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While my son's "scary" face might not scare you, childcare costs certainly can. Here are four tips to help reduce them and an idea of what others are paying. | instafather.com

I engaged with an online troll about childcare costs recently, and it led to me polling friends to get a sense how much we're all spending on childcare. If you haven't waded into the childcare waters yet, or want some reassurance that it's normal to spend the equivalent of two BMW payments a month on a 9-pound human, keep reading.

In this case, a woman posted on LinkedIn that she was sad to see an unemployed mom lose out on a job offer because she needed flexible hours to help take care of her baby. That sucks. Not all jobs can do this and employers aren't obligated to do so, but you kinda hope in a modern society, bosses realize that making life easier for working parents pays back in spades.

Anyway, a troll posing as a working professional bluntly commented that people shouldn't have a baby if they can't afford it. (You'd almost assume a 20-year-old dudebro made that comment, but it was a woman who, according to LinkedIn, is a professional interior decorator. I would have guessed plumber considering how much shit she was spewing.)

I don't even know where to begin with that mindset. I didn't realize we started living in a society that believes you have to be wealthy to have kids; don't even get me started on the argument against paying for children's health insurance coverage.

But Ms. Troll does have one legitimate point: When you have a baby for whatever reason (IT'S NOT OUR BUSINESS TO KNOW!), the baby is going to be expensive.

They don't make cheap babies. You know how sometimes you've got an Old Navy budget, sometimes it's a Gap budget, and sometimes its a Banana Republic-and-not-even-the-clearance-rack budget? 

Babies only come in Gucci budgets.

Culprit Number One: Daycare

I got our annual daycare invoice for tax return purposes.*

* God, if I ever for one second forget I am a full-fledged adult, it's sentences like that. Also, moments like telling my son I just turned 35 and he said he "can't even count that high."

It cost $9,000 to send our three toddlers to daycare just three mornings a week.

It's a wonderful daycare with wonderful teachers and our kids love it, and we recommend friends use the same place. Money well spent! But, still, um... money.

It made me wonder what others are spending. A few polls of other parents with young kids (as it's much more expensive having a baby/toddler in daycare) and dozens of dad bloggers gave me the answer, and the 50 responses I got back up what national surveys reveal.

How much is it going to cost to send my baby to daycare?

You can expect to pay about:

  • $10,000 per baby
  • $14,000 total for all kids you send.

Many daycares provide a discount for the additional kids, although, no, despite the 15 million jokes I've heard, twins are not Buy One, Get One. So, in black-and-white, I can see that I have dozens of friends spending five figures a year for childcare alone.

"This thread makes me want to get sterilized. Oh god." - Recently married non-parent looking at my daycare cost thread

The National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies has similar info. The average center-based daycare cost in the United States is $11,666 per year ($972 a month), but prices range from $3,582 to $18,773 a year ($300 to $1,564 monthly... living in a city will get you). Think about that. As Care.com put it, nearly one in three families report spending 20 percent or more of their annual household income on daycare.

It's not like you can go cheap on daycare.

They do Dateline specials about daycares like that. Do. Not. Skimp. On. Daycare. 

"Great, Andy. We're about to have a baby and now you need us to come up with $800 a month?" 

I know that's daunting. And I know we're not even talking about diapers, clothes, formula, check-ups if your insurance sucks .... are you hyperventilating? It's OK! WAIT! OK, better? Deep breath.

Four Tips for Reducing Your Daycare Costs and Maximizing Your Childcare Dollars:

An NPR poll showed that nearly one-third of parents who pay for child care say the cost has caused a financial problem for their household. I can't believe it's only one-third! But still, if you know two other sets of parents, at least one of you is freaking the f#&@ out. The other two are looking for more wine, please.

Let's take that deep breath now, as we all laugh at our former selves stressing about being broke when we didn't have a baby around. Silly us. OK. Let's think this through. You can make this work. Here are ready-to-use strategies to cut costs on daycare and babysitting:

  1. Use the benefits you have through work. My work offers a Dependent Care FSA. It's a pain in the butt, yes. You've got to download forms, keep track of your balance, submit for reimbursement, and so forth. What do you get for that? Pre-tax funding for daycare. It's like having a big 30% off coupon! Sure, 30% off coupons are usually more fun - Kohl's makes every coupon seem like a lottery ticket, and sometimes it's like Kohl's is paying me to shop - but it's real savings nonetheless.
    The trick is you need to know in advance how much you'll spend on daycare, because it'll be taken out of your paycheck and you're locked in for the year after you enroll. Honestly, since you never "see" the money, it's not as painful as you think. The first year, you can guess a little low, and then after that, you should have a good grip on it. I know people who squeeze out every dollar through this, and it saves them hundreds of dollars each year if not more. If you're not sure if your work provides this option, talk to HR. The money can be used for daycare, before and after school care, summer camp, and even babysitting. Once I submit my form for reimbursement, I get the money set aside in the FSA direct deposited in my account, like some magical money fairy.
    Some employers offer a daycare right at work, but I'm guessing you already know if yours does. One dad I talked to said he saves probably 50% on daycare costs by using his employer's center. If you had the option of switching to a company that has that available but can't pay you quite as much, you'd still come out ahead, right? 
    My wife got a part-time job teaching spin at a gym in part because it means we can use their child drop-off service for free when we're working out, saving us $45 a month. Also, she does it because my wife is a super human, but that's another topic.
  2. Think beyond the standard daycare option. Word-of-mouth matters a lot when it comes to choosing who will watch that little angel of yours. That's how we found our daycare, which ended up being reasonably priced and our kids love it; without a recommendation, we never would have known it existed, and then you're doing Google searches for "Daycare baby cheap educational please help very tired".
    But it's not everything. A nanny who comes to your house might be the best option — you're not paying for overhead like you would at a daycare center, and you know your home is secure. Or a private sitter for drop-off, which can be much most cost-effective and offer more personalized care.
    We've had good experiences with private sitters, but you'll want to go above and beyond in making sure their house is baby-proofed to your standards, not theirs, and that they appear to have a long-term commitment to this. You don't want to be scrambling to find a daycare overnight. Referrals matter greatly, too, as does a confirmation that they won't suddenly take on 10 more kids and your baby is effectively in a zoo.
    Finally, there is the friends & family option. All of my nephews get cared for this way from grandparents. So many people I polled said that without a mother or aunt or friend watching the baby, they wouldn't be able to pull it off. If this is remotely an option, even if it's temporary, do it. We basically had my in-laws living with us for a long stretch after the twins were born. Without that, we would have been screwed, although that also meant my in-laws got to watch me in a severe sleep-deprived state mumbling to myself. Just another Tuesday, Andy!
    If you haven't yet had a real talk with someone you know about this option, start broaching the conversation. No one is obligated or owes you childcare; that's a lot to ask of someone. But it would be foolish to not heavily investigate the option! Many people will say "I'd love to take care of that little baby!" Few people mean on an ongoing basis.
  3. Plan for all the expenses in childcare. Stuff that might come as a surprise: You still have to pay for childcare when the daycare is closed for holidays (otherwise, their workers wouldn't get vacation time). You can get charged if you are late to pick them up. You should also consider that there may be times when you need to pay for a babysitter when your regular daycare isn't available, so, yeah, you're paying freaking double on those days! Finally, are there any recurring fees for food? What if you forgot to send enough diapers? If you need to change your schedule?  Figure out the true cost, not the sticker price. Then figure out how much one of you would earn in a given month. If you'd save more by not working (insane, right?), then...
  4. Have the stay-at-home parent conversation. I had had more than a dozen parents say they became stay-at-home-dads or stay-at-home moms because financially, it made no sense to keep working. "I couldn't afford to go to work if I wanted to"; "Anything I earn would go to daycare - not a joke"; "It's hard having an hour to see each other some days, but it's absolutely worth it."
    I can sympathize with that last comment. My wife quit her full-time administrative job in higher ed when Elliott was born nearly five years ago, and switched to a part-time teaching career. We're very fortunate she had the degree in place and the background to make such a switch. Coupled with some flexibility in my marketing career, we've cobbled together a schedule with me dropping off the kids in the morning, her picking them up and watching them in the afternoon, and me watching them in the evening when she goes to teach. It saves us thousands of dollars and gives our kids more face time with their mom. Not everyone can make that work, I totally get that. And, as I pointed out, so many guys are electing to be the at-home parent. Don't assume it's gotta be the mom. 
    Likewise, assuming you can work from home and take care of the baby is... well, I don't want to say it's impossible; I know a great couple who are entrepreneurs and parents of a baby, and make it work with some creative scheduling. But I'm sure they'd say that it's misguided to think the baby will just sleep or nicely feed from a bottle while you quietly sit at your lapthahahahaha I can't even imagine that happening. Good God. I'm just saying, there are certainly some jobs you can do from home while taking care of a newborn or a toddler, but counting on it all to work is not wise. It's better to have a back-up plan. Maybe you get a nanny for a few hours a day while you work upstairs. Maybe you work in the evening when your spouse is at home. The key is you have to be flexible and patient. Some bosses will let you work from home a few days a week, and you can work around the inconvenience enough so that it's feasible to be a productive employee and still be an attentive parent. You won't know unless you ask. 
    Ever since I became a dad, I have needed bosses who understand that I need an adjustable schedule - dropping kids off at daycare, switching the car for the van at daycare pickup with my wife, running home when someone has thrown up because someone is always throwing up. In return, I make sure I am ultra-productive in the hours I'm in the office. But I had to change careers first. I was a newspaper reporter, and the news doesn't care too much if you have to run home to take care of the kids. So there needs to be realistic expectations: Can your job be more flexible? Do you need to have a conversation with your boss (any boss who isn't a complete jerk should understand the long-term benefit of you stressing less about daycare costs and in being flexible in your schedule, so long as it doesn't impact your work or slow down the team)? Is it possible for you to switch to part-time for six months and come back to a full-time job afterward? You won't know unless you ask.
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What's that weird cough your kid has? What is stridor? Why does everyone keep saying croup? Am I cool? I can't help you on the last one, but I've got answers lined up for croup and stridor after our toddler got it this week. | instafather.com


