Thursday, March 19, 2015

The care and feeding of a new father in the first two weeks, AKA "monitoring in the margin"

Day 20 since Ivy was born. I hit my first wall yesterday, mood-wise.

I'm through the other side now though, writing about it at a cafe before picking Shaw up at school.

Laura is has her own challenges of course.

But this post is about me as a father supporting her.


The Wall 

Really? A wall you say? But aren't you off of work for a month, paid!

So this month paid off work, courtesy of the new parental leave policy at Marlboro College, is a wonder! But it's not what it might be with no kids, or older kids. It's not "off," either. To keep my emails from reaching freakishly high numbers, I still put in about a hour a day online at my job. And that hour is increasing as the weeks past.

Back to the wall. So this "wall" is of course a "first world problem." I became tapped out, needing the kind of space that isn't really in the physical universe I now inhabit. That space of unfettered-ness, of no silly questions asked me, of no folks around who have needs they can't take care of themselves.

At the same time, I'm in the margins now, emotionally and physically, in terms of our relationship.

I was warned of this condition by a friend when Shaw arrived.  He said most all the attention will be on the mom and baby, and for good reason. And that nobody preps dads for handling that. He said to prepare to be a third, or fourth, wheel for a while. That you wife will be in love with another being, and this time, my other child is also in a hard transition and also after what non-baby love bandwidth mom has left. He said he learned to the job, love the job, and deal with the marginalization. I helped me with Shaw to hear this and prepare!

I don't want pity, or caring, supportive looks, or problem solvers. It's a job I choose gladly, and sometimes it gets hard, and it should, it's a hard job!

Most if it is fatigue from being slightly keyed up with a baby in the house. This is reported to me from other father's as being normal. A very small baby is so vulnerable that it is common to be on guard all the time, thereby making sleep hard, even if you have time in a guest room with ear plugs. Which of course I can't wear because then I can't hear the thieves, crazies and zombies with enough time to protect the family!

So I got an hour at the gym courtesy of Bubbe, and a morning cafe writing stint after closing down Caleb's Breakfast Kitchen, and I'm back to work.

Tips for supporting me as a new father

  • Try and understand and relate to the my experience by asking questions, lots of questions, until you build your own understanding of it that is accurate. But don't try and fix it. There's nothing wrong, the challenges is in how to handle the challenge.
  • Encourage hydration, passionate work, and exercise - especially long walk/runs that help sleep.
  • Continue to support those breaks with a little time off where I can do what I wish, with whom I wish, unfettered.
  • Give me a hug now and then, but not in a pitying/sad/caring way, in a supportive/strong/teamwork way.
  • Help make sure not all our interactions are around stressfull baby support issues like instructing, reminding, hounding, list providing, scheduling, laundry, cooking, etc. Keep throwing in some positives!
  • Continue to find together the secret father tricks that make the baby quiet down (like going outside, or walking around the house) and hand off the baby when you can.