone through that. I looked around frantically, not knowing where to go or what to do. Panic. Pure panic. If you find yourself in such a situation, let me give you the answer — throw everything away. Well, not the baby. Keep him. But the clothes? Toss ‘em. Don’t even give it a second thought. I don’t care that it’s the special outfit your Aunt Marjorie gave the baby. Fuck Aunt Marjorie right in her face if she doesn’t understand. It’s just not worth it. Trust me.

4. The Toxic Sippy Cup/Bottle
This is similar to the poop situation, but possibly more disgusting. You see, you’re going to go through tons of bottles and then sippy cups. Some of those will inevitably turn up missing. You’ll find it eventually, because your car or house will start to smell like a skunk died in a swamp filled with rotten Indian food. Now because you’re new parents and no doubt financially strapped, you might be thinking “Well, I’ll just suck it up and wash it because I don’t want to be wasteful.” Ignore that voice. That is the voice of inexperience that has never suffered through the unimaginably putrid ordeal of unleashing that hazardous material out into the world. Throw the cup away. Or bury it. Or better yet, find that little bastard Frodo and pay him to dispose of it in the fires of Mt. Doom. And never, ever talk of it again.

3. The First Time You Drop the Baby
Sometimes it’s a drop, but not always. You might be changing her on the bed or couch and she rolls off, and you SWEAR you only turned your head for a second when — THUD! You will feel fear the likes of which you never thought possible. This is a legitimately traumatic moment because not only is your baby hurt, she’s hurt because you weren’t being careful. I get it. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. Obviously if there’s bleeding or your baby isn’t responsive, go get help immediately. But nine times out of 10, these falls are nothing. I don’t know why, but babies are like rubber. That doesn’t mean you should experiment on them or anything, but their elastic bodies are far less fragile than you think, and tougher than you can imagine. Trust me, you’re going to beat yourself up and make yourself suffer more than your baby has because of the fall.

2. The Moment You Worry Your Marriage is in Danger
There often comes a time, usually a few months after having a kid, when you will look at your partner and freak the hell out because you suddenly realize you have a roommate where a loving spouse used to be. For us, it was complicated even further by MJ’s postpartum depression, and I will NEVER forget the tidal wave of emotion as I realized this was not what I wanted in a marriage and I had no clue whether or not it would change. Parenting is an all-encompassing endeavor and it’s extraordinarily easy to focus all of our energy on the new baby while failing to attend to our partners. No one is saying you’re going to live the fancy free lifestyle you had before kids, but you do need to focus on each other after a baby — although that’s easier said than done. Give the kid to a grandparent or relative. Pay for a babysitter. But for the sake of your relationship, make some time for each other and reconnect as two people who love each other, not just two people taking care of a baby.

1. The Fleeting Moment You Realize You Genuinely Hate Your Kid
Because parents only want to talk about the good times, I had no idea it was possible to hate your kid. When that baby has kept you up for weeks on end and refuses to stop crying and is having trouble latching and never seems satisfied no matter what you do and you’re a zombie who can barely function anymore, there comes a moment when all of that anger and frustration culminates into a single moment of pure disgust — and you hate him. It doesn’t last long, but in the moment it’s real. And it’s scary as hell to have those thoughts about someone you love so much. That’s when you tap out and go get your partner. If you’re a single parent, leave the kid in the crib for a few minutes while you walk away and calm yourself down. The baby will be fine for a bit in the crib, but not if you let that feeling consume you. And also, realize it’s pretty normal. Show me a parent who says they never felt that way about their kid, and I’ll show you a liar. Just be sure not to act on those feelings, and if they don’t go away find a counselor or doctor and get the help you need.

I know these aren’t all pleasant and this stuff is often difficult to talk about. But it’s also pretty important to discuss, because too many parents (especially new parents) think they’re the only ones who feel this way. But in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

So, did I miss any? Leave some other suggestions in the comments.

Share Button

Dads Clean Up Nicely These Days

swiffer3

OK, let’s get this out of the way first and foremost. Yes, the guy who went on record saying he prefers parents with slightly messy houses is writing a post about cleaning houses. And while I can already hear the “HYPOCRITE!” chants, that really isn’t the case. Despite being comfortable with a little mess and disorganization, there comes a tipping point at which the mess threatens to climb The Wall like a mass of Wildlings and enslave us all.

Or, in other words, cleaning up occasionally is necessary, as is making sure it’s never just one parent’s job to do so. That’s where Swiffer and its #SwifferDad campaign comes in.