How many colds have you had in your life?

Eleventy billion?

That's still less than the average toddler. Little known scientific fact: Toddlers always have a cold. They get them from daycares and ball pits and playgrounds and terrorists. 

The big difference? A cold might mess up your week. But with infants and toddlers? Getting a common cold can get much worse, really fast.

If you're in any parenting text chain/Facebook group/cult, you've likely seen a frantic post from a parent wondering what to do with their sick kid. The giveaway? "Sounds like a barking cough."

That, my friends, is croup.

Croup, despite common belief, is not crappy soup that you sent back because it's bland. Croup is an upper respiratory infection that "obstructs breathing and causes a characteristic barking cough." It can come with a fever and hoarse voice and usually occurs in children ages 6 months to 3 years. It usually occurs a few days after the start of a cold and is worst at night.

My kids have had croup before. Forgive the pun, but it's barking cough is worse than it's bite. You know what? Don't forgive the pun. I don't need your forgiveness. Anyway, croup usually goes away on its own in 3-5 days, according to information from our doctor*.

(* As with all medical things, it's best to get information from doctors and nurses and not Facebook comments. Have you seen the dumb things people say in Facebook comments? That's how you want to diagnose your kid? From the same place where your uncle posts conspiracy theory memes? For this post, I'm using info that came straight from medical professionals and my direct experience.)

17. Stridor - Lung Sounds Collection - YouTube

What stridor sounds like

Stridor? That's worse. My 2 1/2-year-old toddler, Hannah, got croup and stridor over the weekend. Stridor causes difficulty breathing. It's a harsh sound like your kid is sucking in air.

Imagine my poor toddler, barking like a sad seal and trying to catch her breath. And then imagine that this all happened within a matter of hours. After a restless night where we had hoped she'd get better, we called the on-call nursing hotline with our doctor's office.

They recommended 20 minutes in a steamed up room. If that worked? She'll be fine. If not? A trip to the emergency room. No pressure, steam. God, I'm killing it with puns today.

Anyway, I stuck my kids in a room with the shower and humidifier on. We had it going nice and hot like a fitness club sauna but with less elderly nudity. The steam didn't work — she sounded bad.

(Guys, I'll be really candid here. My wife and I don't take respiratory stuff lightly. Our other twin daughter almost died because of respiratory distress when she was a baby. This wasn't nearly as serious, but when you're going to the same hospital for similar issues, it feels more intense. Nobody wants their kid in the ER, but with us, maybe even more so.)

What we had hoped at the start would be a quick trip to the doctor the next day ended up being a marathon — an all-day stop in the ER that led to an overnight stay in pediatrics as Hannah wasn't responding quickly enough to medication.

In her case, doctors tried to relieve stridor with breathing treatments and oral steroids (We had it mixed into applesauce! They evidently had never done that before. That's how we roll.). The breathing treatments were similar to what I got as a kid growing up with asthma; fun fact - I had moderate asthma growing up that, as it turns out, seems to almost entirely have been caused by me not knowing I was allergic to cats! Cats=lung murder

It took more than 24 hours in the hospital getting treatments for Hannah to start breathing easy, which meant we could breathe easy. Hahahahaha just kidding toddler parents never breathe easy because toddlers are insane. But, you know. Easier. And we realized that we hadn't known much of anything about stridor. I'm hoping this post gives you a heads up in case you're facing the same thing. It's going to be OK!

What should you do if you think your baby or toddler has something more than just a cold?

