First, to clarify, dads don’t babysit! My wife recently went on her second out-of-town business trip and I was left all by lonesome with the 2.5-year old Eliza and the 6-month old Everly. For many families, this might not qualify as anything out of the ordinary; my wife and I, however, rarely ever travel for work (or otherwise) and there have only been a small handful of nights spent with just one parent outnumbered with the girls. While it always pains my wife to spend any time away from our girls, it’s an enjoyable challenge when daddy (me) gets locked up into temporary single parenting. As we’ll discuss, daddy running the house has its shares of pros and cons. First though, I have to say I find it bizarre when fathers are recognized for spending time alone with infants. It’s not called babysitting, it’s called parenting. I don’t need to be celebrated just because my wife had to leave for an evening or even a few days. Anyway, back to my adventure.
Nights with Daddy – The Good
No matter how compatible our parenting styles are, things are naturally going to change when it’s just a single one of us running the girls through their daily routines. I can’t say for sure what her style is (she won’t confess), but mine comes with a mixture of stricter routines and a VERY-wavering ability to hold steady when things get shaky. Since our daughters are in daycare, weekday mornings and nights function like clockwork (as much as possible) with little room left for running late or changing plans.
I’m obsessively punctual and generally plan for the worst to always happen—blowouts, vomiting, tantrums—so I accelerate all of our timelines. Eliza is usually down for bed at 8:00; when it’s just me, she’s going down at 7:40 just in case things get rocky during the nighttime routine. Everly is usually down by 9:00; with me, she’s snoozing by 8:00 (albeit mostly due to using a bottle with me versus nursing with my wife). In the morning, we function similarly and get out the door much sooner than with both my wife and I here. All about the discipline of routines, right?
Nights with Daddy – The Bad
So I sound like quite the militaristic disciplinarian at this point. IF MY WIFE IS READING, PLEASE STOP RIGHT NOW. Well, eventually things start breaking down and daddy’s soft spots get exposed. In an obsessive rush to get prompt bedtimes, I may have forgotten to get Eliza’s teeth brushed one night. In a mad dash out the door in the morning, I may not have allowed Eliza enough morning stomping-around time and her ritualistic diaper fill didn’t occur until in the car. Not ideal.
Then there was last night. Eliza woke up at midnight and, in a regretful daze of tenderness, I may have let her into daddy’s bed for the remainder of the night. We do not let Eliza sleep with us but her late night whimpering preyed on daddy’s vulnerability and I made the ultimate mistake of breaking routine. I was thinking that perhaps a night with daddy would mean a picturesque bonding sleep with cuddles and affection…that is not what happened, if you can believe it. The little monster had an immediate adrenaline surge the second she landed in daddy’s bed, and 12:15 – 1:45 became party central in daddy’s bed. She counted. She sang songs. She whispered nonsense. She wiggled throughout every square inch of our king-sized bed. She admired and cooed at her snoozing sister positioned at the side of the bed. I was exhausted and infuriated with the little rugrat ruining our night, but still didn’t have the heart to put her back in her crib bed (though I threatened every 7 seconds).
Two hours after Eliza had woke up, she and I finally fell asleep. 19 seconds later, her baby sister Everly woke up howling for her customary early morning feeding. It’s 2:00 am and I’m running on nothing at this point. I warm up the bottle, change the diaper, and begin forcing it down Everly’s throat as fast as possible in an effort to actually sleep. A few minutes into the feeding in the living room, I hear the ominous sound of toddler footsteps traipsing down the hallway. After sleeping for a solid five minutes, Eliza decided she was well-rested and ready to check out what was going on. With a wide grin, she walked into the living room and asked for snacks. NO ELIZA! So she grabbed some toys and I practically wept while she giggled and played during Everly’s feeding.
The three of us returned to daddy’s bed. Me, exhausted and irritated. Eliza, bubbling with energy. Everly, also now wide awake and grinning like a madman. So from 2:30 – 4:00 am, the three of us had a family shin-dig. In retrospect, it was a lovely moment: two giggling cuddlers wrapped around daddy. In reality, daddy was struggling to keep his sanity while two little monsters savaged on his propensity to relent on all things that lead to cuddling. I made a poor decision…and my inability to conquer the giggles of two little girls compounded my problems. Eliza went to school on about 4 hours of sleep (versus her usual 10) and I went to work on about 3 hours (versus whatever the heck I normally manage).
Let’s just say that I am more than relieved my wife returned this afternoon to provide me some support and stability. There’s a reason single parenting is so difficult and I can’t imagine leading my girls’ lives without my dearest wife there to correct my vulnerabilities and keep me in check. I have a soft spot for my little angels and no matter how hard I try to maintain order, a stray whimper or giggle renders me seemingly powerless to make good decisions. My beautiful wife is the yin to my yang and makes me a better parent.