Did you know, according to the Swiffer Cleaning Index, dads today are pitching in around the house more than twice as much as their own fathers did? And of the men surveyed, approximately half say they do the lion’s share of housework. Gone are the strict gender roles and the Mr. Mom mentality automatically assumed when men donned an apron or cleaned the floors. Modern masculinity is about being present and involved in all of the moments, not just the one where you slap a paycheck down on the table and send your wife grocery shopping.

To be perfectly frank with you all, MJ and I have a fairly traditional arrangement at home. I work full-time and have a half dozen or so freelancing gigs on the side, which amounts to nearly two full-time jobs. With my wife staying at home full-time, the vast majority of cooking and cleaning falls to her.

But that doesn’t mean working fathers like myself use that as an excuse.

I negotiated a flexible schedule at work so I could take my youngest to an Early Intervention play group once a week. I volunteer in my oldest son’s first-grade classroom every Friday. And at nights and on the weekend, I try to do a little cooking and cleaning. My wife works extraordinarily hard and now, 19 weeks pregnant, gets even more tired than usual. So if I can do the dishes, a load of laundry, or clean the floor, it makes her feel appreciated.

While I never cleaning interfere with the limited amount of time I have at home to be with the kids, it is important to get it done. So I get up early and do some chores while everyone is in bed before we start our day, which really frees us up to have worry-free fun.

Or, if my youngest decides he doesn’t want to sleep, I include him in the process. Because there really is no substitute for modeling involved fatherhood and giving him firsthand experience in the process.

swiffer2

The Swiffer Wet Jet is easy for me to use, and my 20-month-old can’t stop pressing the spray button and then mopping. Which is great for me, since I flat out HATED our old mop and bucket. That was a whole damn process, whereas the Wet Jet consists of putting a Power Pad on, cleaning, and then simply removing the pad afterward and throwing it away. Easy, clean, done.

My kids know I work at work, and then I work at home. They know their mom and I are a team, and they have their own chores because now they’re part of the team as well. That’s imperative as gender roles shift, more moms return to the workforce, and dads make their home lives a priority.

*I was compensated by Swiffer for this post, but all opinions are my own.

Share Button

Of Purkle Cats & Fleeting Childhood Moments

purklecat

“I see PURKLE CAT looking at me, dada!”

I must’ve read Eric Carle’s book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? about 10,000 times when Will was little. We both knew it by heart, and Will loved to name all the animals even before I turned the page. But of all the blue horses, yellow ducks, and black sheep in the book, nothing could top the purkle cat for Will.

As I’m sure you’ve figured out, it’s a purple cat. But for some reason, Will couldn’t pronounce purple for the longest time, so he said “purkle” instead.

At first it was cute. Hell, who doesn’t love the weird toddler language all our kids seem to speak? As kids learn the first few keys to language, there’s something to be said for being able to understand them and serve as a translator for relatives who have absolutely no idea what their babble means. Whether it’s “pasketti” (spaghetti) or any of these cute kid mispronunciations, it’s a part of the journey to which nearly all of us can relate.

But Will was my first and I was more interested in the destination back then.

After the first few “purkle” cats, I was done with the cuteness. I wanted Will’s words to be said clearly and correctly, and I must’ve said “No buddy, PUR-PULL. Can you say PUR-PULL??” enough times to bring both of us to tears. And there were tears. The purkle cat became a battle in the war of bedtime story aggression — a bone of contention instead of a point of shared interest.

Eventually he got it right, and I remember celebrating. I actually ran out to tell MJ he finally said purple while declaring parental victory and silently awarding myself Literary Father of the Year. But I was confused (and more than a little pissed) at her reaction, which was one of dismay.

“Awwwww, that’s too bad,” she said. “I kind of liked purkle.”

I found Brown Bear again while looking for some books for Sam. I smiled a bit as I thumbed through it, and then I came to the purple cat. But instead of reliving (what I thought at the time was) a victorious moment of reading comprehension, I cringed. I realized I missed purkle cat, and recalled him with fond memories instead of frustration. So I took it to Will to rekindle a little nostalgia.

“Hey pal, do you remember this book?” I said with a smile. “Specifically, do you remember this guy?”

Will looked quizzically at the page with his former feline friend, and gave me a disinterested shrug.

“Oh c’mon. I read this to you every night for 18 months. And you used to get so excited when I flipped to this page and you’d shout ‘PURKLE CAT!’ over and over.”

