The Things I’ve Been Meaning to Tell Him

Tayler and I were building up towers of stacking cups in the playroom when I heard him moving around upstairs.  I thought that he was surely just using the restroom and getting back in bed.  It was too early.  My husband, Matt, was on a night shift rotation at the time, and he didn’t crawl into bed till nearly 3:30 a.m.  I was downstairs silently giving him a tongue lashing, “You better not come down here yet.  It’s only 8:30! You need sleep, too! REST!”.  A few minutes later, there he was.  Groggy and half asleep, but with a small crooked smile on his face at the sight of our daughter squealing and running around at the sight of him.  She was why he came down.

“Baaaabe! Why are you up already?! You’re exhausted!”.

“I have to head in to work a little early today, and I didn’t want to miss out on that time with her.  I just want to be with my girls”.

Oh.  How could I possibly fight that?

For the rest of the day that image of a hard working, sleep deprived, “I just want to be around my daughter” father stayed with me.  It was one of those days the gratitude in my heart for this man, my husband, spilled over the brim.

Since that day I’ve thought a lot about how today’s dads don’t have nearly the amount of support us moms do.  Matt doesn’t have a rock solid community of other dads to go to for advice, a quick vent session, or a simple “I hear you – I’ve been there, too”.  No one asks the dad how its going balancing work and family life.  They don’t have the online resources, blogs to relate to, or check-in’s from friends and family simply asking how life as a dad is going for them.  They don’t get the level of encouragement us moms often do.  The kind words that reaffirm we’re doing a great job at this monumental task of parenting little humans. I spend much time and energy every day trying to build up other moms and reassure them they have someone in their corner, but I overlook all too often the man who I share my home with and raise my family with.

Yet here he was… still kicking ass in his role as father.

I recently read an article written by a dad that talked about his frustration with being complimented at how amazing of a father he was when he was doing the simplest of things with his children.  Taking them to the grocery store by himself, changing diapers without being told, or getting up in the middle of the night for feedings.  To him, those were his normal duties as dad… nothing above and beyond.  Nothing spectacular or particularly noteworthy. To be complimented at the highest level for doing those things seemed insulting, like it put down what should be expected of dads today.  While I think Matt could’ve easily been the author of that article and I fully understand and appreciate the author’s argument, I still feel our cut-above-the-rest dads deserve more praise for doing one hell of a job.  While we consciously make an effort in our marriage to continually voice and show our appreciation for things we do for our family, there’s a lot I’ve been meaning to tell Matt.

I’ve written about my mom, my mother-in-law, my daughter, my unborn son, and my Momtourage.  But I’ve yet to write about my sidekick, my baby daddy, my best bud, and my partner I’ve created this beautiful little life with.  Today is his 30th birthday, and I can think of no better time to tell him how wonderful he is in this role as dad, and how I will always continue to be his biggest cheerleader.

I remember how frustrated you used to get at times when I was exclusively breastfeeding. You understood and appreciated this gift we wanted to give our daughter, but you so desperately wanted to have a more active role.  You wanted to give her everything she could possibly need. Your desire to be so involved from the very beginning illustrated just the kind of father you would become. You have been a natural from the start. 

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I adore the fact that you are trying to create special times and memories for just you and Tayler to share.  You want her to look back one day, and have those special places, activities, and items that scream, “THIS is my dad”.  The Giving Tree will surely hold a special place in her heart. 

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I admire your effortless ability to know when and how to teach her new things.  Things that I myself, even after spending all day every day with her, don’t realize she’s ready for.  She is a nose blowing, tooth brushing, hair washing, stair descending, fork wielding maniac… because of you.  

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I respect how diligent you’ve become in problem solving when new stages and phases pop up.  You don’t always look to me for answers, you read and dig and find them on your own.  You use trial and error, come back to the drawing board, and try again when needed.  Many times you know when we need to change our approach and stay flexible, while I’m still comfortable and set in our current ways.  

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I revere your unwavering desire to always want to be around our daughter.  When you’re dog tired, you’re still present.  When she’s at grandma’s for a night, your heart aches.  And when given the choice to sleep upstairs quietly or nap on the couch with guaranteed interruptions… you choose the couch just so you can be near her.  Space and time away from her at times is healthy for everyone involved, but there is no calming that pang in your heart to be close to her.  

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I hold dear how much pride you take in being the one to provide for our daughter in all forms of the word. You work hard every single day to ensure she has everything she could possibly need.  After months of me nursing her to sleep, she had a hard transition allowing anyone else to rock her to sleep.  I will never forget the first night you were able to successfully put her down for the night without a fuss.  The emotion on your face when you left her room said more than any words ever could. 