Here's some things to keep in mind as a new parent with a kid who sounds like they have breathing difficulties:

Croup - YouTube

What croup sounds like

  • You're not being crazy. Your main job is to help protect your kids. Nobody else is going to be as good of an advocate as you are. So if you think your daughter's cough doesn't sound great and you want to get it checked out, get it checked out*! With respiratory issues, it's better to be on the safe side.
  • If your child's rib cages are really sucking in when they are breathing, that can be a dangerous situation. If this is occurring or if they have a bluish tint in their skin or fingernails, seek medical help immediately.
  • Call your doctor if your child:
    • Has new/worse trouble breathing
    • Has dehydration symptoms like being thirstier than usual
    • Seems very sick or is hard to wake up
    • Has a new or higher fever
    • Has a cough that is getting worse (This was our clue)
  • With croup, the cough comes at nighttime and has a barking sound to it. It really is a case of "you'll know it when you hear it." My son had it before, and he was mostly fine during the day and at night sounded like Sea World.
  • Things you can try at home first, according to a nurse: Steam (humidifier or shower does the trick) and getting cool, fresh air can do wonders if breathing seems difficult. Yes, that seems like contradictory advice. I swear sometimes doctors just say "Um, give that a whirl?" If those methods don't work, call your doctor.
  • It's a viral illness, so yes, your other kids can get sick. HOWEVER, every person responds differently so it's not a given he or she would get as sick. One baby might just have a runny nose, and the other one might end up in the ER; we've had that situation.
  • Little kids get croup and stridor because they have smaller airways. That's why you don't hear about grown-ups with this. Good thing, because adults would complain a lot more.
  • Crying and coughing can make croup worse because you're agitating your airway, so it can be a bad cycle for kids. Keep them calm.
  • Can you prevent croup? Well, like most things, it's all about handwashing and keeping your kids away from sick kids. Good luck with that! But common sense is your guide here. Oh, and your family history can make your child more susceptible to croup, so congrats to your genetics on screwing them over one more time.

* I'll get on my soapbox for a moment and shout THIS IS WHY ALL KIDS NEED HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE. No kid should have something like stridor and not get treatments that would make them feel better within a day because their parents can't afford the ER trip. We're fortunate to have excellent health coverage and already met our deductible this year (hello, three toddlers) so this trip was essentially free. We shouldn't make parents and guardians have to decide.

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What if we're thinking of manliness all wrong? If you think the only way to be a real man is to fit into some stereotype of tattoos and beer and grunting, think again. Fatherhood? It's built in manliness. | instafather.com

I have never, ever been a manly man.

To be very clear, I have always been quite aware of this. Growing up I didn’t do “guy stuff” well; I never rode ATV’s, didn’t hunt, didn’t watch pro wrestling, and I was a skinny, glasses-wearing nerd before being a nerd was cool.

As an adult, I never liked beer, never got into MMA, didn’t know much about cars, never got a man cave or wanted one, and generally always had more female friends than male friends because most of the time I’d have a difficult time bonding with guys.

My brother would be a much better example of “manly man.” When something breaks in my house, he’s the first person I call. Without ever receiving formal training, I’ve seen him completely take apart our dryer that had stopped tumbling, fix it, and put it back together. I know how to use the dryer. These are not equal skills.

He can fix most anything, drive a stick shift, change his car oil, and have lengthy conversations about tractors and agriculture. He has big, strong hands and a permanent tan from working outside all the time. 

I’m on the other end of the spectrum to the point you might be surprised we’re related. I spent college doing musicals. I enjoy clothes shopping. I will openly watch “Grey’s Anatomy” (and play a fun game with my wife of “Is this a sex-pisode?” by listening to what kind of music they use). I can do some basic car repairs — learning how to replace air filters has saved me a ton of money — and am not a complete idiot with tools, but no one will call me a “handyman.” I love watching and talking about sports, but more about the behind-the-scenes transactions and the stats. I have a beard, which took me 49 years to grow. I have dainty writer’s fingers and being in the sun too long makes me burst into flames like a pasty supernova.

My brother is absolutely a manly man. He also happens to be a pretty great dad and person.

What's the definition of manliness?

What I’ve learned since becoming a dad is that I can be a manly man, too, and still be very aware of Meredith’s latest drama while wearing a bow tie and reading Jezebel. Being a manly man, hell, even just being a man in 2017, doesn’t have to mean what we all grew up thinking it meant. It’s not “Mad Men.” 

You can be a manly man and have tattoos and drink whiskey and love Rambo. You can be a manly man and do none of those things. Because as it turns out, it's not a series of activities and body types and hobbies that defines your manliness.

It's how you act that makes you a man.

Have you been trying to figure out what manliness is when you're up to your ears in diapers and bottles? Being a dad can add to the confusion. You’ve been told for years everywhere you look that manly men-types shouldn’t be expected to do much as dads, you know, because they gotta bring home the bacon or something.

They should get praise for doing basic things like changing diapers and watching the kids (“Oh, is dad is “babysitting” tonight?). That being an involved parent is, on some level, not what a “manly man” does because that means choosing your kid over going out to a sports bar, or sometimes choosing your family over your career progress, or spending weekends taking your kid to birthday parties rather than spending time in your man cave. As if it’s an either/or proposition.

I’m only representing one dad. But for whatever it’s worth, I can tell you that I never feel as manly as I do when I’ve got my toddlers crawling all over me, or when I’ve got all three in our “walking train” holding hands as we go through a parking lot, or when I have them run toward me to give me a hug.

I could work on an oil rig. I could play for the Steelers. I could shave with a hunting knife while fighting Chuck Norris with a boa constrictor I caught with my bare hands. And that would still not make me feel as manly.

You don’t have to be a dad to be manly. Any guy can treat others with respect, look out for those less fortunate, and leave the world better than when they entered it. A glance at the news shows you how badly we need men to behave better; women aren’t demanding perfection, they are asking for us to behave the same way they are expected to behave.  And by the way, you don't deserve praise for not being a d-bag around women, the same way you don't deserve it for watching your kids.

Being a dad, though? That’s built-in manliness if you’re willing to embrace it.

Taking your baby out on your own and knowing you’ll figure out how to make it work. Being in charge of bedtime or getting your kid ready in the morning. Talking about your kid with others with the same excitement and enthusiasm you 

Being a guy is confusing. Being a man shouldn’t be.

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Four birthdays in and I'm still learning something new every day as a dad. Here's some honest talk to my four-year-old. | instafather.com

Dear Elliott:

The best representation to describe what life has been like since I wrote you a letter on your third birthday is the fact that I am writing a letter for your fourth birthday a month late.

Daddy doesn't know where all the time goes. Most of it, I assume, goes into watching "Frozen" or finding whatever toy you have lost. But mostly, I mean that you aren't even close to the same toddler I had last year. In more ways than mommy and I can count, you are a big boy now. We are already getting a little teary-eyed thinking of you going to kindergarten, which at this point next year will be a matter of weeks away.

I love you a ridiculous amount. I'm celebrating Father's Day this weekend, and YOU are the reason I first got to call myself dad. I talk about you all the time, and I have photos of you everywhere. I also talk about the show "Black Mirror" a lot, but that's because it's the best. You gotta watch it. Well, not now. You are a kid and it's messed up. But eventually.

It must be strange and confusing for you sometimes when I say how much I love you, because you know in the past year daddy has had some tough stretches with anger and frustration. He found out a lot of other mommies and daddies do, too. What's difficult to explain to you, dude, is the very fact I love you so much directly can cause the most frustration — I would do anything for you, and that means having to balance priorities and let go of control. Daddies who pride themselves on getting things done don't know what to do when that's not the goal anymore. Daddy had to realize that on many days, it is enough being your dad — getting you dressed and fed, reading you a story, playing with you, and answering a million questions is in and of itself a productive day. I'm sorry for any day when I acted otherwise. 

What I love, though, is that you are quick to forgive and even quicker to love. You are the best.

So, as always, it's time for some candid conversation.