And then he looked at me and dropped the hammer.

“Purkle?” Will said with a disdainful look. “Why would I say purkle? That’s wrong. It’s a purple cat. Purkle sounds silly.”

He’s right, purkle was silly. But it was also kind of wonderful. I’ve said before I don’t lament my kids growing up, and that’s still true. However, I do regret the times I’ve pushed that progress unnecessarily, and failed to enjoy what’s right in front of my face. I regret prematurely sending the purkle cat into the litterbox of forgotten childhood whimsy.

Sam’s words come slower and later than his older brother’s. I’d be lying if I said that hasn’t been a source of concern and consternation. But you know what? The words will come. Some will come easily and accurately, and others will result in hilarious mispronunciation.

When the latter happens, I’ll greet Sam’s purkle cats with the wisdom of hindsight and the appreciation only experience brings. After all, he has his whole life to be right and only moments, it seems, to be young.

Share Button

Why I Prefer Parents With Messy Houses

mess

How many times have you gone over to someone’s house for a play date and before you’re even through the door you get “Please excuse the mess in here. It’s been a DISASTER but I’ve been so busy I haven’t had a chance to clean it?” 

As a father of two precocious boys, I nod knowingly and walk in to find — nothing! Not only is there no mess, the place is freaking immaculate. Floors you could eat off, carpet freshly vacuumed, no crumbs on the couch, and not a speck of dust to be found. The throw rugs are all perfectly aligned, there’s no dirty laundry draped on the banister or hanging from light fixtures, and — wait a second, did they — yup, someone has put all the DVDs in alphabetical order.  The family has three kids and a 90-pound Labrador, and yet this house would pass inspection from even the strictest drill sergeant our fine Armed Forces could produce.

It’s like a museum, and I’m immediately uncomfortable because I’m wondering if anyone has ever sat on that white, pristine couch. And since there are no scuff marks or fingerprints on the walls, I start questioning if this is one of those rooms that no one is allowed in unless company is over. Then I wonder why anyone would have a room no one can go in! But mostly I’m afraid I, along with my rambunctious clan, will ruin anything we come in contact with.

Truth be told, I prefer a little mess because it puts me at ease.

I’m not talking about hoarders or people living in their own filth, I just mean I tend to gravitate toward parents with domiciles that — you know — actually look like a family lives there. And it doesn’t mean I automatically dislike or distrust the Mr. and Mrs. Cleans of the world, it’s just…I don’t get it.

The big things I realized when I became a parent included 1) how much STUFF babies come with, and 2) how messy life gets. Even with one kid, the mess factor is incredible. Little kids pull stuff out of cabinets and off tables. They spill drinks you forgot to pick up, and smear food everywhere but their mouths. Even older kids come with problems like leaving their clothes everywhere and littering the floor with an ungodly amount of toys.

So when families have more than one kid, the mess increases exponentially. Throw in a cat or a dog, and fuhgeddaboutit.

Honestly, even a stay-at-home parent would have trouble keeping up with cleanliness on the immaculate scale. That level of squeaky clean can only be maintained by constant vigilance and an unimaginable force of will. It would have to entail either not letting your kids and dogs outside, or wiping them down each and every time they come into the house. It means you’re following them around with a Dustbuster (did I just date myself??) and tailing them to put everything back into place once they’ve blown through like a hurricane. I just can’t see any scenario in which the highest levels of cleanliness can be consistently maintained without sacrificing time to actually parent and enjoy what’s happening.

Which is why I prefer a messy parent.

Messy parents understand spills happen and a few stains are the price of doing business. They don’t follow their kids around with the vacuum, they chase them because they’re playing tag or pretending to be a superhero. They know muddy footprints in the kitchen are just evidence of fun times had out in the yard — at least they hope it’s just mud. And they’re OK with some pet hair on the couch because that’s where they cuddle with the dog after the kids go to bed.

Don’t get me wrong, I have my hang-ups. When Sam flings his food around it gets to me, because I have a weird thing about dirty hands. And I cringe a little when MJ paints with the boys in the kitchen, but then I get over it because I see how much fun they’re having. And I can only speak for myself, but the fun is fleeting so we’re going to enjoy it. Even if that means putting off some chores and letting the mess win for a while, it’s worth it.

I’m a proud messy parent, because I believe a home is meant to be lived in and enjoyed. After all, life is messy. And messy can be a whole lot of fun.

Share Button