It’s been long since the last post of Daddy’s Got This and I’m more than excited to resume the blog series with a guest post from Ray, a dad blogger and stay-at-home parent living in US. Be advised, this post is extra sweet and it may or may have not moved me to tears at my work desk when I read it. Make sure to visit Ray’s webpage and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
If you are or know a stay-at-home father who’d like to star in my series, drop me a line. I love to hear the “dad’s side of the story”!
Motherhood is a beautiful thing. It is full of things like gushing congratulations and the squeals of joy for the expectant mother. There are flowers, a baby shower, and countless pregnancy freebees. Other moms share all of their stories about labor and how happy you will be. However, the problem with being a bloke is that no one really expects much from you. No one really expects for the dad to have an opinion on anything, let alone to have any feelings. No one expects the dad to spend 14 hour-days taking care of their child. Why? Because according to most television programs and advertisements, dads only babysit. Only after being begged to watch their child either because mom has to take a trip to the hair salon or she is overdue for a night out with the girls.
The reality is we do have feelings. We give a damn about what our kids play with or eat. Dads have opinions; and some dads actually choose to stay at home, spending day after day taking care of their little ones and producing an income.
I am one of those dads. The one who you see in story time or the park, having a blast playing with my child. I don’t put him on the swing and spend an hour staring at my smartphone just wishing I was at home watching sports. We engage in make-believe. I teach him new words and I make sure that he is socialized with other children. I am also one of those dads who has an opinion on not having my house full of cheap plastic toys that produce toxic off-gases, and one of those dads who definitely has feelings about how incredible fatherhood is. I know the pain of stereotypical roles and I have had my share of many parenting fears.
The scary side of becoming a dad.
Labor is the process of childbirth, beginning at the start of a contraction which can last for 30 mins or for 40+hours. As men, we want to solve or fix things. But that is not how childbirth works. We feel just as helpless as the scene in the movie where the mom stands downstairs, being held back by firefighters, while her little girl cries for her from the 4th story window, of a burning building. As a modern man. I spent hours watching the Mama Natural courses. I have been told to “massage her back”, “bring her ice”, “walk her around”. None of these helps when a 7 to 10-pound life-form is preparing the mothership for a departure. It is painful for the mom and mentally and emotionally painful for the dad to be helpless and not understand when this torture will end.
As far as the hospital goes, all I can saw is God bless the family who can safely deliver their newborn in a those warm-calm water births I see on YouTube. Having a water birth is something I knew I wanted for my child, approximately 15 years before I was even expecting. I am the type of parent to be who read all the benefits and watched documentaries on how beneficial and calming this would be for both the mom and the baby. In the United States, if the mother to be is 35 years or older, she is considered a high-risk pregnancy and there are countless concerns that are explained to you.
Needless to say, we decided on a hospital delivery. After spending approximately 22 hours tracking contractions and wondering when is the right time to go to the hospital, we finally decided it was time. Upon arriving at the emergency room; completing all of the forms and the pit crew of nurses finished buzzing around doing their jobs, we experience another 19 hours of labor. That is a total of 41 hours if you are keeping track. At this point, the doctor says, “I know you wanted to deliver naturally, but we feel it would be best if you have a cesarean”. Which in my case, meant more documents to sign and having to listen to the horrific possible complication that the anesthesiologist has to explain. This is where things get really scary and really sad. Recounting these memories as I type is making me tear-up, thinking about what happened more than 3 years ago.
Our first pregnancy
This is where this story has a backstory. Prior to Remy being born, we were pregnant and we had to rush to the emergency room due to extreme pain and a really high fever. This hospital visit resulting in getting to hear the heartbeat of our unborn child and then being told that the pregnancy was ectopic, which required a section of the fallopian tube to be removed. Apparently, it is common for ectopic pregnancies to rupture, so after spending 3-4 hours in a waiting room, we were rushed into surgery. Because there was a rupture, the bleeding needed to be stopped. The three saddest parts about this experience were:
- Hearing a doctor describe all of the possible complications that could happen and not knowing what the outcome will be, or how long the surgery will take.
- Having the opportunity to hear the heartbeat of your unborn child and then being told, “there is a chance you could still get pregnant in the future or you may want to look into other options”.
- Not having a understanding of what an ectopic pregnancy is or what was happening, until I had to stop one of the doctors and ask them to explain things to me as if I didn’t go to medical school.
I feel sorry for anyone who has to experience the kind of poor communication that we went through with this medical staff.
I have to say it has been more than four years and I still get teary-eyed just recalling the details of that night.
Welcoming the New Baby
Fast forward to the present.
Having my son placed in my arms was magical. I think most people take for granted the beauty of our ability to create life. It is truly mind-blowing to have a miniature version of yourself that you are responsible for protecting, feeding, and raising. There is not a sentence in the English language to describe how this feels. As exhausting as being a new parent can be, I feel that I spent my first month walking around in awe just thinking, “Wow, I have a baby”. I also enjoyed swaddling my little guy and going outside to enjoy some time in the sunshine. However, now that Remy was born all of the talk about becoming a stay-at-home now has to transition into reality.
Working Moms and At-Home Dad
Research and social observations show that children benefit from having a parent at home with them during their early developmental years. However, the decision of one parent to take a pause from work and their career while the other parent takes the role of a stay at home mom or dad is a major challenge in the lives of most. The reality is that this may not be a financial or emotional-realist option for some people. For some people and especially women, taking a pause or extended leave from a career can cause pain or setbacks in advancement. A recent study reports that US working women with children earn less than working women without children.
Because of this, on a global scale, more men are taking on the role of staying home with their kids. There are several reasons for this shift ranging from the wife making more money to the dad having more opportunity to work remotely or from home. In some cases, the dad may have more patience or more teaching aptitude to step into the role as a homeschooling parent. Regardless of the reason, more men are taking on the role of stay-at-home dad.
Being a stay-at-home dad comes with a lot of misunderstandings, discrimination from society and isolation for some. Some dads have reported hearing comments like: “How could you leave the career that you’ve been working on for so many years!”; “Are you sure you want to become a housewife?”; and many others. Other dads struggle with finding activities to do with their children during the day, while trying not to feel like an outcast in a room full of moms.
What it all comes down to is that some may feel that the mother is a better person for discipline or that the dad is better at making meals and/or teaching their children. When it comes to parenting, we all have different skills and abilities. So whoever gets the privilege of being the stay-at-home parent should just enjoy it! This is both the hardest and the best job I have ever had. It is also the most important job I will ever have and I see the results each time I see the smile on Remy’s face!
If only we could get books, movies, and commercials to feature positive images of stay-at-home dads, we may start to see a real change in gender equality and watch fathers around the world stepping into more active roles with their children. Happy parenting!
About the author
I’m Ray, a forty-something stay-at-home dad/ work-at-home dad, private chef and creator of DadsintheHouse.com and @Remys_Dad. Prior to embarking on my role as a new father, I spent countless hours researching how to be a new parent and what are the parenting struggles that stay-at-home moms and dads experience. After finding that most of the books were outdated and/or are only covering topics on breastfeeding or why men should make the wives happy by cleaning the house, I created DadsintheHouse.com to share positive parenting research, real stories from parents on how to handle the parenting struggles of family travel, eating real food and wellness.
Additionally, I am the Organizer of SacDadsGroup, a meetup group for active-dads who are looking to connect with other dads, find play opportunities for their children or spend time doing the “typical mom things” without feeling like an isolated dad.