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I find an all consuming joy in watching you play uninhibitedly with her.  You are on her level, as silly as can be, and absolutely shameless when it comes to making her laugh.  Her happiness and smile are the motors that keep your heart running.  

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I feel so grateful for your attitude on the kind of role a dad should have in the home.  Anything I do, you want to do, too.  The 1950’s are long gone, and so are those divisions of labor.  You have a hand in everything, which makes my life as wife and mom that much more enjoyable.  You are one diaper changing, bath giving, night time rocking, dinner slaying, carpet cleaning, and clothes washing son of a B.  You are the epitome of a MAN. 

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I am so appreciative for how conscious you are of making sure we stay a team.  You go out of your way to make sure we’re on the same page, working towards the same goals, and following through on our plans to get there.  Our children will only benefit from how hard you work at ensuring we are always presenting a united front.  Together.

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I feel so thankful for how you’ve always gone out of your way to build me up as a new mom.  You brush off my shoulders when I make mistakes and offer both hands to pick me back up.  You praise me and vocalize how wonderful of a job you think I’m doing.  You’ve got a keen sense for knowing when I really need to hear it.  You support, support, support, and step up when you know I need a break.  You take such incredible care of me, which allows me to take the utmost care for our daughter.  Tayler thanks you for that.  

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I’ve had the pleasure of watching you grow from boy, to man, to husband, to dad over our 12+ years together.  And soon, our little family of three will become a family of four.  I can think of no better husband to share this journey with, and no better father to grow our family with. While I may not say it quite as much as I should, please know that I think the world and the moon and stars of you.  You’re not perfect, I’m not perfect, and despite those times she does really sweet shit, neither is our daughter.  Together, however, we make one incredible little team, with you at the center of it.  

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Happy birthday, love.

Your mother would be so proud of you.

Cheers to 30 more years.

We love you!

(And to answer the question a lot of you women are thinking: yes, he has a brother. But no, he’s not available. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helping Your Lady During Pregnancy & That First Year: This One’s For The Fellas!

Alright guys, I get it.  Your wife or girlfriend just gave you her phone so you could read this post.  Clearly, you’re hesitant and your knee jerk reaction is to hand the phone back, but you know better and pretend to feign interest.  You’re scared it will be an utter waste of time when really you just want to watch Pardon the Interruption… without interruption.  I get it, I promise.

Here’s the thing.  You’re most likely about to or are currently going through pregnancy or have just become a new father (or your lady probably wouldn’t be showing you this).  And because you care about her and her needs being met, you’ll power on and finish it.  You keep reading and I promise I’ll cut the crap, get to the point, and hopefully give you something worthwhile to take away from it.  (And let’s face it, you need a break from hearing about Donald Sterling).

A quick note about this list: it is a product of an open, honest, and candid conversation with my Momtourage and our collective experiences – not just my own.  While it is by no means comprehensive (I’d surely lose you), I picked some favorites.  And I can happily share that most of the items below are things our husbands did well – not things we wished they had done! We’ve got a bunch of keepers! 

PREGNANCY 

Take the time to learn your wife’s wishes for labor and delivery before baby gets here. While things almost never go exactly as planned once they get underway, know the in’s and out’s of how everything would ideally go for your wife.  What are her wishes on drugs, pacifiers, formula, breastfeeding, sending to the nursery, etc? If she is unable to be an advocate for herself due to exhaustion or several other reasons, you need to step up and be that advocate for her.  Giving birth is often one of the single most memorable experiences in a woman’s life – do whatever you can to help make sure its a positive one.

Don’t comment on how big she’s getting as her body grows.  Even if its meant with the best of intentions as your child is clearly thriving inside her, just… don’t.  (Unless you’re talking about her growing breasts.  If she was smaller chested before pregnancy, sometimes growing breasts is a fun perk of the process).

Get her food. Get it often.  Get it quickly.  Pregnancy does a lot of crazy things to her body.  One of which is needing food often.  Not like your 2:00 p.m. “I can’t wait for dinner” hungry.  It’s like a, “if I don’t get food right now, I’m either going to eat your face off or pass out where I stand”.  Neither or which are good for anybody.  Blood sugar can spike and drop quickly, so when she says she’s hungry, act fast and act now.

Be very open and communicate your needs and concerns about intimacy during pregnancy.  I can’t promise she’ll always meet those needs, as her libido can be on a roller coaster with high highs and low lows, but keep the conversation about it open.  If you have fears or concerns, share them honestly.  Don’t let potential misconceptions get in the way of what could be a continued thriving sexual relationship.  Whatever she feels though, respect it.  And always, ALWAYS tell her she’s beautiful.  All of the above goes for post-pregnancy as well.  It will evolve with a new set of challenges once baby arrives.

