I think it’s official, I may have become a stay-at-home dad. If it’s not official, then at the least I’m in training.
My girlfriend went back to work at the convenience store ‘full time’ — which means she’s short of Official full time by four hours every week. Starting next week she’ll also be cleaning some woman’s house twice a week.
So every morning (except Monday and Tuesday), usually around 5am, I take over full time parenting responsibilities for our son. It’s only for seven hours, then it’s back to sharing the diaper changes, but it’s the closest thing I’ve had to a responsible schedule in… I guess, years.
And there is an actual schedule. He sleeps until 7.30 or, if I’m lucky, 8am. Then he starts moving around in his crib, just enough to wake me up. After twenty minutes he’ll start to cry because his diaper is full and he’s hungry.
It’s not a loud or piercing cry, just enough to let anyone close by know there’s something wrong. He always stops, and lets loose with a giant smile when he sees my giant head looming over the side of the crib. We talk a little, and I make some funny noises.
Then I leave to turn the computer on, so we can have some music. This is when he starts to cry a little louder. As the computer warms up I’ll turn on the kettle, and get his milk ready. Then set out all the tools for a diaper change — clean clothes, diaper, wipes, plastic blanket, a bag for the dirty diaper.
This is when I start up his playlist. Mostly, for the morning diaper change, we listen to Frank Sinatra. But Daniel Lanois, Muddy Waters, and ‘Godspeed You Black Emperor!’ — kind of a Canadian Pink Floyd — are in there as well.
I check in on him every couple of minutes while all of this is happening — he stops crying and gives me a huge grin every time.
I do the actual changing while his bottle is warming up. My Zen master girlfriend can do it in seconds, but it generally takes me ten minutes to get the old diaper off, clean his bum, get the new diaper on and change his clothes.
We talk through the process. He never stops smiling, I don’t know if he’s laughing at the noises I make, or at me, but one thing’s for sure… he loves watching the ceiling fan.
I have to make a video of him reacting to the fan. If he sees me reaching for the light switch in my bedroom, his head turns to look at the ceiling fan.
We were all at the local grocery store on… Tuesday, and they have fans everywhere in there. I don’t know what it is about them, but whenever he sees one he has to stare at it. So the whole time we were there, and he was in the cart, he kept looking up.
Anyway. So this whole new schedule thing has made it very hard for me to write anything. I still make notes in my little book, but have had no time to work on them.
Just writing this is eating into my sleep time. Right now my schedule works like this:
…bedtime between 11pm and 2am;
…wake up at 5.30am when my girlfriend brings our son to my apartment;
…try to get back to sleep until 8am;
…wake up and change my son;
…if everything goes well he falls to sleep until 10am;
…play with him (feed / change him) from 10am until my girlfriend gets home, so 1pm-ish;
…nap, hopefully until 3pm;
…shower, then the three of us walk to the bus stop to get her oldest son;
…play with her older son for a little while;
…eat, maybe, then nap from 6pm until 7pm-ish;
…after the kids go to bed I go down to my girlfriend’s apartment around 9pm, usually for an hour, this is basically the only time during the day we can be alone;
…after she goes to sleep I watch television in my apartment from 10pm until midnight;
…then I usually stare at my neglected blogs for an hour before I go to bed.
So, I’m not sure this is sustainable as a long term plan. I’m constantly tired… we both are, but she’s still in charge of laundry and her oldest son, so she’s got it worse than I do.
But I’m the one with the raging case of the bipolars, and I need the regular sleep to keep that under control.
I may have to move in with her just so I can get an extra twenty minutes of sleep every day.
Maybe I should buy a copy of Mr. Mom.
Bit different from loving and having children, but I stay home for my old siamese, when I go away, which I need to do, I cut trips short so time without her is minimal. Being siamese, and getting on, she needs her face cleaned daily, eyes, ears, nose and mouth, as her breed has some disability with self facial cleaning. If left too long, it gets septic and she can get sick. I love her dearly, I love all of them, Laxmi half her age and the two tortoises, but Lilly needs me here. She makes mistakes on the floor beside the litter tray and looks worried like I’m going to scream at her, but I just think its a part of me having to learn tolerance, and her shit is as good as her, and at her age, she loses control, so I just pat her, cuddle her, kiss her and love her. Unconditional love, that is what she gives me, so I have to learn to give it to her. When I say while away, I have to go home early because of Lilly, people think I’m talking about my wife. She is my wife. Sleeps right beside me, talks to me. I know I will miss her when she goes, but for now, I just learn to keep her by my side and make her happy, and know what it is to be loved. I also share that love with her younger soul mate, Laxmi, but I think Laxmi realises Lilly is old at 22. That is old for a cat and she is still going strong.
that is also part of my recovery. From being raped as a child, beaten up for being a gay man, being misunderstood often by people and three trips to mental institutions. These animals give me more than a lot of people ever will.
It’s funny. My son used to love ceiling fans when he was a baby. He was mesmerized by them. I have not thought about that in years.
It’s strange to think that I wasn’t diagnosed with having BP II until my son was about eight and I was a single mom. I know that my life and my son’s life would have been far different had I been diagnosed earlier, but at the same time, I made it. Sometimes it was my son that kept me doing a “Major Tom” trick. He kept me grounded even when I didn’t want to be if that makes sense. And he still does, 22 years later. Some days I really miss him as a baby, but at the same time, I can finally get some decent sleep. Get as much rest as you can and know that you’re really doing a lovely job. Your post made me smile with empathy and my heart melt with that beautiful picture. Thank you, Gabriel.
Thanks for sharing this. I’m 5 months pregnant right now, and my husband has bipolar. I’ve been worried about how the baby is going to affect his sleep and recovery, so it’s good to know that you’re handling it well so far!
Hi Heather, welcome and thanks for commenting. Having a structure to work in is the most important thing. Sleep — which I’m going to do in about five minutes — is crucial to the recovery of someone with manic depression. I use 50mg of Seroquel to get me started, I do wake up during the night, usually twice, and it’s almost like I’m sleep walking, but when I wake up in the morning I generally feel fantastic.
Having a routine has helped me relax when it’s just my son and I hanging out together — just being able to create and stick to a routine is a new experience for me, and a definite sign my recovery has hit another level.
…I think a routine is more important than a schedule. For those of us recovering from manic depression a schedule can, and usually does, work against us. The longer we go without treatment the more likely we are to develop schedules that don’t fit those of others. Most of the time we have to fight to fit into other people’s schedules. But a routine is something we can teach ourselves to follow… if that makes sense. I’m a little goofed on lack of sleep myself at the moment.
Thanks again for the comment.
Being tired as a new parent is normal. Sounds like you’re doing a great job! You sound happy. Enjoy. It goes by quickly. 🙂
…agreed, you should come down for a visit before he leaves home for university.