The challenge of becoming a stay-at-home dad helped improve one man's marriage.
Up at 5am, 7am and then 9am. These sleep patterns, previously foreign to this 26-year-old father of 6- and 22-month-old babies, became my new routine when—out of work and daycare payments—I took the leap into the unknown: being a stay-at-home dad. The good news was that by 10am this former three-sport athlete could recite the previous nights' SportsCenter word for word.
These were not the old days of standing by the water cooler on Monday mornings giving the weekend recap to a bunch of married men who regarded me as their leader. Instead I started every week with just four eyes staring at me, and no idea what they wanted to hear. I stumbled around getting the oldest in her high chair for breakfast, making a bottle of formula and holding my son as he tried to rip off my ear, all while trying to watch the Cubs highlights (for the sixth time!).
One of the hardest adjustments to being a stay-at-home dad was figuring out a routine that let them be kids and still allowed me to feel like an adult. After a while, I began to think "I can do this with no problem!" Once I got breakfast out of the way it would be pretty smooth for the next couple of hours, so for the first time in my life I took the initiative to cook, clean, and even do the laundry (well, sometimes). I had become… domesticated! What would my friends say?
Come to think of it, what would my wife say? When our daughter was born, I had been ready to crawl into a hole: I was scared to change diapers, warm up a bottle or even hold her because I didn't want to break her. Now I was at home with our kids all day long. How was my wife supposed to concentrate at work if she was worrying about me changing poops? Moreover, how was I going to deal with those poops while holding my nose and turning my head? Luckily, I came up with a system for diaper changing, and we all survived.
One of the best aspects of staying at home with our "adult equalizers" was being able to talk to my wife when she got home from work. At first all I could say was "goo-goo gah-gah" (she didn’t know what that meant), but we got past that obstacle. Spending so much time with the kids helped us communicate because by the time she walked through the door I was starved for adult conversation.
Being isolated from my friends was the hardest part of becoming a stay-at-home dad. I felt like less of a man because I could only tell old stories or describe the latest episode of SpongeBob Squarepants. I became withdrawn because my buddies weren't doing the same things that I was doing, and I never really adjusted to that. Eventually I developed friendships with guys who were also fathers and could debate which Toy Story movie was better.
In the end, I overcame all my reservations about being a stay-at-home dad. There are always people in your shoes, even if your best friends no longer understand your daily responsibilities; the only people you have to worry about are the kids that you are working for (even though they don't pay well); and babies don't break when you hold them. Being a househusband put this ex-sports jock in his place and showed me what it truly means to be someone's hero. All you have to do is make your kids laugh and protect them, and you'll be their idol. Remember to light a bunch of candles so you'll glow in their eyes, and make sure they're scented because, to be honest, babies stink a lot of the time.