Honest talk with you for your fourth birthday
  1. A year ago, I looked back at what I wrote a year before that: 'I wrote this last year: "When you turned one, I was so proud of you because I thought you were the best one-year-old and I couldn't imagine how you'd get better. What an idiot I was for not believing you'd be even more amazing the following year." What an even bigger idiot I was for not realizing you'd be even more hilarious, curious, loving and cool in your second year.' Well, I'm a grand idiot for not realizing the best was yet to come. Your third year was even more full of laughter and imagination and creativity and empathy.
  2. After your fourth birthday party, you had me walk around the neighborhood with you so you could give away your birthday balloons to any kids you saw. Why, I asked. "Because people like balloons," you said. I will remember you doing that for the rest of my life. It was the purest kind gesture I've ever seen.
  3. You are dead set on being a "big boy." You want to know "how many days" until you can do something, like watch a movie with fighting in it or ride something at an amusement park. It's hard to explain to you now, but don't be anxious to be a big boy. Being 4, before you have to think about school or tests or schedules, is probably one of the best ages around.
  4. Your mom and I are really glad you are potty trained, and you've pulled off some minor miracles holding it in the car while we're stuck in traffic. You've also done the exact opposite while standing beside the bathroom. You don't always make sense.
  5. Almost every day, you hide when I get home from work so I have to find you. I think that's the best.
  6. When you say "Daddy, come find me!" while we are looking at each other, I am wondering if you think that by being the hider, you have a cloak of invisibility.
  7. I love how you write your name.
  8. You are so great with your twin sisters, even if they probably drive you crazy sometimes by wrecking your toys or crying over nothing (because it almost always is over nothing). Your mom and I couldn't have asked you to be a better big brother.
  9. One day you won't think the ultimate insult is adding the word "poopy" to something. Today is not that day.
  10. Your mom and I get very worried sometimes when we are watching the news. It's because we get worried that the world you grow up in won't be as nice as the one we grew up in. But we'll work very hard to change that ... that's why we do that voting thing we talked about.
  11. Some kids have the terrible two's. Or the terrible three's. Honestly, you were pretty great for both. You might have spoiled us. Your youngest sister might make sure we get our share.
  12. I still regret telling you that the little green light on your ceiling is from a smoke detector in case there is a fire. You are still convinced a fire is going to break out at any moment. #dadfail
  13. I would burst into a room on fire for you.
  14. When you ask "How many more bites?" at every meal, I'm wondering if you'll eventually realize the goal is to eat all of it and not achieve a certain level of obligation.
  15. You like to smile by putting your top teeth over your bottom lip. It's adorable.
  16. I take your photo a lot with your sisters when I drop you off from school. One, because you're all usually in a good mood and no one has stains (yet). But also because it's a good way to track how much you've grown. And you've grown too fast.
  17. Why do you love watching those YouTube videos of people playing with toys? Nothing happens. Literally nothing.
  18. It's kind of scary for us to think how much will change by this point next year, as you'll almost be done with daycare. I've been dropping you off at daycare for so long that I'll probably be reduced to a puddle when I don't hear "Schoooollll!" from the backseat as we turn onto the daycare street. 
  19. Every day, no matter my mood, no matter your mood, no matter what happens out in the world, no matter what, I love you. A big boy amount.
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Parenting is the strangest thing I have ever done. There is not one single day where I say, "Yep, that was all according to plan and I had everything covered." When you say things like "Don't throw the jet at your sister's face!", there is no normal.

I've got a 2-year-old boy and twin 2-year-old girls. Life is chaotic and wonderful and weird. It's also when I value the power of shared experiences so I have other people who know what I'm going through. It's hard to explain a lack of sleep to someone without kids, because they say stuff like, "Oh yeah, I've been staying up watching House of Cards lately and it's killing me," and then I run into traffic to avoid a mass murder.

Enter Doug Moe, a dad and a comedian. Doug's recent book, "Man vs. Child: One Dad's Guide to the Weirdness of Parenting," touches on what I've experienced and more.

Samples of of Doug Moe's parenting wisdom:

"The Un-Childed don't understand naps. it's great to see friends, but is it great enough to justify the clusterf*ck your day will become without a nap?"

He also speaks a lot of truth that, to be frank, you need to hear. Truth like this:

"Do you have an ugly baby? 'No?' Okay, yes. Yes, you do. That is a hard truth. Everyone hopes to have a cute baby, and most succeed. No one expected to have an ugly baby. But it's not all bad news. We need ugly babies! Think about it: If YOU didn't have an ugly baby, how could we tell which babies were cute?"

It's a book that speaks to any dad, or, more specifically, is the exact kind of thing you should give a dad-to-be for Father's Day so you can later say, "Hey, he TOLD you this would happen!" Because male friendships are weird and we mostly make fun of each other.

Keep reading for a Q&A with Doug, as he explains why a non-condescending book about fatherhood is needed (I couldn't agree more!), and the quirks of parenting.

Doug Moe with his daughter in what we will assume is a rare quiet moment.

A Q&A with Author Doug Moe

Instafather: What inspired you to write Man v. Child?

DM: When I first became a dad, I looked around for a parenting book that I could relate to and really didn’t find anything. At the time, I was a part-time stay-at-home dad and thought the whole thing was pretty crazy. But the books out there were all for moms or were very informative. You need informative books, but you also need to be able to laugh at your circumstances. I started my blog Man Vs. Child to be a little less precious about being a dad and the book grew out of that.

As you call it, you're writing about "the weirdness of parenting." What's the strangest thing about it to you?

DM: The strangest thing is that your circumstances change so thoroughly - having a baby screaming at you, trying to focus on finger-painting, handling meltdowns - and yet you haven’t changed that much. So you’re just thrust into this new experience and have to adapt. When I was a kid, I assumed grownups knew what they were doing, but now I know better. Everyone’s faking it.

Part of this whole "dad blogger" movement - dads like us who say "Um hey! Let's talk about fatherhood instead of just grunting and scratching ourselves" - is making progress toward dads being viewed as equal partners in parenting. What's your stance on that balance and where you see it headed?

DM: We’re definitely making progress, and I consider it “progress” - moms and dads are equally capable of parenting. When my daughter was a baby, I remember getting unsolicited advice from people who didn’t think I knew what I was doing. Moms get that too, but a lot of people still think dads are big dummies. As a white dude, I get preferential treatment in basically everything (the Patriarchy!), except for parenting. So, without going overboard into whining (I’m no victim), it’s important to challenge those assumptions.

But also, I’m a comedian with a comedy book for dads here. Part of my agenda is to say: “Hey, dads can parent and LAUGH about it.” There’s a great comedy book for moms, “Shitty Mom,” that’s really funny. But I don’t think a dad would typically buy that or any number of other humor books for moms. So if dads are capable parents, we can also acknowledge our failings and have a sense of humor about it. I hope?

What did you never expect to do as a dad?

DM: I don’t think I ever thought that I’d play dress-up, but that’s pretty dumb of me considering I’m an actor too. Doing funny voices and wearing a silly hat is my bread and butter.

What do you wish you could have told yourself right before you became a dad?

