On Paternity Leave, Screwing Up, and Turning Off
Into the Wilderness
My wife is a saint. I’ve said it before, but I mean it. She not only took care of Lucas for the first 12 weeks of his life (plus the 10 months he was literally GROWING INSIDE OF HER), but she did so while still taking care of me (let’s face it – I’m only so useful) and while going through probably one of the toughest times in her life. Camille – you’re amazing.
How amazing? Well, I got the chance to find out when I started my paternity leave…
Babies, for the most part do three things when they’re Luke’s age:
- Eat (a lot)
- Poop/pee (a good amount… but never when you want them to)
- Sleep (a ton, but with a hit or miss regularity)
Parents staying home with their kid:
- Eat (whenever they can)
- Poop/pee (with the door open to hear if the baby is making any myriad of noises which would cause you to finish your business and run out there)
- Sleep (not enough)
Work has always been something that’s been important to Camille and I was looking forward to having time with just me and Luke (12 weeks – thanks MSFT!), but I have to admit, even as I was leaving Redmond, I had a little bit of fear.
“What if he doesn’t like me as much as he likes Camille?”
“What if something happens to him while he’s my responsibility?”
“What if I erase all the good stuff he’s accomplished with Camille?”
With no good options for any other route, I headed off… into the wilderness, with a diaper bag, a monkey toy, and an Uppababy stroller.
Out of Office On, But Brain Not Off
I have only taken maybe a total of 4 weeks of vacation in my entire working life – which includes the time I took off when Luke was born and our honeymoon in 2012. So, when the idea of stepping out of day-to-day operations in my job on the Microsoft Global Advertising team became a reality as I closed my door to my office and scribbled “Ron is not here until 2/3/2017” on the glass, it felt weird as hell.
If you know me, you know I put a lot of who I am into my work – and vice versa. Advertising and marketing aren’t just something I do from 9-5 Monday through Friday, they’re part of me… I have a hard time turning them off.
Let’s just say, I had a hard time turning off “Work Ron” to be “Stay at Home Ron” at the onset – so much so that my boss said to start taking me off emails (though, I occasionally still get thrown on some and like to see what’s going on).
One day (I don’t know when), I turned my work calendar off and I now only go into my work email every Monday morning to look at things and make sure nothing is exploding or that I’m not getting locked out of my email/etc. because of some new security protocol.
These days, I still have meetings – but they’re one on ones with Luke where we talk about things like how good of a boy he is (pretty much a performance review), the colors (in English/Spanish/French – so next time I’m on a global call with our markets I can drop colors) on his new bouncy toy, and I have the occasional Skype/FaceTime meeting… with my parents to show them Luke.
Thank God for Netflix/Hulu/Xfinity OnDemand
Do you know how crappy daytime television is? I mean seriously.
When my leave first started, Luke was sleeping a ton during the day still, which meant I had large tracts of time where I was essentially trapped in the house with nothing (though Camille would enthusiastically yell “LAUNDRY” here I’m sure if given the chance) to do.
I re-watched all of How I Met Your Mother, every piece of content available On-Demand for Vice/Viceland, and all the available episodes for Happy Endings – in addition to numerous documentaries, etc.
Also, I’ve been doing a lot of reading (mostly on the internet) since I’ve been home. I’m really enjoying sites like Fatherly, and Life of Dad for stuff around parenting, etc. They’re filled with great info, but not in a “HERE IS WHAT YOU SHOULD DO, BECAUSE WE SAY SO” way.
I’ve had the same core group of friends pretty much since graduating from WSU in 2005 – made up of fraternity brothers and other good-natured young men (and women). We use WhatsApp to stay connected on a day-to-day basis because we’re all doing different things, living in different places, or off tripping around the globe – it’s a pretty textbook use case for the service in terms of a group messaging aspect.
#DadChat evolved from that core group (we have other spinoffs around passion points as well – West World for example) as a place where those of us with kids could talk about dad stuff and not bum out the single guys and those without kids in the other chat. It turned into a place where we can all ask questions, free from persecution (though, let’s face it – we’ve known each other for a decade, there is a generous amount of ribbing happening) and share frustrations (like getting shit on).
I think you’d find that, at least in Seattle, participation of dads in groups similar to PEPS, etc. is probably higher than most other areas, it wasn’t really an option that presented itself, but the digital version is working just fine.
If you stuck with this post for this long, it’s because you saw “Screwing Up” in the title and wanted to find out how big of an idiot I am. Well, have at it:
- On my first day home with Luke alone I went to change his diaper. I took his dirty one off, put his onesie back on, then took him out to the living room and sat him on my lap. Five minutes later, I was drenched in piss… because I’m an idiot and never put another diaper on him.
- I tried breast milk. It was not good.
- About a week ago I was talking on the phone with a landscape architect about some work we’re having done and I wasn’t paying attention as I was holding Luke… who knocked my phone off the chair arm and into a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. It still smells a bit malty.
- Inevitably, when I’m walking and holding Luke my dog jasper tries to kill us both by running around at my feet. I’ve started to pick him up and put him on the coach before I walk around anywhere with Luke.
- I’ve gone somewhere and forgot the diaper bag (which I’ve moved to a more Ron-ish Herschel backpack. You can find it here.) in the following ways:
- At home: at least 5x
- On top of the car: 2x (thanks neighbors for telling me!)
- Sitting on the side of the street: 2x
I think the lesson here is: none of us are perfect. Shit, I found a way to fall through the bleachers at Recreation Park when I was a baby… which might explain a few things.
I do have to say, these past 2 months hanging out with Luke have been amazing. I wouldn’t trade them for anything – even though I had major FOMO during our last holiday campaign.
At the end of the day, it’s been incredibly awesome to see the way he changes literally from day to day. The development of kids at this stage is so rapid it’s crazy.
I can’t remember who I was talking to the other day, but they asked if I was just exhausted and if having a baby was the hardest thing ever… I had to say no. It’s not that you don’t have some sleepless nights (you do) and it’s not that it’s the most-different and weird thing you will have done in your life (it is), but when you look at your son/daughter it makes every bit of anything that might be hard or exhausting worth it. You’d do it all over again.
Hey, let’s do it again, Camille 🙂
Does this make me a daddy blogger?