Today is a fairly momentous day, at least as far as my little family is concerned. See, one year ago today was the first time I woke up, realized I didn’t have to go to work, and, more specifically, realized that I didn’t actually have to “go” to work for the foreseeable future. While February 28 was technically my last day of employment, it wasn’t until March 3 where things started to become a little more real for me, because I still kind of viewed that weekend as being just another weekend away from the office. Mind you, the week of March 3 was a quieter week, as we were finishing out Nugget’s daycare (a choice that turned out to be a really good one, because it allowed me to ease in), so as far as she knows, I wasn’t really just her dad until March 10, but still, today is one officially one full year that I’ve been doing this stay-at-home parenting thing.
Let me tell you, it doesn’t work for everybody, but this past year has been one of the most amazing in my life. Today’s post is going to try to encapsulate some of the things that I’ve learned while being the primary caregiver for Nugget from the time she turned 7-months old to today’s event of hitting the 19-month mark. Now, because this is me, some of the things I’ve learned won’t be helpful to anyone in any real, meaningful way. Some will be. And some will be completely forgotten until I reread this post hours (or days) later.
1. This decision was long overdue
Not necessarily doing the whole “having a baby” thing, although there are some amongst my circles that may think that, as well. No, what I mean is that I actually lost track of how many times I was told by people who hadn’t seen me in a while how good I looked. This isn’t an “omigosh you’ve lost so much weight” or “you’ve finally decided to dress like an adult” type of thing, either. It’s all around just how I’ve been carrying myself, and my general happiness. I was definitely struggling before, but the way that I have lit up over the last year because of being able to be home with Nugget all the time has definitely made my happier than I can remember being. Are there days where it’s hard? Sure, but the overall sum total is that I am ridiculously happy that the only boss I actually have to answer to is still figuring out how to properly say “dog”. And, since mental health carries through to the rest of your life, I would even go so far as to hazard a guess that I’m around the healthiest I’ve been in a long time. Yes, I’ve lost some weight, or at least redistributed it. But the biggest change is in my face, and behind my eyes. Now, when I’m happy, I’m legitimately, ridiculously happy, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
2. Rough days happen, but they’re still better than even my best days in an office
Let’s face it, folks. Some people are made to go into an office environment day after day, performing the tasks required of them. Some people are not. I definitely fall into that second group. Sure, I did my job, but I was never what you would call “fulfilled” by it. That all changed a year ago, when my primary job became taking care of Nugget. It hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows, but even the roughest days have an adorable little light at the end of the tunnel. My nerves might get frayed when she continually puts herself into danger, but seeing her sleeping still makes my heart swell.
3. The way kids pronounce new words is hilarious
I hit on this a while back, but I’m still laughing over the way that Nugget says “frog”. Thankfully, it’s the only word she’s got that is clearly her cursing, even if she doesn’t realize it. That said, I have to suppress a giggle just about every time she tries to pronounce “flamingo”.
4. Resistance starts early
Talk to parents, and ask them about the notion of “toddlering”. They might have a different word for it, but they all know what it is. Basically, it’s the moment that your toddler decides that whatever you want them to do is literally the worst thing in the world, and they will throw their bodies as rigid as possible, almost like they’ve been struck with a cattle prod. This may be accompanied by flailing limbs, or just vocal protestations, but it’s a common experience. As a parent, you just work your way around it. However, there is far more insidious resistance that can happen. For example, Nugget has recently become a big fan of Elmo. I, having been raised on Grover, think that Elmo is an evil creature, and shouldn’t get the rave attention he does. Of course, Nugget has a stuffed Grover, but her favorite cups have Elmo on them, and she will ask for them loudly, all while a small part of me dies inside.