DM: Right before? I think that if I appeared to myself just before the birth of my child, in a kick-ass Obi-Wan style hologram message, let’s say, I’d want to be told that I’d have the time to get better at being a dad. That it’s not a zero-sum game, that you are allowed time to figure it out. You don’t have to be a “natural.”

In the "Man v. Pregnancy" chapter, you hit the nail on the head with "It's shocking how little you need to walk out of a hospital with a baby. Apparently, after all this preparation and waiting, all you need is a car seat to take a baby home. WTF." I remember having similar thoughts. Do you think we as Americans do a poor job getting dads ready? 

DM: Yep! In fairness, we probably do a poor job prepping moms too. I’m guessing some Scandinavian country has some parenting-prep program we should steal.

You give a pretty honest take about parenting - there are highs but, as you wrote, "parenting is like a thousand tiny cuts." Guys just don't think about all the little things that will change, especially when the baby turns into a toddler and life really gets effed up. So, with that in mind, why do you think we keep signing up to be parents?

DM: What’s the alternative? Which is sadder: A) me, a middle-aged parent trying to keep it together or B) me, a middle-aged single dude not trying to keep it together? At least parenting makes you try, for the sake of your kids.

We both have an improv comedy background (Ed. note: Doug's a teacher/performer at Upright Citizen's Brigade and his book jacket is filled with glowing reviews from Amy Poehler and Bobby Moynihan and other super famous comics; I have an improv troupe in central PA. Doug and I are basically equals). Improv is all about accepting ideas of others and living in the moment of a scene. It seems to me toddlers are the exact opposite, as they negate everything you say and change their minds every two seconds. Is this why toddlers make for terrible improv comedians? And on a related note, does having a sense of humor about parenting insanity help get you through tough days?

DM: Toddlers make terrible improvisers because they are bad at teamwork and won’t flyer to get people to come to their shows. Having a sense of humor is the most important thing to get you through tough days, and I say this as someone who is also incredibly handsome.

Last one: If you had to summarize life as a dad in one anecdote, what would you say?

DM: An anecdote: this morning my daughter asked me to make her an English muffin. I asked her if she wanted butter and honey on it. She said, “I want to say ‘yes’ but mom makes it better.” So I said, “I will try to make it the way mom makes it.” As far as I know, she does it no differently than I. “And get me some milk too,” she said. And I just did it - I didn’t wait around for thanks, I didn’t try to argue that I was as good an English muffin preparer as her mother, I didn’t get bent out of shape. I just got her the food, because if she doesn’t eat breakfast, she’ll be cranky later. And because I’m her dad.

Thanks to Doug for taking the take to talk about fatherhood. You can get his book Man vs. Child on Amazon* and I know you do Amazon Prime so you can have it at your house in like 2 freaking days. Follow him on Twitter, too: @DougMoe or check out his website, dougmoe.net

* Affiliate links, just a heads up.

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Worried about extended alone time with your baby or infant? Think your husband is avoiding giving you time away from watching the baby? Let's talk. | instafather.com

Months in advance, I knew it would come to this.

Me. Hannah. Quinn. Daddy, daughter and daughter. A guy and a couple of two-year-olds. Just the three of us for a long weekend, with no mommy in sight.

If you're a new dad, that might run a chill down your spine. I've heard from lots of fathers who recoil like a cobra at the thought of spending one-on-one time with their baby. Not because they don't love their kid. It's because they don't freaking understand their baby, and are pretty sure that they'll get arrested for child neglect or something because surely the cops will know this poor sap is screwing up his son longterm.

I just got through my long weekend — my wife took our 3-year-old son to California to see family — unscathed. I'd go so far as to say it went well.

That's not an accident.

Now, sure, I've had to do it many times at this point, either for a day or overnight. But this was the longest stretch my wife had been away from the girls. I had already served up karma by leaving her the weekend before to go speak at a (really fun and lively!) Blog Connect conference. But you and I both know nobody bats an eye at a mom being left alone with the kids. Ridiculous, but true. 

It's still a bit unusual to see a dad out with his kids by himself.

I'm hoping you can be part of a movement to start to change that, but that will take time.

Why Some Dads Are Scared to Go Out With Their Baby

At this point, it's second nature for me to take the kids out by myself. Some of you moms have told me that your husband never takes the baby out. I'm going to take an educated guess here and say that has nothing to do with ability. It has a lot to do with being afraid of failing. Guys really, really hate looking bad at doing things and not knowing what we're doing. Nothing encapsulates that more than a dad out alone with a baby, as babies are insane and will sometimes smile while they throw up on you. Toddlers will cry and laugh at the same time, which is psychotic. So while many moms will just think "Whatever, I'll make this work, I'm not staying in the house!", some dads think "Yeah.... rather not."

I'm telling you to embrace the challenge. Send your wife out for the morning for "me" time and play with your baby and feed them breakfast. Have errands to do? Take your toddler with you to a buffer (quick food!) while your wife gets to go into stores a thousand times faster... she secretly wouldn't mind errands as much if she could get them done quickly. Then you get her food to go. You get to eat, spend time with your kid, and your wife gets some alone time. Wins for everyone. Because dude, you can handle a meal. Or a morning. Or getting the baby down for a nap and sending your wife out to get a manicure while you wait for the baby to wake up. Every time you do that, you're becoming more confident as a dad and also making it easier for you to get some alone time as well. Make sense?

"Sure, Andy," you may be thinking, "I can handle two hours, but you are talking about three-plus days alone!  How the hell do I do that? What happens if I can't get my kid to stop crying? What if I forget the diaper bag? WHAT HAPPENS IF A TERRORIST ATTACKS OUR HOUSE?"

Take a breathe. You can do this, and honestly, with Mother's Day around the corner, the best possible gift you can give (other than Kate Spade sunglasses, I've been told) is giving mom some time off. She will love it.

Here's how to make a weekend alone with your infant possible:
  • Stick to a schedule: With mom not around, you don't want any more change than is needed. If there's a strict nap time (and my God, please do strict nap times. Biggest mistake we made with our first kid!), stick to it. Bath every night? Better do that, too. It'll be tempting if your daughter is in a great mood to blow through lunch time or skip the bath if they are super mad, but you'll pay for it.
  • Get support: I had work obligations during that weekend, so I still needed some babysitters. Even if you have nothing going on, it's still fine to get someone to watch your son for an hour or two one of those afternoons so you can run out and get some things done or decompress. The point isn't to do every single thing on your own. The point (along with quality time together) is making sure your infant is taken care of without having your wife involved.
  • Leave on a high note: I took my daughters to MOD pizza, one of those trendy custom-pizza-to-go places, since they love pizza and I get them food quickly. Plus, it's usually kind of noisy, so if they got fussy no one would notice. They did great, eating more pizza than I did. As soon as I started sensing the tide was turning against me, we left. When you are on your own, it's not a good time time test your kid's limits. Do the activity, leave when they are still smiling.
  • Maximize the bonding: It's easier to be more mentally checked out when you have two of you to watch your kid. You may find yourself staring at your phone for a bit, or half watching them, half watching the news. When it's just you, why not take advantage of it? Get down on the floor and play with them. Keep the TV off while you're reading a book. Get in the bath and splash around a bit with them. They aren't looking for mommy right now. They are focused on you. How cool is that? That's also the kind of thing that pays off later when they need consoling!
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare: My wife is excellent at preparing. It's why we make a good team; she knows what to bring, what time we need to be there, and what clothes are where. I'm good at getting all the kids down to bed and coming up with creative solutions to problems. When she's out of town, though, I need to wear both hats. I'll confess - I hadn't thought ahead about how many diapers we had left before I left for work, and we just barely had enough to get through! It was a good reminder, and from that point on, I double-checked the diaper bag and other items so that I had everything I needed.
  • Get out of the house: It's tempting to stay in when you're alone with your kid, especially a baby. I strongly suggest you fight that urge and get out. Go to a park with a stroller. Go to the grocery store with a baby carrier. It makes the time go by faster and helps limit frustrations that can mount when you're isolated and stuck in one place.