Actively take part in decisions leading up the birth.  Could your wife probably make them all on her own? Yep, probably.  But actively participating in the many decisions you’ll have to make together shows her you genuinely care about the process and that while she may be the one carrying your precious bundle, it is a joint effort and your pregnancy too.

ONCE BABY ARRIVES

When things get hard, don’t quit.  Just like your wife has learned what baby needs (mostly through trial and error), you need to have those trials and errors as well.  There might be many things that she could get done quicker than you, but it doesn’t mean you hand things off to her.  Could she get baby to sleep quicker? Probably. Do it anyway.  Could she change the diaper on a fussy baby quicker? Probably.  Do it anyway.  Could she prepare things to leave the house with baby more efficiently? Probably.  Learn what you’ll need anyway.  My point – your wife wasn’t born a pro.  She took the time to learn.  Things will get hard, but I promise everyone will benefit if you take the time (and frustration) to learn too.

Be a problem solver.  This one kind of piggy back’s off the previous one, but is equally important.  Moms are constantly reading books, articles, and asking others for help when problems or unknowns pop up.  Instead of always asking your wife what could be going on (because a lot of times she might not know either!), become a problem solver too.  Read up when things pop up, dad.

Make a conscious effort to take candid (or posed!) pictures of mom and baby.  I know I know, you don’t think like women do and you may not have that eye for an adorable photo opportunity, but try.  It makes me so sad when 10 years down the road a woman looks back and only has a handful of pictures with her kids because she was always the one behind the camera.  Your kids deserve to have pictures with their mother who loves them so ferociously – try your best to make it happen!

Once she feels ready to start getting back in shape (and she might not, which is ok too!), let her health take temporary priority.  Yes, you may have gained a few (or a lot) of pounds during her pregnancy too, but to be blunt, a lot of the changes her body went through weren’t in her control like yours were.  Sorry, dad! If it comes down to a night or two a week where its either you or her who gets a workout or run in – let her.  For many women their post-baby bod feels disconnected from their self-image.  Let them work at getting it back if they want – they deserve it! Not only that, but they most likely need that 45 minutes away for their mental health too!

As much as mom is head over heels in love with your new bundle, she needs time away.  Don’t always make her ask for it.  Offer to take baby out for a long walk on a nice day so she can shower peacefully and paint her nails.  Suggest once in awhile she meets up with a friend for dinner – she needs her girl time.  Or sometimes when you just see that her patience is running thin, something as small as asking her if she wants to go upstairs and read or take a nap for 30 minutes goes a long way.  Better yet, set up one day a week where you and baby go on an outing together.  Not only is it great for building that one on one bond with baby, but it’ll give her that time she needs and knows she can expect each week.

Don’t always make her ask.  Yes, this one gets a spot of its own. Despite common belief, women do not enjoy nagging and continuously asking you to do things.  We really, really don’t.  That fact, compounded with the mom mentality that we can do it all, is sometimes a dangerous recipe.  If she’s clearly running on fumes, offer to take the night shift.  If the dishes need to be done, just do them.  If she keeps swearing about how much of a pain in the ass it is to constantly clean her breast pump parts, do it for her when you can.  She doesn’t expect you to be a mind reader (I mean that’s just not fair), but to keep your home in happy harmony, try your best to be proactive.

Accept that you will be taking on more household responsibilities.  I could give suggestions, but this one is unique to each couple.  Whether its taking on more cooking in the kitchen, cleaning up more after she cooks in the kitchen, or taking over laundry – accept it and find a way to take a little bit off of her plate.

Last one, you made it! Are you sweating yet? 

Remember that mom is not the primary caregiver.  It isn’t just her child. You aren’t a babysitter that steps in occasionally.  You made this beautiful being together, and its your job to raise it together.  You, mom, and baby deserve that.  Be present of where baby is at in his or her day when you’re home. Learn the changing needs and upcoming milestones as baby grows.  Taking a night time feeding isn’t “doing her a favor”, its doing your job as a parent.  While you work hard all week and just want to relax all weekend, baby has needs around the clock every day, which you need to be a part of.  You got this, dad.

If you honestly got down here by reading it all, pat yourself on the back – you’re already a fantastic father.  There’s no perfect how-to guide on how to get through this transition into parenthood without speed bumps.  You’ll have them.  Some couples get over them with ease, and some need constant, committed work at getting over them.  But dad, just so you know – we appreciate you and love you.  While you’re new to this, so are we.  Let’s just promise to work on this together, keep our communication lines open, and love each other as well as our beautiful baby fiercely.

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