5. Children’s programming is a total crap shoot
Yes, yes, I know that kids shouldn’t be watching too much television. Let’s be honest, though, she’s going to end up being around screens for her entire life, and it’s not like the TV is the babysitter (not even Frozen, and that movie induces a zombie-like state in Nugget). Because of this, I’ve gotten to experience a gamut of children’s programming. A lot of it is good. Some is like Thomas the Tank Engine, which is fairly bland but doesn’t seem terribly offensive. And then there’s some like Caillou. If you’ve never experienced that final one, consider yourself lucky.
6. Daddy’s chest makes a good bed
It was something that we used when Nugget was very little, and it comes in handy every once in a while even now. When she’s overly tired, but doesn’t want to go to sleep, I can usually get her to calm down by laying her on my chest, head against my heart. Part of this may be a false belief on my part, because I’m not looking forward to the day where she’s honestly too big to fall asleep on my chest, but it seems to work. Generally, the sound of my heartbeat will soothe whatever is bothering her, and she will at least relax, if not fall completely asleep, in only a few short hours (I stress short hours, because, seriously, the time is coming soon where she won’t tolerate that any longer).
7. Don’t understand what your child is asking for? They’ll ask again, louder and more emphatically.
I wish I was joking. Nugget has a couple of groupings of words that all sound the same coming out of her mouth, and yet all mean very different things. Given that she hasn’t really moved on to full sentences yet, we’re left to guess what she’s trying to drive at. If we guess wrong, she looks at us with disdain, and repeats herself with increased volume. This is only magnified if we DO know what she’s asking for, and proceed to tell her no. On the flip side, the sheer joy on Nugget’s face when she knows that we totally got what she was saying is something I wish I could share with everyone, but I’m greedy and will keep it for myself and others who get to see it in person.
8. I never get tired of hearing compliments for Nugget
Doesn’t matter what they are (at present). If someone sees her and calls her cute, or adorable, or smart, or strong, or tall, or whatever that’s positive, I will be overjoyed. As she gets older, I’ll try and steer people towards more compliments that are less about physical appearance, because that isn’t what makes a woman a woman, but right now? I’ll take all I can get. It’s kind of like I’m getting complimented myself, since half of Nugget’s genetic code came from me.
9. I’m incredibly lucky
Not only do I have an amazing daughter who gets more and more incredible with each passing day, but I get to be around for as much of this journey as possible. One of the luckiest things is that HawtWife is incredibly good at a fairly specialized field, one that yields a decent income. I was decent at an ever-broadening field, and doing it at a time and place where I was drastically underpaid. After all, when my position was finally posted, it was done at a substantially higher rate, because only a crazy (or desperate) person would have worked there for what the pay was before. The fact that we’re in a situation where only one of our incomes is needed makes us beyond lucky, and the fact that I’ve been the one who gets to benefit from all of this? That’s pretty damned cool.
10. Vacations are necessary, even if they are weird
The first week of my dademployment was honesty a vacation week for me. Nugget was finishing up her time in daycare, so I was pretty much left to my own devices for the majority of the week. This was the perfect way to ease into things, and allowed me to wrap my brain around what exactly I’d done. Aside from a few days here and there, I didn’t spend a lot of time away from Nugget. That all changed the week of Thanksgiving, when HawtWife took the two of them off to visit family, and I stayed home with the dog. At first, I honestly thought I was going to lose my mind, suddenly having nothing but unstructured time. Thing is? That time away was great for me to get centered again, and reconnect to parts of who I was that I had been pushing aside. It also meant that, when they returned from their trip, I was ridiculously overjoyed to see them. Yes, vacations WITH your family are good, but sometimes it pays to take a vacation FROM your family. Just not for too long. Otherwise you might forget what pants are.
And that’s a brief rundown of things I’ve learned over the last year. There’s so much more, and there always will be. As it is, though, I’m pretty amazed at how cool my life has turned out. I’ve spent the past year either doing things with Nugget, or doing things that I WANT to do, as opposed to things that I HAVE to do. It’s been liberating, and I can’t wait to see how this next year turns out. And hey, I didn’t even mention how good it is that Nugget’s cute, because she’s making it very difficult for us to find time to work on a sibling for her.