As you know, my wife and I are expecting our first baby. (Our fetus is about three months along now, and we still don’t know the sex.) Anyway, while there is much attention given to my wife’s condition, nobody really pauses to think about the stresses and anxiety new fathers are going through during this process. For instance, there was very little discussion on how to protect my safety during childbirth. Here’s a partial list of some of the other prospective fatherhood issues that I’m already coping with…
Changing Diapers: Generally, someone crapping their pants is funny to me. Of course, this is lessened somewhat when I’m responsible for cleaning it up. Right now, a very small portion of my life is devoted to cleaning up poo. I have a feeling that this activity will soon constitute the bulk of my day.
The Gender: I’m hoping for a boy. It’s nothing against girls… I’m just convinced I’ll be a more involved father with a son. Seriously, am I realistically going to participate in tea parties? Let’s be honest here, it’s doubtful.
And I’ll probably even avoid doing the activities we are supposed to enjoy together, like “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.” Simply put, I wouldn’t want to inflict that on my little girl. She’d probably lose all respect for her father, and seeing the daily routine in my cubicle wouldn’t inspire anyone to join the workforce anyway.
The Overpacking Quandary: Generally, the rule in our household is as follows: Everyone must pull their own weight. It doesn’t matter if you happen to be pregnant or happen to be an infant. You’ve got to step up and assume some responsibility around here. Normally, this is a good rule to live by. As a father, it’s my job to teach the family about accountability.
However, I already know that this policy won’t be adhered to. While my wife’s overpacking has been well documented on this site, I have a feeling the baby will be even worse. To compound the problem, when it comes to actually carrying one’s own gear, I’m pretty sure the baby will be the weakest link in our household.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Let’s say we’re going on a weekend trip, where we’re already bringing toys, a crib, clothes, diapers, and practically every other baby-related accessory in our possession. We’re only going to be gone for two days… and the car is already full. Do I also throw in the little swinging chair that will instantly put the baby to sleep? Or do I leave it behind and deal with a crying baby that won’t go to sleep all weekend?
So what do I do? Where do I draw the line? How much baby gear am I capable of hauling around with me? Ultimately, it will come down to this: Which option is the lesser hassle? I have a feeling I’ll be asking myself that question a lot as a new father.
Handling a Baby: I’m buying a camcorder, just so I can get used to handling something delicately.
Being Left Alone with the Baby: So far my wife hasn’t expressed an interest in allowing this to happen, but it could. As it stands now, I am utterly and completely dependent on my wife for my meals. And when she’s gone, my personal hygiene nosedives as well. Whenever my wife returns from a long business trip, she arrives home to find me looking like an emaciated Tom Hanks from the movie Castaway.
I really don’t want a similar fate for the baby. And simply to avoid the irony, we’re not going to name the baby “Wilson.”
Reducing My Casual Swearing: Notice the usage of the word “casual.” I’m not intending to make any reduction to my “justifiable” swearing.
Of course, there is some gray area here. The other day, my wife bought a bunch of groceries and crammed them in the fridge. In doing so, a bunch of condiments I use frequently were buried in the back, virtually inaccessible. Ready to make a sandwich, I opened the fridge, realized how much digging I was going to have to do, and I muttered a curse word. Most would consider this an example of “casual” swearing. However, depending on the amount of fridge digging involved, and relative level of hunger, one could make a case that it is “justifiable” swearing. I’ll let you make the call.
The point is this: I don’t want my kid to overhear a casual curse word and run around the living room repeating it ad nauseam simply for shock effect. Someday, I intend to teach my kid how to swear properly, once he is old enough to understand the context for which he is swearing. By my book, when a kid is old enough to understand the concept of someone driving 10 mph below the speed limit, he’s old enough to learn to swear. Needless to say, I’m already clearing mantle space for my Father of the Year trophy.
Baby-proofing the Stairs: Have you seen those little gates that parents install at the tops of staircases to prevent a baby from falling down a flight of stairs? I’m sure my wife will insist on putting one in our house. Sure, the kid might not fall down the stairs… but what about me?
I guarantee there will be a time when my hands will be full, or I’ll simply be too lazy or drunk to bother with unlatching the gate. Instead, I’ll choose to hop over it, invariably catching my foot on the top of the gate, and subsequently killing myself on a violent fall down a flight of stairs.
I’m going to suggest a happy medium here: Forget the gate. Just tether the baby to a heavy piece of furniture. Provide enough slack in the chain to allow him some mobility, but not enough that he can reach the stairs. Everyone wins here.
Baby-proofing the Rest of the House: If you’ve ever visited our home, you know that my wife and I tend to leave things like rat poison and firearms just lying around the living room. We’re going to have put some warning labels on these items.
Getting up in the Middle of the Night: Obviously, this is something I’m not fond of to begin with. And being awoken from a deep slumber to clean up poo makes it much worse. If a violent fall down a flight of stairs could also somehow be incorporated into this equation you’d pretty much have my definition of fatherhood hell.
Taking the Baby on an Airplane: Right now, my biggest fear in boarding a flight is that I’ll be seated next to a crying baby… In a few months, I’ll be doing this intentionally. The only bright side here is that I’ll be a part of the “special needs” group that gets to pre-board every flight ahead of regular passengers.
Of course, there’s a downside to this arrangement. Sure, you get to pre-board… along with some unaccompanied minors, a few senior citizens and maybe a guy on crutches. But is the pre-boarding convenience worth it when you are lumped in with the rest of that dream team? This is the company I’ll keep as a father… and it will probably eventually become my new social circle.
Unfortunately, it gets worse. Nobody seems to mind letting the “special needs” group take their leisurely time pre-boarding the plane. However, that same level of patience isn’t extended when the same group of dinosaurs takes a millennium to simply de-plane. And I’ll be a huge part of the problem. I’ll be the guy holding up the rest of the aisle while I juggle a screaming baby and fumble with all the strollers and diaper bags I’ll have stored in multiple overhead compartments. Everyone else on board will be glaring at me, making pronounced sighs or eyerolls while I bumble around the cabin. I can’t say this strongly enough: I am really looking forward to air travel with a baby.
Having to Come up with a Name: I thought there was anxiety involved with picking out my Gamertag for Xbox Live. Will I be able to find a name as timeless as McSex? The pressure is on.
The Breast Pump: Considering I’m willing to perform this service for free, it’s troubling that my wife wants to spend $300 on a device that will essentially render me obsolete.