Having one-on-one time with your little kid is really fun ... and intense. But you can do it. Let me know how it goes!

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When you have premature twins, you really cherish every birthday. Now at age 2, my twins are turning into forces of nature. | instafather.com

Dear Hannah and Quinn:

You hear all the time, "Soak up every moment, kids grow up too fast."

There's a reason they say that. You grew up too fast. 

You spent your first weeks of life with wires and air tubes and monitors all around. There was no way to mentally prepare for that. There is no newborn baby commercial where the baby is in plastic case and the parents are checking A's and B's. Newborn babies in commercials are 5 months old. Just like high schoolers in sitcoms are played by 30 year olds. Sorry, sore spot for dad.

Your mom and I were scared and nervous and thrilled and tired when you arrived. You were born all of a sudden and yet after a long wait because you tried to arrive at 27 weeks, which is like showing up to a house party 15 minutes before it start when the hosts are still frantically cleaning. Very rude of both of you.

Mom had been on bed rest, an oxymoron term that hospitals came up with to describe a state of unrest (would you feel like you are resting if you have people poking you nonstop and you have to page someone just to use the bathroom?). Your brother, who was about the same age you are now, would visit mom every day in the hospital. It felt like the craziest time of our lives even if, in the most literal sense, we were only waiting for something to happen. I will never, ever, forget that period of life. 

Then you two happened. Real hard.

Quinn, you came out first and ever since have wanted someone to hold your hand. Hannah, you came out second, feet first, which, yep, sums it up.

Your mom and I often say that whatever stage of life you two are in, that's our favorite stage. We loved having both of you sleep on our chest when we did skin-to-skin. We never loved holding two car seats at a time, but we did love watching both of get to know each other. And now, you are ridiculously adorable, so much so that you practically have a fan club. You have caused bystanders to stop mid-conversation and comment very loudly at how cute you are. I don't pretend to ignore it because I know I only get you at this stage for so long, and only so many people get to have twins. 

I don't even know where we go from here. This is uncharted territory for your dad. Every single day is uncharted territory. Taking you and your brother to Wegman's is what Game of Thrones writers used as the inspiration for the Battle of Castle Black episode. I'm not even going to mention the fact that a certain daughter likes to laugh and then run right toward the street all the time.

At two years old, you're entering an entirely new phase. I'd say the fact I just went through it with your brother has prepared me for this, but dealing with twins and dealing with one toddler is entirely different. It's like lifeguarding a kiddie pool vs. lifeguarding the beach.

I can't say I'm a better dad now than I was when you were born, because I feel like a work in progress. Sure, you're teaching me a lot. For example, you're teaching me that it is possible to strap in a baby into their car seat using only one hand because the other baby refuses to be put down.

But I'm also realizing my personal limits. You know dad has gone through some rough stretches. When there's two of you and one of dad, each minute can turn on its head, gliding between everyone giggling to everyone screaming like the pirate ship at an amusement park. From age 1 to age 2, dad gained a lot of gray hairs. That's the visible representation, but it doesn't really get to what it was really like. Which was... intense. Yeah, sometimes it's just intense as shit. I can always promise, though, that every day I am promising to do my best.

Quinn, you have turned into Exhibit A of why people love infants. You say "Hiiiiii!!!!" when we walk into your room in the morning after you slept through the night (which you do way more than anyone in the house). You laugh by scrunching your nose and putting your hands over your mouth. You love curling up on mommy or daddy's lap and watching Elmo the Musical. 

You also want held 37 hours a day and randomly decide you hate every single piece of food ever created. But, as your mom and I discussed two years ago, you get a pass. For a long time.

Hannah, you are a monsoon wrapped up in a tornado. It's like you were born to be the human manifestation of the law of conservation of energy - it can't be created or destroyed, just transformed from one bouncing session to the next. You are also really good at finding knives in the dishwasher. And you add a lot of syllables to words such as "No" and "Yes," like an actor really chewing the scenery. Mostly, you want to do everything your brother does. That's a good role model. And you make me smile on days I didn't think I would be able to.

I love you both so much that every time I see someone texting as they drive through an intersection, I want to pull them over and show them your photos and shout "HOW DARE YOU THREATEN THE LIVES OF TWO ANGELS!" (A better plan would be for cell phone companies to force the camera to take a selfie of a driver looking down anytime a text is sent when the phone senses it is moving at over 20 mph, and then send that to the police, but that's dad's million dollar idea that will pay for your college.)

I started writing Instafather waiting for you both to come out. Ever since then, you give me reminder after reminder of all the challenges dads face ... and why it's all worth it.

One day I will reach out my left hand and my right hand and the two of you won't reach back. Today isn't that day.

Happy birthday, Quinn. Happy birthday, Hannah. 



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What this father of three has experienced in two years of writing about fatherhood — and why he's writing a book for moms. | instafather.com

I distinctly remember sitting beside my wife's hospital bed starting this site.

What a strange place to launch a website, right?

I was looking for my next thing. I was itching to do something new and big, and I loved writing. And although I screwed up as a father more often than I didn't*, I also loved being a dad of my little boy, Elliott.

My first official post on Instafather - March 2015.

* Exhibit A: Never, ever, tell your three-year-old that the green light on the ceiling is from the smoke alarm that lets us know if there is a fire. Because then he will have nightmares that the house is burning down.

From what I can tell, this is just about the only dad-perspective guide out there about pregnancy bed rest! 

My wife was stuck on hospital bed rest two years ago waiting for our twins to arrive. It was an insane time (and that's considering we didn't have two babies to deal with!). She spent the day being stuck to monitors and having nurses poke her all day. I raced from daycare to work to the hospital to daycare to the hospital to work to home to the hospital with my son to home to put him to bed and leave him with his grandparents to the hospital, where I'd spend the night on a futon (still way more comfortable than the you-can't-even-leave-the-bed situation my wife was in).

Somehow, it was ideal for launching a site. I had a lot of dads, in real life and online, who kept saying they wished they had more help, or that they didn't have a good place to read about stuff that related to them, or who felt lost as a new dad. As a new dad, I had read so much, oh what's the phrase I'm looking for ... hot mess pandering garbage ... from sites that catered to moms and would talk at dads, not to them. And those dad advice posts would commend guys for just showing up, and say things like "Try to change a diaper every so often, your wife will appreciate it!" Which made me want to roll my eyes so hard they'd fall out of my head.

