Months in advance, I knew it would come to this.
Me. Hannah. Quinn. Daddy, daughter and daughter. A guy and a couple of two-year-olds. Just the three of us for a long weekend, with no mommy in sight.
If you're a new dad, that might run a chill down your spine. I've heard from lots of fathers who recoil like a cobra at the thought of spending one-on-one time with their baby. Not because they don't love their kid. It's because they don't freaking understand their baby, and are pretty sure that they'll get arrested for child neglect or something because surely the cops will know this poor sap is screwing up his son longterm.
I just got through my long weekend — my wife took our 3-year-old son to California to see family — unscathed. I'd go so far as to say it went well.
That's not an accident.
Now, sure, I've had to do it many times at this point, either for a day or overnight. But this was the longest stretch my wife had been away from the girls. I had already served up karma by leaving her the weekend before to go speak at a (really fun and lively!) Blog Connect conference. But you and I both know nobody bats an eye at a mom being left alone with the kids. Ridiculous, but true.
It's still a bit unusual to see a dad out with his kids by himself.
I'm hoping you can be part of a movement to start to change that, but that will take time.
Why Some Dads Are Scared to Go Out With Their Baby
At this point, it's second nature for me to take the kids out by myself. Some of you moms have told me that your husband never takes the baby out. I'm going to take an educated guess here and say that has nothing to do with ability. It has a lot to do with being afraid of failing. Guys really, really hate looking bad at doing things and not knowing what we're doing. Nothing encapsulates that more than a dad out alone with a baby, as babies are insane and will sometimes smile while they throw up on you. Toddlers will cry and laugh at the same time, which is psychotic. So while many moms will just think "Whatever, I'll make this work, I'm not staying in the house!", some dads think "Yeah.... rather not."
I'm telling you to embrace the challenge. Send your wife out for the morning for "me" time and play with your baby and feed them breakfast. Have errands to do? Take your toddler with you to a buffer (quick food!) while your wife gets to go into stores a thousand times faster... she secretly wouldn't mind errands as much if she could get them done quickly. Then you get her food to go. You get to eat, spend time with your kid, and your wife gets some alone time. Wins for everyone. Because dude, you can handle a meal. Or a morning. Or getting the baby down for a nap and sending your wife out to get a manicure while you wait for the baby to wake up. Every time you do that, you're becoming more confident as a dad and also making it easier for you to get some alone time as well. Make sense?
"Sure, Andy," you may be thinking, "I can handle two hours, but you are talking about three-plus days alone! How the hell do I do that? What happens if I can't get my kid to stop crying? What if I forget the diaper bag? WHAT HAPPENS IF A TERRORIST ATTACKS OUR HOUSE?"
Take a breathe. You can do this, and honestly, with Mother's Day around the corner, the best possible gift you can give (other than Kate Spade sunglasses, I've been told) is giving mom some time off. She will love it.
Here's how to make a weekend alone with your infant possible:
- Stick to a schedule: With mom not around, you don't want any more change than is needed. If there's a strict nap time (and my God, please do strict nap times. Biggest mistake we made with our first kid!), stick to it. Bath every night? Better do that, too. It'll be tempting if your daughter is in a great mood to blow through lunch time or skip the bath if they are super mad, but you'll pay for it.
- Get support: I had work obligations during that weekend, so I still needed some babysitters. Even if you have nothing going on, it's still fine to get someone to watch your son for an hour or two one of those afternoons so you can run out and get some things done or decompress. The point isn't to do every single thing on your own. The point (along with quality time together) is making sure your infant is taken care of without having your wife involved.
- Leave on a high note: I took my daughters to MOD pizza, one of those trendy custom-pizza-to-go places, since they love pizza and I get them food quickly. Plus, it's usually kind of noisy, so if they got fussy no one would notice. They did great, eating more pizza than I did. As soon as I started sensing the tide was turning against me, we left. When you are on your own, it's not a good time time test your kid's limits. Do the activity, leave when they are still smiling.
- Maximize the bonding: It's easier to be more mentally checked out when you have two of you to watch your kid. You may find yourself staring at your phone for a bit, or half watching them, half watching the news. When it's just you, why not take advantage of it? Get down on the floor and play with them. Keep the TV off while you're reading a book. Get in the bath and splash around a bit with them. They aren't looking for mommy right now. They are focused on you. How cool is that? That's also the kind of thing that pays off later when they need consoling!
- Prepare, prepare, prepare: My wife is excellent at preparing. It's why we make a good team; she knows what to bring, what time we need to be there, and what clothes are where. I'm good at getting all the kids down to bed and coming up with creative solutions to problems. When she's out of town, though, I need to wear both hats. I'll confess - I hadn't thought ahead about how many diapers we had left before I left for work, and we just barely had enough to get through! It was a good reminder, and from that point on, I double-checked the diaper bag and other items so that I had everything I needed.
- Get out of the house: It's tempting to stay in when you're alone with your kid, especially a baby. I strongly suggest you fight that urge and get out. Go to a park with a stroller. Go to the grocery store with a baby carrier. It makes the time go by faster and helps limit frustrations that can mount when you're isolated and stuck in one place.
Having one-on-one time with your little kid is really fun ... and intense. But you can do it. Let me know how it goes!