Stay at home dad.
So, this is it. My time to take over the reins and become the main carer to my daughter is nearly upon me. My wife returns to full time teaching in a few days’ time after nine months of maternity leave.
I took the decision to resign from my job a few months back after we did some research into possible childcare options and discovered that a nursery place would, for our 8-month-old in central London, be more than our rent! This would leave us with only a little bit of my income every month and (perhaps more importantly) leave our daughter with strangers who I am sure would do a great job but wouldn’t be us.
My work was very nice about it. The headteacher at the school I worked in understood my decision and gave me a great sending off in my last assembly in front of the whole school, largely involving custard, flour and making me as messy as possible. The team I worked with went out for a nice meal and drinks. As an ending, it was a lovely one.
Now I am a dad. Not that I wasn’t one before but that’s my definition now. I am a stay at home dad. At the moment it’s something I find both amazing and terrifying. Three weeks since leaving work I have learnt a few things.
I need other people
Without other adults around at least, some of the days a week I would go a bit mad. I love my daughter very much but her conversation skills are somewhat lacking. So, I have been making an effort to get out and meet other parents. I have made a few mummy friends (so far, no other SAHDs - stay at home dads - around or at least I haven’t met them yet) and had a playdate with the promise of more.
Sometimes you can plan things sometimes they just happen
A few weeks back I downloaded the app Mush. It’s designed to help parents meet up and do stuff together. I say it’s for parents but at the moment it is very ‘mum’ focused. I have no issue with this per say; after all the majority of stay at home parents are still mums, but it would be nice to have some dad stuff on there. For example, setting up my bio I had to put ‘full-time mum’ as my job description as there wasn’t the option for ‘full-time dad’ or even ‘full-time parent’. Anyway, I digress, I have attended a couple of ‘mush-ups’ (meetings of parents organised on the app) and these have been nice, though the varying ages of the babies have meant that having activities the kids can all do is tricky. An 8-month-old just beginning to crawl is a very different creature to a 4-month-old. It is still lovely to meet other parents and have a chat and a coffee.
On the other side of things my wife and I also recently went to the baby cinema at Screen on the Green, The Everyman in Islington. (highly recommend this, lovely sofa seats, coffee and cake, buggy parking spaces) My daughter became frustrated and fidgety towards the end of the film so I walked her around and got talking to a mum with a kid about the same age as my daughter. Anyway, from this, we arranged a play date and will soon have our second.
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Random encounters like this seem to work really nicely though sometimes people can be rather standoffish. To that end, I have been trying to get out to more parenting things like stay and plays, soft plays and the like. What I have noticed about these is that they are, unsurprisingly, female dominated. This isn’t at all an issue for me, partly because I have spent a large proportion of my adult life in careers and training dominated by women (a degree in sociology, training as an early years teacher then teaching) and partly because I have always been dreadful at talking to other men about manly things, sport and cars and whatnot (though perhaps this is just in my imagination and no one else is that into this either).
Have a good pair of boots
I don’t know about the rest of you but my daughter is very particular about her naps. They last either an hour or half an hour, are two or three hours apart and only ever happen in her buggy. This last rule has been constant since she was very small. It has meant over the last 8 months I have had a lot of walks and from now on I will take 3 a day, 5 days a week (my wife can do some on weekends). This is a lot of walking. There isn’t much of Islington I am not already familiar with and my intimacy with these streets will only grow. One thing that has been invaluable in these walks has been my lovely pair of boots. Walking miles on end takes their toll on your feet and trainers were just hurting. (I do keep it stylish though, rocking a pair of oxblood 1914 Dr Martens). The boots also help immensely with the dreadful weather we have had. Come rain or shine or even blizzard my daughter needs her naps and the boots, and two pairs of socks, have kept my feet toasty warm and slip free.
The biggest thing I have noticed about babies since my daughter was born is that they change. Just as you get used to one thing they reach a milestone or do something new or start teething (now I must turn around three times and spit, even typing these words can summon this demon). My daughter has over the last couple of months been getting on with weaning in preparation for me taking over the job of day feeder and as I lack the essential parts to continue breastfeeding solids was the best way to go for us. This has caused a big change in the child. Not least in her nappy. Gone are the days of lovely soft yellow breast milk poos. Now what we have a solid just normal smelly person poos that still need changing. On a happier not now I am able to do the feeding. I make food and my daughter likes eating it. This is perhaps one of my favourite things, seeing my daughter enjoy my cooking, lunging in for more is just fantastic.
The other big change that has occurred in the last few days is crawling. This is at once brilliant and terrifying. It’s great to watch my daughter move around a room, access her toys with growing independence and the pleasure she gets from it is wonderful. What’s scary is what she considers her toys; any wires, keys, shoes, laces, fluff and anything else she really shouldn’t be having. Suddenly our baby can get at anything less than about 1.5 feet off the ground and with a surprising amount of speed. What is more, it being now my responsibility to keep her safe while her mother, who has kept her alive and well and thriving over the last 8 months, goes back to work!
My life has changed so immeasurably since having a baby. The change to being a SAHD is a pretty massive one and I don’t think I have yet fully appreciated all this will mean but I am excited about the challenge.
Now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I will take no toilet breaks alone, nor drink a cup of tea whilst it is still warm. I shall change nappies, push buggies through snow, rain and sun, I shall seek no glory. I am a stay at home dad.
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