Whoa. Home alone with this guy? We all have our first day. Everything will be alright.
This comes out of discussions with both full time and working Dad friends. It’s nothing new, but a good framework for those of you who are having any anxiety around one on one time.
Stage 1: You may physically hurt your baby.
This is the most obvious and lampooned of the Dad at home with baby worries. You won’t drop, sit on, or otherwise cause physical harm to your child. (Unless you are drunk—if so, seek help).
She will take a bottle. She will go to sleep. You can walk her around and all will be fine. If you feel worried take solace in how happy Mom (or Dad) will be when she (or he) gets back from some time away. The look on her face will make it all worthwhile.
- Write this out and hang it up:
If she is crying or fussy, check these items in this order. This is your job aid. In the heat of the moment you will forget one and wonder why she is crying.
- Go over the game plan for the day. In construction, workers have a “daily job briefing” where they go over the work for the day. Even if it is something they have done time and time again, they take time to get focused and go over the day to stay safe and on task.
- Don’t bother the other parent. Any little thing you say can be taken out of context, especially in text. If you are like me, you will be tempted to say something that you know will send an alarm with the hopes that they will come home (yes, guilty as charged). Don’t do this. Only text positive, happy messages and send a few corny photos.
Stage 2: Baby is bored. Her brain is shrinking while under your care.
The next big fear is that you are doing some sort of harm to her development. In the beginning this will be focused on milk consumption. You have goals to hit for the day. If you are off, then she didn’t get nourishment and her brain is in decay. Same thing with sleep. Don’t worry. You are doing great and mom will be home eventually.
As baby gets older you will worry about her getting bored. Should I be doing signs with her? Why is she walking in circles talking nonsense? Should I be singing songs? Puzzles? We need more toys. Then you find yourself dropping $50 on learning toys for her age at the fancy kids store, all to get back home and she doesn’t play with them.
- Play games. Read, play peekaboo, chase, march in circles, dance, hide and seek. This will get you through. After a year you can always use the classic game of “moving things from one cup to another.” It’s fun and good for her brain. Kick a ball. Push a box around the room.
Stage 3: I just want her to sleep so I can rest.
“I have this precious time with my kid, and all I want is some alone time!” Oh the horror, right? Not really. You need the rest from fun times as much as she does. It is demanding work. They say the caregiver should rest when baby does. This is the truest thing I know in existence. Don’t feel compelled to email, watch TV, or do stuff around the house. Recharge your batteries so when she wakes up you are fresh and focused. Your little one is probably thinking the same thing “I want to stay up and play with Dad.” But you know that sleep is for her own good. It’s mutual.
Regarding “working” from home: if you have to, you have to. But know that it doesn’t work. I have balanced some online work time and used her naps as a way to send an email or write a blog post. It is okay once in a while but if you regularly do it you will see that syndrome in a meeting or group conversation where no one is listening because they are thinking about what to say and trying to get in the discussion. If you have plans of working they will creep into your awake time with your child. The goal here is to be involved, right? Hang up and drive, so to speak.
- Get the wiggles out. Move around! Sleep is a goal. To get there your little one needs to get all those wiggles out, as we say on Tinkerbell Road. If you have her engaged full tilt boogie with body and mind during play time she has a better chance at taking that nap you have both earned.