Mission DTG: 24JUN15 2000HRS
Location: FOB Livingroom
The Area Commander has been suffering from sleep deprivation due to the increased operations tempo of the infant insurgent. The past few nights we’ve been seeing increased activity much earlier in the morning, with fewer and shorter periods of downtime in between patrols during the day. Most days I am able to convoy back to the FOB in order to take over command of the TBOC (Tactical Baby Operations Center) so she can recuperate and re-energize, but yesterday the situation in the field prevented me from making it back in time. As of late I’ve noticed this pattern of sleep deprivation has left the Area Commander more agitated and quick to reprimand while I am taking care of administrative duties around the TBOC. Maybe it’s time for some command directed resiliency training.
Okay troops, listen up close because this one’s either going to make or break you as a new dad. Today we’re gonna talk about expectation management. Those of you who have been married for awhile will have some practice with this, but once that new baby troop arrives for in-processing it’s game time. If you muck this up you could be looking at a potential broken arrow situation, and by that I mean you better have a couch you can sleep on comfortably.
Now I know there’s all different types of households out there, your wife could be a stay at home mom (if she is go ahead and give her a meritorious service medal now) or maybe she has a job to go back to after her maternity leave is up (if that’s the case go ahead and start working your write up for a silver star). Or maybe, in a bizzaro world like situation, you’re a stay at hone dad. If this is the case just write up your own award, and don’t give me that “But I’m the stay at home parent shouldn’t she write it up?” mess because the answer is still no. Why is it no? Because while you may be staying home dealing with the crying poop factory you didn’t have to work the full work week while growing that little crapper inside of you.
Anyways, I digress.
Take the Lessons Learned below and apply them to whatever home situation you find yourself in (unless you’re a stay at home dad, then this all still applies to you, sorry bud).
So back around I wanna say September/October timeframe, when we were a month or so out from lil man making his debut, my wife looks at me and tells me:
You know, once I have the baby I probably won’t be able to do as much around the house during the day.
This made me laugh. I’ll back up even further (this is turning into a post directed by Quentin Tarantino) and tell you that I’ve never been the most cleanly of people. Not to say that I was the dirty kid in class, but if my room/apartment/cardboard box was a little cluttered and messy I never really paid much mind to it. That all changed once we first moved in together. I won’t go so far as to say my wife is OCD about the house being spotless and organized, but she’s close.
So after she asked me why I was laughing and what was funny I simply told her that I have almost zero expectations of anything getting done around the house after the baby comes. I told her the number one priority was that little runt, if she found time to clean something or do a load of laundry or work on couponing then all the better. Naturally, being the awesome wife/mother she is she still managed to find time for most of the upkeep around the homefront. I know I was frackin’ impressed. But there are those days where the minion isn’t taking very long naps are just decides he’s going to be a dick, and on those days before I even get home she’s already told me “Dude I haven’t done anything around the house today”, and each time I just laugh and remind her that I don’t expect much anyways while the kiddo is still figuring things out.
Picking up the Slack
This is where you come in Dad. On those days where mom just hasn’t been able to do everything she feels needs to get done it’s up to you to fill in and pick up the slack. It doesn’t matter if you just worked a twelve hour day on 4 hours of sleep. Trust me, as a naive new dad I tried that excuse, and she still pointed out that while I didn’t get much sleep the night before at least I got CONTINUOUS sleep and not just an hour here and there through the night. Point taken. Solid copy.
Eventually I learned to just drop the excuses, because nothing I can come up with trumps what she’s been putting up with all day and night. So I just sucked it up and started picking up the slack. Once we get started on the ‘night time routine’ (we’ll get into the importance of routines later my young padawan) of feeding the minion some solid mush followed by bubble bath time, bedtime story, then a bottle to top off the tank and lullaby music, I turn into the magical little elf that pops out into the cobbler’s shop in the middle of the night. While she’s feeding him I’ll get the bath ready. Once he’s in the bath I’ll set out his towel on the counter so it’s ready when she takes him out, then make sure the bottle is ready, TV is off, youtube is ready on her phone for the music, and books are in place.
Once all that is done I start picking up the slack and getting things done around the house while she’s busy trying to get little dude to pass out for the night. Trash taken out, kitty litter box emptied, dishes done, dogs fed and put outside, clean up from dinner, etc.
This is all very important for one very good reason…
You may be asking yourself, “Why bother with doing all of that, she’ll probably do it later.” Well, first, if this is your response go tell your wife and receive your wall-to-wall counseling. It’s cool, I’ll wait. The correct response should be “No biggie, I already man up and get stuff done like a BOSS”.
The point is the payoff my friend. There will be many a day where that little hellion decided he wanted to wake up five times throughout the night, and each time he did he also decided it would take an hour to get him back to sleep. All in all she probably got about 3 hours of sleep in 30 minute increments throughout the night. Now, when this happens, tread carefully my friend. Stick to your routine and get the housework on lockdown without even saying anything. She may be cranky and on a hair trigger from the minute you walk in the door, but I guarantee you after she’s had at least an hour without that screaming little hellspawn on her hip, some hot chow in her belly and had a chance to rehydrate, she will remember all the stuff you took care of leaving less for her to fret about getting done later.
Condition red will go back down to condition white. You can safely raise the household DEFCON level back up and power down the nuclear silo’s.
And THAT, my friends, is ALWAYS worth the effort. That smile and “thank you for taking care of all that” will make it all worthwhile. ALMOST as much as that goofy little smile and laugh from the hellspawn you enjoyed when you got home.
Until next time my fellow Dads. Stay Frosty.