It’s Sunday night and I’m exhausted. My wife is upstairs with our son right now giving him a bath and then she’ll put him to bed for the night.
Finally, I have a good 25 minutes to think about whatever I want to, including “nothing,” without hearing him crying, without trying to keep him from making a mess, or without attempting to invent yet another new way to entertain him.
In other words, I’m spent.
Physically, mentally, and psychologically, I’m done for the weekend. I hate to admit I look forward to going to the office in the morning, but I do.
Because there’s no way to verify my productivity as a dad.
I would love it at the end of the day to receive a “Daddy Report Card.” A while back, I explained that I am the kind of person who thrives on constructive criticism. I’m obsessed with being the best possible version of myself I can be.
Without knowing how to improve and without someone being brave enough to tell me; and without some confirmation of what I’m actually doing right, I tend to get disillusioned, frustrated, and even angry.
Welcome to fatherhood… I know, right?
It doesn’t change the fact that I have good reason to feel this way right now.
At my sales job, the numbers at the end of the month give me a confirmation either way whether or not my dedication paid off.
Here writing for Parents.com, I can know at any moment how well (or unwell) a particular article of mine is doing with readers by viewing something called StatCounter.
Like today, I am pleased to see all my hard work writing about chicken nuggets paid off; people evidently want to know how those things are made. Certain posts like this one take less than 25 minutes and I’m done; just vulnerable streaming of consciousness. But the one about mechanically separated chicken took about 4 days and several people editing it for me to get it just right.
If only a stressful day in Dadland was like that:
“Today, you scored a 99. The only thing to improve on based on today’s role as a dad was that you let him eat a Cheerio off the floor.”
See, that would be cool. I don’t know- blame it on my culture or my generation. I sort of like instant gratification.
Parenthood isn’t that way. Can you really ever know when you’re successful at it? Maybe when they grow up?
I’m learning just how polarizing my perspective on parenting can be. When I published that post, I had no idea that it would ever become so popular, as well as, so infamous. I just thought it was another post like any other day. It didn’t stand out as particularly special to me. Boy, was I wrong- because it hit a sweet spot for so many readers and struck a nerve with the rest. People either completely loved it, or hated it as much as I despise the TV show 16 and Pregnant.
Some of the best entertainment I’ve had in a while was reading through all the comments on the Facebook wall for Parents Magazine. While I felt so encouraged from those who supported me, the majority of the people who opposed my viewpoint said some really angry and/or hilarious stuff. (One of my favorite comments involves a unicorn.)
A common occurrence from several readers was the feeling that my tone was snobbish. This was implied because I stated I don’t like to see parents sarcastically joke about giving their kids away to strangers in public. (What about parents who can’t have children? How do they feel when they witness this same event?)
Sure, it regularly crosses my mind that having a child is tough; especially when he is not behaving as I would like. But I’m his dad and I’m suppose to be his number one supporter, not his number one critic.
Am I naïve and inexperienced when it comes to being a parent? Of course I am. I’ve only been a dad for seven months.
I have to speculate that that has something to do with why Parents.com chose me as their official daddy blogger, instead of a seasoned veteran who actually knew what they were doing. My lack of experience is one of the reasons The Dadabaseis interesting- because I am a newbie. I am learning something new as a parent everyday. I am wet behind the ears; that’s sort of my specialty here.
However, I was additionally perceived as a snob because some readers felt that I do not yet have the authority to write about communicating with my child because he is so young. But like I said in the article, I’m setting up the patterns now for how I will speak to him as he gets older. After all, it’s a gradual process and this is my way of preparing for it.
Another reoccurring (and I believe, caricatured) perception of me from those who disagreed with my viewpoint is that I am a hippie living in La La Land. That I am just so easygoing that my son is going to walk all over my wife and me as he gets older. That I am so preoccupied with not speaking sarcastically to my son that I will completely neglect the need for discipline.
Ironically, just a couple of days ago I did a Dadabase post about I how endorse and practice the “cry it out” method to get my son to sleep at night, prompting one reader to post this comment: “Actually, what you have done is not teach him to sleep well, but teach him that, no matter how hard he cries, how scared and alone he feels, or what his needs may be, you will not be there for him… Congratulations!”
The truth is, I actually worship the importance of creating structure for my son, setting realistic expectations for him, and when the time eventually comes, following through with discipline; not just threatening it.
It’s interesting to me that I am paradoxically both a snob and a hippie. What a weird combo.
Side note: Thanks to the Facebook wall comments, I was made aware of the fact that there was a typo in the article. I said “my wife and I” when I should have said “my wife and me.” My college degree is in English, of all things. So that’s one embarrassing faux pas. I went back and fixed it.
To some, I came across as a snob who thinks I am better than other parents and that my parenting style is superior to theirs. Similarly, these same readers jumped at the chance to criticize me for disagreeing with their own parenting technique. Is it safe to assume that these readers who so passionately disagree think that their parenting style is superior to mine?
As parents, we all do what works best for us and what we believe will be best for our children. We all have controversial parenting styles compared to other parents out there.
But while it may appear that I am clueless or fanatical to be so darn positive, just know this: My head may be in the clouds, but my feet are planted firmly on solid ground.