It’s 3 a.m. My son’s arms are wrapped around my neck. He's sick and I’m covered in a fine mist of everything he’s expelling from his nose and mouth. One word comes to mind: Lucky.
A lot of dads would disagree. They push babies and their care off on mom. But when it comes to rearing our son, my wife and I divide childcare right down the middle. He’s adopted, so I could never use breastfeeding as an excuse to avoid middle-of-the-night meals. In truth, I didn’t want to. I waited my whole life for him. Why miss a minute?
My son joined us when he was 4 days old. In our first few weeks with him, my wife and I jumped up together whenever he made a sound. Since I had changed one diaper in my life, and she hadn’t changed any since her teens, we tag-teamed that too, each of us holding a leg!
But after a month or so, we began alternating the wail watch, and from there evolved our routine. One of us dresses him for bed and puts him down at 7 p.m., and is on call until midnight. The other person takes over from midnight through the 7 a.m. morning ritual. You dress him, hand him his first bottle and make his breakfast an hour later. For the rest of the day, we share diapering, cleaning and feeding.
Not every task is evenly split, and it's probably not surprising that I do more of the playing with while my wife does almost all of the clothes and toy shopping. It works for us.
The overnight shift, naturally, can still be wearying even after he began sleeping through the night at four months. But it’s also a blessing. I sometimes hope our son will awaken just so I can be with him. I feel a connection with him then that is unlike the daylight hours. In the groggy silent night, when he is curled on my lap, another word comes to mind, the one he exclaims whenever I enter the room. Oh yes, Daddy.
Does your childcare division work for you?
Image via Angela Johnson Meadows