Dads can do so much more. And moms should expect so much more. I've seen dads who stay at home with their kids while the mom works. Dads who have no issue taking multiple kids out to the movies. Dads who handle nap times and doing their daughter's hair (I've got a long way to go on that!) and who fight all the stereotypes we've seen and heard for years.

Instafather is my effort to add one more voice of support out there for all the dads who want more — and who wouldn't mind hearing from someone who gets it and who will be honest with them about the struggles we face as new fathers. And I've really enjoyed seeing how many moms connect with what I'm writing, too because they want the dad perspective. That makes my day.

There are some posts that really seem to have struck a chord with all of you!

Yes, Your Pregnant Wife Should Get a Push Present: The amount of daily hits I get on this post is ridiculous, really (Thanks, Pinterest!). I had no problem getting my wife push presents for delivering our kids. Some people think that's ridiculous, and let me know as much. Others see it the way I do - that it doesn't take away from the miracle of childbirth to also do something nice for your wife. It's not greedy. It's gratitude and appreciation. (She even got me something!)

What They Don't Tell You About Being a Dad: Two months after Hannah and Quinn arrived, we went through an unbelievable ordeal that to this day we still can't mentally process. Quinn, freshly home from the NICU, needed CPR after she stopped breathing and spent a week in intensive care after being flown to the hospital in the middle of the night. That seems like a decade ago. It seems like yesterday.

A Birth Story: My Twin Girls Arrive: If only for this line: "When you see a baby's foot hanging out between your wife's legs, you know things are strange."

A Brutally Honest Talk About Why I Had to Disappear as a Dad Blogger: The thing about going through such an ordeal, and then have three kids three and under on top of regular life stresses, is that you don't get a moment to breathe. And that led to me having to take a break from Instafather, among other things, for awhile. I could not believe the reaction and outpouring of support and I-feel-you's I got after writing this post. It was heartwarming to hear as much as it reaffirmed why I should be doing this in the first place - we all need to support each other. 

I'm very, very grateful for all of you who have read these past two years. As my children get older - the girls turn 2 in April and Elliott turns 4 (FOUR?!?!) in May - I'll be evolving what I write about as I get further away from the newborn years and firmly into the toddler years. But regardless, I'm still focused on helping new dads feel more confident, and reminding them they aren't alone. As I wrote at one point, we've all been peed on.

In the coming months I have a project I'm working on that I couldn't be more excited about. I know this because I talk to my wife about it all the time, which I'm sure she just loooovvveeess.

I'm writing a book, "The New Mom's Guide to New Dads." 

Why write to moms when Instafather is about dads?

Couple reasons:

1. Moms make up a huge share of readership. I can take a good guess that in general, that's because moms are more likely to seek out and be open to read parenting sites. I get a lot of "I'm going to share this with my husband!" comments, which cracks me up as I imagine that conversation. "Babe, there's this Instafather guy that says you need to change diapers all night!"

2. Because I've noticed a lack of information available about helping dads mentally tackle fatherhood; this really came to light after my wife did such a great job helping me through my own mental setbacks as I dealt with depression ... I wanted a way to help moms better understand what dads might be going through that we aren't great sharing. 

I'll keep you updated on the book progress! Send me a message at instafather@gmail.com if you want to keep tabs on the book launch or have questions or want to tell me that's the most godawful idea you've ever heard.

Thanks for reading!

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What should a new Stay At Home Dad know to be successful? Ryan Darcy of Home-Field Dad breaks it down. | instafather.com

I hear from parents asking me for advice about being a stay at home dad. But since I have a full time job (and a lot of side jobs, too!), I'm not the one to go to on this, even as SAHDs are a growing demographic. I've got huge respects for guys who are the primary caretaker. One of those guys is Ryan Darcy of Home-Field Dad. I met Ryan at Dad 2.0 and am super pumped to have his perspective offered here. It's very candid (it would be a disservice to sugarcoat things ... but then again, when on this site do I sugarcoat things?) and full of good advice.

I'm an at-home dad to two (sometimes three) boys. I'm no expert, but I have been keeping my boys alive for almost six years, so I've got that going for me.

If you're reading this, you might be a new or soon-to-be parent. And honestly, you're not as ready or prepared as you've convinced yourself you are. Once you buckle the newbie into their car seat as you prepare to be discharged from the hospital, the "holy shit, he/she is really ours!?" mentality becomes a thing.

And as an at-home dad, once your wife has gone back to work, the "Holy shit" thing comes back - tenfold. Depending if it's your first experience or third (as was the case with me when our third son was born almost a year ago), there's always nerves. It's normal, but take some solace in knowing that despite literally being alone with your newborn, you're not alone. That leads me to number one on the list.

Nine Things SAHDs Should Know
  1. You're alone, but you're not alone. Being home alone all day with your little one can sometimes seem like solitary confinement. Parenthood is awesome, don't get it twisted, but relying on conversations with an infant who doesn't speak is tough. (see: Chuck Noland speaking to Wilson in Cast Away). You've got to be mentally tough for the job. Scour Facebook or/and Meetup for dad groups in your area (Ed. note: Try the National At-Home Dad Network!). These groups are a great resource and in my experience are a great group of guys who are facing or have faced everything you are or will and always willing to assist. It's a grind but is there really a better job than raising your children full-time?
  2. Nap time is important - for YOU! I'm speaking of your child's nap time, not yours, but if you need to recharge your batteri...HAHAHAHAHAHA, that'll never happen. (you'll get to #6) Implementing and sticking to a nap schedule is as important as any other schedule you'll establish, comparable only to bedtime routine. In other words, train your kid(s) to nap at the same time every day. And if you've got two that nap, get those naps going on simultaneously. Not only will it allow you some "me time," it'll allow you the chance to fix yourself some lunch, prep for dinner, or clean up the mess of a living room.
  3. Messy house = you're doing it right. Every book removed from the bookshelf? Matchbox cars and Lego blocks scattered about like tiny-but-visible landmines? Toys lining every wall in the house? Tiny kid's undies and random socks strewn across the floors of different rooms? It's all good. You know the line from Chuck Palahniuk and Fight Club, "the things you own end up owning you?" It's true. But having kids means toys. Very few toys/things have any real staying power, so use this inequality: experiences > things. That's also true. Promote creativity with books and art and crayons and paint and exploring the outdoors. That said, you're still going to accumulate toys/things and the house will be a mess. And that's totally cool. 
  4. Appearance is optional. I'm not saying wear your pajamas outside, that's just a bad look. Chances are high that every time you emerge from your house, you'll have at least one of the following on you: puke, a wet spot (drool or pee?), food, and/or stains. Little kids are a mess and make a mess. No one is judging what you look like and the kid usually attracts 98% of the attention...unless you're wearing those stupid pajama pants I told you not to wear.
  5. Carpets or area rugs. When the time comes for the littlest to crawl/walk, wood floors provide zero assistance. Besides, when they fall (and they will fall), carpets and area rugs are way more forgiving than hardwood.
  6. Sleep deprivation. You'll never be well-rested again. You'll ask your wife how she's doing after work and the answer will be, "tired." You can be empathetic, happy, sad, and emote like normal people without kids, but the one major difference is you have kids, and you'll be perpetually tired
  7. It's OK to wear your carrier indoors. Young children like the proximity and bonding experience carriers provide. Besides, it really makes unloading the dishwasher, vacuuming, prepping dinner, or making yourself a coffee a hell of a lot easier.
  8. Coffee. I'm an iced coffee year-round guy, but whatever way you take it is up to you. Even after nearly 15 years drinking coffee, I'm still not particularly fond of the taste, but now that I've got kids, there's way more to it than taste. The experience of slowly sipping your fresh brewed coffee from a large mason jar is a cathartic experience. Don't get me wrong, I get a coffee from Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, or Cumberland Farms (any size for only a buck!), but the straw only speeds up the imbibement, ruining the experience. And maybe I'm weird (OK, I am), but the caffeine doesn't really do anything for me. 
  9. Find a hobby. You might have a hobby or hobbies, and that's awesome. Woodworking. Drawing. Blogging. Photography. You need something for yourself when you need to be by yourself. You're wife/husband/SO should understand that despite you not earning, you're working every day as well.

