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Things seem to happen fast in my life, after long periods of
the status quo. For many years, I was single. Then, after one winter weekend at
the Jersey Shore, I got engaged to my now-wife Rachel while we were watching
the Food Network.
And for the longest time, Rachel and I were prospective
adoptive parents, filling out paperwork, taking pictures for our profile and
doing lots of waiting. Then, in the space of two weeks (some of which was spent
at that same shore spot), we were the parents of a tiny, 2.5 pound preemie in
So it figures that, after a decade as a freelance writer, I
now have a full-time job, and it all happened in the span of a week and a half.
It's enough to make your head spin.
What happened? Well, it's not rocket science: an editor at
a company where I had been doing contract work left. So I asked people I know there if they were looking for
help. A couple of phone interviews and e-mails later, I had the job. Just like that.
Last month at this time I was a stay-at-home
dad twice per week to our daughter Evy. I carted her to her grandmother's
house the other three days so I could work on my writing. Now I'm a guy who takes trains and subways and drops my
daughter off at daycare. I commute into New York from our home in New Jersey two days a week. The rest of the time I'm at home but pretty much working all day.
And, while I'm happy to have the job and have been enjoying
it so far, I actually miss being that stay-at-home dad. That's something
the childless version of me would have never imagined.
From the first time I saw that tiny peanut laying in her Isolette, I knew I wanted to take care of her.
I became a SAHD by default. Rachel's job wasn't just our
primary source of income and the source of our health insurance—it was part of
a career that she wanted to continue after becoming a mother. My freelance
writing business kept me home most of the time and, because I could make my own
schedule, I had a lot of flexibility. This included times when I had Evy all
When Rachel and I were in the waiting phase of our adoption
odyssey, we both knew that I was going to be the one to stay home with our child on the
days Evy's grandmother couldn't, and neither of us were all that comfortable with
that. For her part, Rachel wasn't happy giving up the primary caregiver job to
a person whom she had no idea how he'd handle things. And I was unsure about my
ability to not only be able to do the job but keep myself sane in the sea of
noisy toys and Elmo clips and crappy kids music that I thought I'd have to
endure while caring for our kid.
been the most nurturing type. When visiting friends who had babies, I'd
rarely hold them and, when I did, I tended to look like I was holding a ticking
bomb rather than a small human. When the kids got older, I tended to not
interact them much, seeing them as an impediment to having a fun conversations
with my friends about sports, politics or what's on TV.
The only kids I'd have any interaction with were my nieces
and nephew, whom I'd see when I'd go visit my brother's family. He and his wife
have five kids, bless his heart, all of whom are smart, funny and
well-behaved. But every time I visited, I'd leave exhausted with a ringing in
my ears after spending only a few hours with them. How was I going to handle
being with a kid all day long for weeks and months on end, knowing that I can't
just get in my car and go home?
Evy changed all that and not only because of the adage, "When it's your kid it's different." From the first time I saw that tiny peanut laying in her Isolette, I knew I wanted to take care of her. I even jumped in and changed her diaper the first day, despite having changed one diaper in my life and never on a baby that small. I had fallen in love with how strong and how much of a fighter she was, and I wanted to do everything I could to give her a great environment in which to grow up.
But during that last Thursday I took care of Evy all day, I felt so sad. Every time I saw her little face or felt her cling to me, I felt that I was going to lose everything we built together since we took her home from the hospital more than a year ago.
As most stay-at-home parents find out, taking care of
their kids is exhausting but rewarding as hell. It was a blast watching Evy
grow and learn, seeing her go from not even being able to flip herself over to
coming close to walking, to hear her sounds go from animal noises to "Da
Da" to "Daddy." We had fun at her Tuesday music class, and I
really enjoyed taking her to the library for storytime, where she interacted
with other kids and crawled around the children's section like she owned the
place. I loved cuddling her when she was tired and was fighting sleep.
Overall, I was proud of myself, that I became a dad that Evy
had fun being with and that I came up with ways to adapt to sticky (sometimes
literally) situations. When she drove me nuts crawling around the house and
pulling things off the shelves, we got in the car and went somewhere,
preferably somewhere where I could put her in a shopping cart so she could look
around and hold court. When she wouldn't eat her veggies, I combined them with
fun foods. I perfected my Grover and Elmo impressions and really loved watching
her smile and laugh as we read together.
There's a part of me that wanted to stay a SAHD, not only to
see how well I could do raising a 2- and 3-year-old, but to see Evy grow
and change from a prospective that's more than just a few hours per day and on
the weekends. But it was time for a change. We can use the income, and stepping into this job was an
opportunity I just couldn't pass up.
But during that last Thursday I took care of Evy all day, I
felt so sad. Every time I saw her little face or felt her cling to me, I felt
that I was going to lose everything we built together since we took her home
from the hospital more than a year ago. But life changes, and I'm confident Evy
will adapt to the new normal.
Still, I know that when Tuesday rolls around, I'm going to want to
be in that music class with her rather than on the train into Penn Station. And I'll be honest: that just sucks.