Faced with being alone when his wife’s maternity leave ends, Michael Kwan discovers small daily victories as a new dad are not so small after all.
Being a parent is an incredibly stressful experience. You always worry about whether or not you are doing what is best for your child. You always question whether or not you’re doing enough for your child. Why does it have to be this hard? Why does it have to be this exhausting?
As much as you hear about the richly rewarding experience of parenthood, it’s also just as easy to feel like a failure when you don’t live up to the impossible standards you may set for yourself. Society is quick to remind you, in a not so subtle way that you’re coming up short. That’s why you should never downplay any of the small victories you earn along the way. They’re not nearly as inconsequential as you might think.
I will be the first to admit that my wife is easily the better parent between the two of us. She is the one who prepares the nutritious meals for our daughter. She is the one who spends countless hours researching which stroller is best or why we should buy this car seat instead of the other one. And, for the past several months, she has typically been the one to put our baby to sleep. Her maternity leave is almost over, and that needs to change. With my wife’s work schedule the way that it will be, I will be primarily responsible in the afternoons and evenings moving forward. This means I will be taking care of dinner, giving the final feeding, and going through the bedtime routine with Adalynn.
The transition has been difficult because I haven’t been as involved with bedtime as I should have been. I’ve brought this problem upon myself and now I need to fix it.
The good news is that we (and I use the term “we” here quite loosely) have been able to keep up with breastfeeding this whole time. The bad news is that, as a result, Adalynn has not been a fan of the bottle at all for the vast majority of her life. For months, she would cry at the very sight of the bottle. Thankfully, we’ve made some huge progress these last couple of weeks and she is willing to take the bottle from me, even with the final feed of the night. That is no small victory and I will gladly revel in it!
Putting our baby down to sleep, as is likely the case with most babies, hasn’t exactly been the easiest of experiences either. Just the other night, it felt like nothing was working. She’d cry in her crib. She’d cry in my arms. I was almost ready to throw in the towel and call in the reinforcements (my wife), but I told myself that I could not exercise that option. That option would not be available to me when my wife goes back to work, so it shouldn’t be available to me now.
With steadfast determination, I persevered. And not ten minutes later, a miracle happened. My fatherly intuition kicked in and I could sense a shift in her cry. She was finally ready. After gently rocking her back and forth, I laid her down. She rolled to her side, snuggled up with a blanket, let out a couple of weak whimpers -and fell asleep. Mission accomplished.
These are not small victories and I’m not going to treat them as if they are unimportant. They mean a lot to me. They remind me that I’m not utterly useless as a parent. They remind me that I’m not a complete failure. They remind me that I’m doing something right and I’ve got the will to continue doing the right things. I can do this. We can do this.
Good night! Sleep tight.
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