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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Changing Tables

Until you become a parent, you never really notice changing tables when you're in a public restroom. But the moment that status changes, those little fold-out hunks of plastic growing like tumors on the wall become welcome sights. Without them, you may be forced to precariously balance your child on the hard, cold, narrow, and often wet marble sink while navigating a dirty diaper, a clean diaper, wipes, and a diaper bag. Cloth diapers add to the mix as well, and if the child is poopy... well let's just say almost no one actually cleans the diaper properly. If the sink is too small, the bathroom floor is usually a very bad idea, leaving you to change your child in public!

Now, I am not saying that these changing tables are perfect. Far from it! I should invent a changing table that A) has a place to put/hang your diaper bag so it is off the disgusting (and often wet) bathroom floor, B) Has a place to put dirty diapers temporarily and sanitarily (even cloth ones, so a trash will not do) while you continue the unpleasant chore, and C) has a place to put the wipes and clean diapers. The tables are also often placed in unusual locations... one was placed right next to the automatic flushing urinal, causing it to evacuate its contents ever ten seconds. Another was in the way of the door to the wheelchair stall. But despite these shortcomings, just having a table is a blessing. I can manage the clean diaper, dirty diaper, wipes, wipe bag, diaper bag, wet bag, baby, and baby's clothing.

Here is where we often have a problem. Women's rooms, from what I can tell, usually have a changing table, if not always. Men's rooms, however, rarely do. There is something inherently wrong about going to the trouble of installing a changing table in the women's and neglecting to do so in the men's. It's not THAT much more money. Not only is there a growing number of stay-at-home dads out there, but there are also plenty of dads on outings with the baby, single dads, and dads who want to do their fair share of diaper changes.

Today I was at the Greenville Zoo with my infant daughter. It was just the two of us, and the zoo was mostly filled with moms and their kids. There were plenty of them and only one other dad with his daughter, but we were still there. In order for me to change my baby, I had to have an employee wait until the women's room was empty, then go in and check it, then stand guard while I used it to do the dirty deed. It was a bit undignified, and something that could and should have been easily avoided.

Who knows how long it will be before us fathers are seen as equals on the nurturing front.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Staying at Home

No one ever said that being a stay-at-home dad was glamorous. First of all, there is intense social pressure to "provide" for the family. This usually is taken to mean, "make the majority of the money for the family", even though in some situations, "providing" may mean eliminating the cost of a babysitter while providing quality time for and with your child(ren). It was actually surprising to me just how strong this desire is. I still struggle with knowing I may never get this second degree and may never join the "working world" the same as most men. I have a degree, I have a strong work ethic, and I want to earn my way.

Some of the ways in which this simple bias manifests can be surprising. Let's say that in 2 years I am in a position to look for work again. There I am, sitting down at an interview looking confident and sharp, with a great portfolio and great people skills. The first thing the interviewer asks me is what I have been doing for the past 3 years. After I tell them that I have been a stay-at-home dad, they suddenly lose interest in me. It is as if staying at home has not only emasculated me, but also made me forget how to do my job.

The second thing that makes being a stay-at-home dad difficult is support. This is a two-fold problem. The first is that I am literally taking up the role that women have traditionally taken up; thus I am at home doing chores and taking care of the baby while my wife goes to work and class. She comes home tired and hungry, and I want to make certain I have done enough for the day to pull my weight. I usually end up doing more chores and putting the baby to sleep, since my wife has to get up early the next day to go to school/gym. Sometimes this means that I am so tired after the baby goes to bed that I can hardly get any of my own stuff done (or, as is often the case, do the chores that are hard to do while she's awake). I unfairly feel like I am not getting enough time for myself, while Amy feels that she is not getting enough time with the baby.

The flip side to this is other people. There aren't very many stay-at-home dads (SAHDs), at least not in my area. Usually I end up in groups of stay-at-home moms. This makes me feel just a bit nervous, as if I am intruding on a distinctly female thing. I know in my mind that it is alright, but it still feels wrong. It is also hard because there aren't other SAHDs to talk with and share experiences with. Thankfully, I discovered some online communities that I am joining, athomedad.org and dadstayshome.com. We will see how these two resources help.

I am still trying to figure out how to get my baby to take naps in her crib, which will free up a lot of time for me. For the longest time, she would only nap on me (in such a manner that it was difficult or impossible to do anything else, including using the computer), twice a day, for about an hour to an hour and a half per nap. Without these, she would get cranky and cry all the time. With these, however, I am limited to using the Playstation for big portions of the day. If she can get an hour or even half an hour of sleep in her crib, I'll be able to write every day! There are other difficulties, problems, and situations that arise from being a SAHD, but those will have to be for a later post.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My how time flies...

No new posts since May, huh?

So I'm a terrible blogger. But we already knew that, didn't we? Still, I've decided to try to revive this little thing. It will at the very least force me to write something substantial once in a while.

Here is an update in my current situation:

- My daughter is now 9 months old. Her first word was "light," she has 2 bottom teeth (and more coming in, I suspect), and she just took her first step yesterday (but isn't exactly walking yet). Very exciting!

- I have found a group of friends with similar interests to me! Huzzah! We have a weekly get-together and hopefully can start a writing group.

- I am still teaching myself to play the guitar. No real change there.

- I am now an Assistant Scoutmaster at one of the local Boy Scout troops! It doesn't take too much time, so far, but I am looking forward to going on campouts and helping kids with merit badges. The new Chess merit badge looks interesting...

- My novel has been slow coming. Most of this is due to Adelaide, but there are many other factors that have been getting in the way (like not being able to sleep, traveling home for the holidays, that sort of thing). But I have started it back up and hope to get my writing back on track soon.

- My wife may be defending her PhD thesis much sooner (a year and a half) than we had anticipated. Because of this, I have decided to become the full-time stay-at-home dad. I am looking into UMD as a future alma mater, but may have to take some classes in order to get in. Who knows, we may be moving back to the DC area before I turn 32.

So, there we have it. You, world, have been updated. I will be bringing this blog back to life, but it will be combined with my daddy blog. Also, I may just start up How To Be a Thief again. Who knows?