Monday, April 4, 2016

Travels with Baby 3: What's the Worst that Could Happen?

This post isn't actually about our flight home, during which we endured Poopmageddon, which probably is the worst thing that could happen, but about the stress of traveling with a baby - what causes it and what I did about it.

I thought a lot about the stress of traveling.  A lot.  I didn't quite obsess about it, but close.  I was afraid.  I was afraid that The Baby would be loud and obnoxious.  This is what we all fear when we think about traveling with a baby, right?  Or any kids for that matter.  I don't think these feelings will magically go away when The Baby turns five or something.  So I thought about what would be happening if The Worst happened and our baby was the obnoxious one ruining the flights of dozens of people around us.  What would be happening?

It's not that I'm worried about the actual health and wellbeing of my child.  At worst, she may be obnoxious because her ears hurt, and that's pain and it's real and as a parent, I will never want my child to experience pain of any kind.  But it would pass, and she would be ok.  So I'm not stressing about doing harm to my baby.

Without question, we would be making those around us uncomfortable, and for that, I would feel bad.  We might get dirty looks from people.  A monumental asshat may even make some comment, maybe ask us to move elsewhere in the plane?  I mean, let's be real - unless your kid actually shits or vomits on a stranger, that's about as bad as it would get, right?  So I thought, "well that's not that bad."  And if it's not that bad, why am I so worried about it?

And it finally hit me: the stress is because I worry people will think I'm a bad parent.  I worry that too many people, those without kids or who were magically blessed with easy babies, don't understand that you cannot, CANNOT, make a baby sleep if s/he doesn't want to.  You can trot out every soothing technique ever devised, and none are guaranteed to work.  A screaming baby is one of those things over which you only have so much control.  So I worried that if my baby was upset, people would think it was my fault and that I was a bad parent.

Once I realized this, it got easier.  I know I'm a good parent.  Some days I'm only good enough, but a lot of days I'm a really good dad.  So I'd tell myself that and it made me feel a little better.  And you know what?  When Poopmageddon happened, we got far more understanding nods than dirty looks.  Stay tuned.

Friday, April 1, 2016

"A Good Father Would..."

Or, "a good husband would..." or, "a good dog owner would..."

Pausing my sure-to-be-award-winning series on traveling with baby because yesterday was Not A Good Day, which is not as bad as a Bad Day, but on that end of the spectrum.  The Baby has week, which is to say she went from being a really easy, predictable baby to being a little less easy.  Nap times are off, nap quality is off, and she's been eating a TON.  We assume she's gearing herself up to do something amazing.

Coincidental with that is The Wife is working one of her most demanding rotations.  Without a fair amount of effort on our part, it would be very easy for her to see The Baby for 10 minutes in the morning.  And that would be it.  10 minutes a day.  I know for some that's just reality (and if that's you, I feel for you; there is nothing easy about it), but with some effort, we can make lunch visits work, and with a lot of effort, she can sometimes make it home for bedtime.  This week, we tried getting The Baby up a little earlier so she could breastfeed.  Normally we are absolute, no-holds-barred, over-my-dead-body strict about never waking a sleeping baby, but with the scheduling demands this week and since The Baby usually sleeps fitfully at best starting at about 5:30am, we decided it was worth a try.

So yesterday we got The Baby up at 6:00.  She's usually good for an hour to an hour and a half before her first nap.  Yesterday, I pushed it to 7:45.  A good nap is an hour and a half to two hours.  A bad nap is 30 minutes.  First nap was a bad nap.  No biggie.  I'm proud to say I no longer live and die by the quality of any single nap on a given day.  We got up, ate, and as expected, she faded faster than normal and was looking for nap two way early.  On a normal day, nap two starts any time between 11:00 and noon.  Yesterday I put her down at 10:00 or so, confident that as tired as she was, this would be a good, long nap.

It wasn't.

Nap two was also a bad nap.  So now we're way ahead of schedule and while I'm not worried, I'm thinking about it.  We run some errands, walk the dog, and I'm hoping that she gets back on track with nap three.  Nap three is actually pretty good, but not good enough.  She wakes from nap three at 3:00pm, which puts me right in the proverbial pickle.  There's no way she'll make it to our desired bedtime of 6:00-6:30 without some kind of a cat nap, but she won't be tired until 4:30 or 5:00, which is a pretty late nap.  No matter.  Yesterday's motto was, "we do what we gotta do."  So I put her down for a fourth nap at 4:30 and got her back up from that at 5:15 or so, hoping that it would keep her happy until 6:30 which would increase the odds that The Wife could make it home in time to say goodnight.

Not happening.

By 5:45 it was clear bedtime was going to be 6:00 or I would be in danger of putting my head through a wall.  So mom doesn't get to say goodnight, which sucks and which makes me feel bad, The Baby is losing her shit, and when the baby loses her shit, it makes The Dog lose her shit, and when The Baby and The Dog lose their shit, it means I'm hanging on by a tiny little shred of sanity.

I lost it a little and yelled at the dog.  She's a sweet, spunky little rescue dog and she's sensitive, so her tail goes between her legs and she starts trying to crawl under the furniture.  I instantly hate myself for this.  There are dozens of potential ways of handling a stressful situation like this one, but losing your cool and yelling is probably among the worst.

I start slipping into my shame spiral.  A good father would've had his daughter in bed before she lost her shit.  A good husband wouldn't have watched TV while The Baby napped; he would've finally gotten around to cleaning the floors.  A good pet owner would not have yelled at the dog.  And so on.

I've talked with my therapist about these feelings, because they're there a lot.  Being a good husband, a good father, a good dog owner, and a good caretaker...  These responsibilities are not only my job right now; they are, according to my opinion, the most important responsibilities I've ever had.  Failure is not an option.  We may dig into this more deeply in a future post, but when I envisioned being the SAHD, I pictured being the perfect SAHD.  I would keep a spotless house.  The dog would get at least two walks a day.  The Baby would be happy, healthy, stimulated, and hitting every milestone.  There would be a hot meal ready when The Wife got home every night, or at least tasty leftovers.  When I write it out or say it, I hear how ridiculous it is.  It's just not realistic.  But I'm having a really hard time letting that ideal go.  I need to get comfortable with the idea that I don't need to be a perfect SAHD.  I need to be a good-enough SAHD, and for now, I am.