Caring for an 18-month-old can be messy, difficult work. At this age, they have mastered the wobble-walk and are experimenting with their new-found independence. This means you badly need a routine packed with activities to keep them busy and engaged so you both survive the day. There’s a whole world of sights, sounds, colors and shapes they are ready and eager to learn from and soak up like little sponges.
Here’s a list of my tips on how to survive a typical day as a stay-at-home dad.
Tip # 1 Own Your “Dadness”
As the airlines have always taught us, your personal oxygen mask needs to be secure before assisting others with theirs. There are good reasons for this. If you’re passed out in a puddle on the floor, you’ll be of little help to anyone. I’m putting this tip first based on that same logic. After a year-and-half on the job, you’ve got some solid work experience under your belt. Walk, ride and stride with your mini me like you know what you’re doing. By now, you do. Ok, maybe not completely, but a little confidence goes a long way. Pair that attitude of confidence along with your new found routine and the days seem more effortless. “Don’t hold back, you got this.”
Tip # 2 Breathe, Stay Calm & Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
I’ve come across some stay-at-home dads and even moms who get frazzled over the slightest thing. I mean don’t get me wrong, child-rearing is serious work, but if you feel like punishing yourself every time your kid misses nap time or won’t eat his avocado slices, then you need to keep reading so that you can learn to chill out more.
Tip # 3 Make Frequent Trips To Starbucks
This may not work for everyone, but my toddler and I enjoy going to Starbucks just about every other day. What I find appealing about this is that it gets us out of the house in the early morning and it’s a relatively calming activity for dad – yet also stimulating for toddler. I mean, just look at that expression of wonder over something as simple as a cup of water. You can’t help but feel excited with them in these moments. The simple things really do matter.
If you’re reading this as a stay-at-home dad, but maybe you’re not a fan of the coffee house in focus, my advice would be to pick something equally as appealing to you and go for it. Starbucks is my go to because there’s one really close to my house, it’s not chock-full of hipsters who tend to scowl at children in their midst, and I need caffeine to function. I bet you do too.
Perking (or propping) yourself up with some caffeine may not be the healthiest in the long run, but if you go that route like I do, it sure is a great way to stay alert so you can do your job and keep the little person alive for another day. Or better, raise him or her into a responsible bigger person one day.
Pilots and truck drivers are required to limit the number of consecutive hours behind the wheel and in the cockpit. This rule doesn’t exist in parenting, and taking care of kids can be just as dangerous as operating heavy machinery.
Tip # 4 Always Stick To The Schedule!
Do I need to say anything more here? Regardless of how hectic and literally insane life can be with an infant or toddler, you settle into some semblance of a routine if you value your well being. The thing about routines with children though, is they change. Constantly. What is routine for your 3-month-old, is no longer routine for your 9-month-old. But, you do find yourself and your child getting into a rhythm. For my 18-month-old it’s awake between 6 & 7, sometimes 5 or 5:30. Mama makes breakfast, but then she’s off to work.
Then we load up around 8 or 9 and hit Starbucks to see and be seen, drink our green tea for DAD and wa-wa (water) for son. Afterwards we might go to the grocery store where he likes to explore the aisles – which is more fun when there’s no crowds. Then, nap time happens midday at around 11 or so and baby sleeps for 2 sometimes 3 hours. When he wakes, it’s time for a quick healthy snack and then we play with toys, read books, pull the dog’s tails, maybe go to the park and “shwee” on the swings. Whatever we can think of for entertainment. And so on and so forth until it’s bedtime.
Tip # 5 Don’t Nap When Baby Naps
At 18-months old, you no longer have a baby who naps frequently and doesn’t sleep through the night (hopefully). If I had a nickel for every time I heard or read “be sure to nap when baby naps,” I’d be rich. Sure it’s tempting, and even sometimes maybe necessary, but mostly napping when baby naps – at this age – is just plain lazy. Parenting is hard and exhausting, but fortunately the green earth gives us caffeine.
This is your quiet time. How do you think I am writing this blog post right now? If you always napped when baby napped, it would be bad for your health and well-being and your overall mood. Ever tried napping in the middle of the day and then waking up and doing something? It sucks. And your kid needs all your attention when he’s awake so this is just setting yourself up for a bad situation. An occasional nap is OK, just don’t make a habit of it if you value your time.
Tip # 6 Never Leave Home Without The Entertainment (AKA The Magical Smart Phone)
The phone is my secret weapon. Before you start yelling at me for being a bad parent, I only reserve this tactic for the rare case where all other options have been exhausted. For instance, when we’re sitting in a restaurant and the kid’s getting restless, cranky and loud. The fine establishment crowded with people wanting to enjoy each other’s company (and the food on their plates) probably don’t want to hear my kid screaming or whining. I can tell from their red faces and disapproving glances. I have two options. Panic or count down from 10 while queuing up an “educational” YouTube video from my conveniently saved “Kids Playlist.” I don’t envy parents who raised small children pre-smartphones. This hack actually works like voodoo magic. Every time. Without fail. It also sometimes garners negative attention from disapproving patrons. Yea, like I care dude. My kid was screaming and now he’s not. What would you prefer?
Tip #7 Reap The Rewards.
Being a stay-at-home dad of an infant or toddler is the most rewarding job you will ever have. The sooner you open yourself up to the incredible rewards of parenting, the better. Although it’s probably the most challenging thing you’ll ever do, let’s face it, you’ve never loved anyone as crazy much as your little dude (or gal). And as sappy as it may sound, this love will transform you. Big time.