A Look Back on 6 Months of Fatherhood
In June of this year (2017) my wife Sarah and I welcomed our daughter Ava into the world. Sarah has a wonderful series of posts about her experiences (both the wonderful and the struggles) of life with a baby. As the year winds down and Ava hits 6 months I decided to take a quick detour from my usual personal finance post and talk about my experience as a father. When Ava was born I took one week off of work but have been back full time since. Sarah has been on maternity leave. The term “off on maternity” is really inaccurate because it makes it sound like a vacation – far from it! So I’d like to take you through a typical weekday. I’ll also share my thoughts on this new phase of our life and fatherhood in general.
A Typical Weekday
In the morning I get up typically around 6:30am. I jump on the computer and check the results of the hockey scores from the night before. I head downstairs and start a pot of boiling water. While we have started to introduce some solid foods, Ava’s diet is still primarily bottles of formula. When the water is cooled it gets divvied up into sterilized bottles for the day but Sarah takes care of that since the water isn’t cooled before I leave for work.
While the water is going I have my breakfast (smoothie or cereal) while watching whatever home renovation show happens to be on HGTV. I prep Ava’s first bottle of the day and head upstairs to jump in the shower. On most mornings by the time I’m done my shower Ava has woken up. I get dressed for work and enjoy a couple of minutes saying good morning to her and giving her snuggles. I pack my lunch and hit the road for work between 7:45 and 8:00.
Depending on the day I will typically get home from work around 5:30-6:00. Ava is usually up from her 2nd afternoon nap (if she takes one) at that point so I get a nice big smiley greeting when I come home. Sarah and I both cook so we make the call on who makes dinner based mostly on how Ava has been that day. If it has been a really hard parenting day, I’ll take over baby duty and Sarah will make dinner. If Ava is happily playing in her activity center I’ll take the lead on dinner.
When she can, Sarah will do any prep work before I get home (chopping veggies, etc). After dinner and clean up is time for Ava’s last meal of the day. This is often the only time I get to feed Ava on a weekday so I more often than not will take this shift.
SIDE NOTE: I strongly encourage the non-primary caregiver in a similar situation to take on the last feeding if possible. For the primary caregiver, take this time to do something for yourself. Do a workout, take a nice shower, read, space out on the internet for an hour – do something that is very difficult do during the day when you are alone with the baby.
After the last feeding comes a bit of activity time and then bed for baby. That usually leaves about an hour for me to chill out before bed, usually watching a TV show or some sports depending on the night. And that is the typical day of fatherhood for me.
While I have to say I am generally a happy person, there are 2 moments in my life when I have been filled with absolute joy. The first was our wedding day, and the second was the day I met Ava. Absolute joy is far better than just being happy. After a full day of active labour, Sarah’s doctor came the conclusion that a C-Section was the only option. This was very disappointing since we had both really wanted a natural birth if possible.
When Ava arrived, because of the surgery Ava and I had to leave the room so they could stitch Sarah up. This is when I had the wonderful gift of holding my daughter for the first time. I held her gently in my arms, sang to her and sat waiting for Sarah to join us. I may as well have been in an isolation chamber – there was nothing else that existed in the world looking at her face. My smile must have been from ear to ear.
The Emotional Balancing Act
Having Sarah at home with Ava presents me with several different feelings. The first is jealousy that she gets to spend so much time with Ava. The percentages say that she’ll probably hear her first word or see her first step while I’m at work. I am lucky that my work is close so I get home in time to spend some quality time with Ava. She is the best so I’m jealous that Sarah gets more time with her.
The second feeling is pride. Sarah is an amazing mother and we really lucked out on having an amazing baby. There are so many difficulties you can run into and we know we have lucked out on quite a few. Ava is only half of a year old though so our eyes are open that things can still go wrong. Like I said earlier, when people say “off on maternity” it really makes it sound like they aren’t working.
The truth is that it can be more difficult to be a stay at home parent than it is to work a traditional job. At work if I need to use the washroom, I can go – I don’t need to worry about having a screaming baby, a cat chewing on a baby toy, or interrupting a feeding. Of course there have been struggles, but I am fiercely proud of how amazing Sarah is taking care of our baby.
The third is sympathy. With a very well behaved baby, both Sarah and I involved, no huge financial strains and a supportive family there are times when being a parent is really difficult. One major thing that I have gotten out of being a parent is a new level of respect and sympathy for single parents, and parents to babies that require additional care. They say necessity is the mother of invention; it seems being a parent provides you with the strength to do what needs to be done I guess.
How Being a Father Has Changed Me
In many ways I’m the same guy I was before Ava joined our family. I like the same shows, I like the same foods, I love my wife and I work hard. The biggest change is that I’m more interested in taking care of myself. I recently got a new family doctor – I hadn’t had one in about 20 years. I think this is similar to that concept on an airplane where in the event of an emergency you give yourself oxygen first before your child because you need to be well enough to care for your child or you both end up in difficulty. Ava’s wellbeing is a higher priority than my own, however I need to take care of myself so that I can take care of her. This applies to both physical and mental health.
But You Said This WASN’T a Financial Post!!
Real quick – the other important part of my first 6 months of fatherhood is the importance of having a budget! Sarah wrote a post about how being debt free makes us better parents. Being a parent is very expensive, even if there aren’t any severe health problems. Clothes get grown out of at an alarming rate, diapers and formula are consistent. Many companies market their products to the emotional vulnerability of parents willing to spend anything to help their child develop well. Whether the baby is part of a plan or comes by surprise, having a solid budget can make the impossible possible. Couples might fight about money, they might fight about how to raise their kids – fighting about both at the same time can be overwhelming and might lead to fractures in the relationship. Whether you plan on having a child or not – having an established budget will relieve stress. If you do have a baby, it’ll be even more of a help!
Have you entered the wonderful world of fatherhood – if so how have you enjoyed the experience?