It's OK to have a mess. You'll survive.

There's different tips and tricks for parenting and everyone has different expectations. As long as you're not losing your Goddamn mind home alone all day and your kid is happy (most of the time) and healthy, you're doing a great job.

Also, keep communication open with your wife/husband/SO and children. So put your phone away.

Time to go brew a jar of coffee before nap time comes to an end.

Thanks Ryan! Leave a comment below or connect with Ryan on social media to ask him questions!

More about Ryan Darcy/Stay At Home Field Advantage: I'm a soon-to-be 36-year-old at-home dad from Long Island who now lives in rural Connecticut. I love Lindsay, my wife of seven years, my three young boys (who'll be 6, 3, and 1 in a month or two), and hyphens. I've been blogging for around eight years and do it mostly as a hobby, a way to unwind. I try to keep my content light and inject some humor into whatever it is I'm writing about. I'm not a storyteller, at least I don't think so and I tend to write like I speak, without the analogies and metaphors. My site, stayathomefielddadvantage.wordpress.com, is a free site. I've thought about shortening it to Home-Field Dad (thus the Twitter and Facebook page) but I'm an at-home dad who works at a bakery part-time a few nights a week, so my money goes to car/oil/electric bills/$1 Cumberland Farms coffees, not web-hosting fees. (Ed. note: Fair enough!)

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    A dad conference revealed tons of wisdom. Here's what 13 dads learned about fatherhood. | instafather.com

    There's no such thing as a dad expert. But that doesn't mean dads can't improve themselves. I saw this firsthand at the Dad 2.0 Summit. It's an annual conference for men who have beards and wear flannel: fathers. Specifically, dads who write about being dads. Hundreds of guys who have made a choice to write or talk about what it's like being a modern dad — how cool is that?

    It's the best experience (like sleepaway camp but instead of ghost stories it was stories about getting peed on). If you weren't in San Diego with us, I won't rehash it because that's like someone showing you vacation photos. What you should know, though, is all the valuable wisdom being tossed around like pacifiers all weekend. Seriously inspiring stuff.

    What advice did I pick up? It was more of a feeling: I'm not alone as a dad. There are a lot of dudes going through the same thing, the same frustrations, the same highs and lows. I got a chance to read my recent story about battling through anger and depression - not only was it received warmly, but I heard other dads share similar stories, too.

    All of it was a good reminder that we're all subpar, as men, about talking to each other about what we're going through. Even at a conference for dad bloggers — people who have made part of their life around talking about fatherhood to strangers — we all were still surprised at the stories we'd hear. 

    I've been thinking about starting a private Facebook group for dads who follow Instafather so we can start a dialogue; be the solution, so to speak. Maybe this was what I needed to experience to make that happen (hit me up @instafatherandy if you have thoughts on whether I should do that!)

    But I was far from the only one doing a lot of head nodding. I asked other guys what they learned. You'll find dads of all backgrounds below - stay-at-home dads, single dads, dads of twins, married dads, dads of different ethnicities. But what we all have in common is we love our kids (and swag ... we loved getting swag). See what nuggets of wisdom they got after a weekend full of inspirational speakers and long conversations about fatherhood.

    Make sure to check out all of these dads' sites/social media, too! There are a lot of dads to look up to all around us. Thanks to everyone who contributed.

    Listen more, talk less

    I did a lot of listening in order to really take in who the speaker was. I am working on taking that strategy home with me, and really listening to my sons. Childhood is so brief, and I've realized that there's a good chance I can miss an important moment in an instance. I don't want that to happen.

    - Kevin Zelenka, Doubletroubledaddy.com

    Listen to and reflect on the experiences that may be different than yours, you WILL learn a lot. 

    - Sean Singleton https://www.thepoplyfe.com/

    Be present. Be in tune with yourself. Be Honest.

    Andrew McCarthy on finding life's moments of clarity: "Oh! There I am," he'd say when he found out what he should do next. | instafather.com

    "Oh. There I am."  - Andrew McCarthy (a captivating keynote speaker/the actor from St. Elmo's Fire/Weekend at Bernies and a million other things, said he would say that phrase to himself when he had a moment of clarity of who he really is and what he should do with his life). I was once lost but now I'm found – in my family, and my passions, and in large part due to this community – but the challenge for me has been to stay there. To stay centered, to embrace it, champion it, live it, sing it from the mountain top. My soul is a nomadic, wayfaring beast and I often lose sight of the fact that I've already found what I'm eternally seeking. This little silly/nothing phrase was everything for me. I'm already sketching the tattoo proofs.

    - Mike Heenan http://athomedadmatters.com

    Take off your mask of masculinity and be vulnerable. Everyone in the room has experienced the same or similar low that you have, and they will appreciate your vulnerability.

    - Adam Gertsacov @dadapalooza http://www.dadapalooza.com

    No matter how isolated you might feel, there's a community out there waiting with open arms. You just need to open yours ...  To be honest, the biggest dad wisdom I received this year is the same as a personal goal: learn to stop comparing myself to others and accept that I have a positive impact on people.

    - Lorne Jaffe http://www.raisingsienna.com / @raisingsienna

    You're a role model for your kids

    Kids don't listen, but they observe our behavior very closely. - Adam Hall http://tenordad.com

    Being a great dad means being ready and persisting

    "Be at your best on command," Charles "Peanut" Tillman (a keynote speaker, former NFL player and dad whose daughter had heart replacement surgery as a baby, forcing him to best at his best on a moment's notice.)

    - Tobin Walsh http://goodbaddad.com/ 

    "Never, never, never quit" - Winston Churchill

    - Keith Jower @dads4life

    Sharing Your Story as a Dad Means Letting Go

    Tell your story, find your voice and just keep writing.

    - Victor Aragon @fandads

    Just start! You don't have to be perfect!

    - Aaron Canwell @micahandmerocks (who plays a mean ukulele btw!)

    Just good advice in general

    In the words of Glen Henry ... "Don't put your finger in ya butthole, it's gross"  

    - Ryan Darcy http://stayathomefielddadvantage.wordpress.com

    P.S. Julian Ivey-Caldwell (@GetConnectDad) and Joel Gratcyk (@DaddysGrounded) both said they learned that they need to do more video, like Facebook Live, to better connect to dads. What do you think? Should I do more video? Do you prefer video versus posts like this? Are you not reading this P.S. because it's not a video?

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