Daddy and Me: First Time Parenting as a Stay at Home Dad

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Two years ago, I became a stay-­at-­home dad (SAHD). After The Wife and I knew the pregnancy was good, and The Baby was as healthy as possible, but before she was born, I really started thinking about what fatherhood would be like. I was very, very excited. Since college, I’ve felt like an underachiever, but I knew. I knew. I knew I would be better at being a dad than I’d been at anything else I’d tried (a statement more about my lack of success elsewhere than grandiose notions about being an amazing dad).

The Baby was born, and fatherhood was much harder emotionally than I ever thought it could be. But The Baby was healthy, and I knew being a stay at home dad was a privilege, and for the first time ever, I believed that failure was not an option. We soldiered on and The Baby’s sleep normalized and we started eating dinner together again and The Baby became The Toddler and The Toddler ate well and took good naps and life got a lot better. Some time in there, I enrolled in the Daddy & Me class through PAIIR. Daddy & Me is as advertised ­ a class for dads (mostly SAHDs, but important to note, not exclusively for SAHDs) and their kids. It’s an amazing community of inspiring families. Lately, we’ve been talking about Positive Discipline.

The philosophy of Positive Discipline is too much for one blog post, but discussion always leads to, “How would you handle…?” a given situation. For example, one of the dads had taken his two kids to a cross country meet on a cold, rainy day. His daughter (age 5) didn’t want to wear her rain coat; she wanted to wear a fleece, which wasn’t waterproof. Despite his best efforts to respect and empower her, explaining how she would wind up cold and miserable in her fleece, she wouldn’t give in, and he eventually forced her to wear her raincoat. Superficially, this is counter to Positive Discipline, but sometimes, a parent knows best, and knows that leaving the meet early because a kid didn’t listen won’t be an option.

I listened to the story, and thought about how I would’ve handled it. I just kept coming back to his attempt to explain why she needed to wear the raincoat. I said, “So, did the logic make any difference? Did she seem to understand at all that she’d be uncomfortable in a wet fleece?” I could see most of the dads smiling, a few knowing shakes of the head. “No. Logic didn’t play into her decision at all.”
The more I thought about this throughout the day, the more I realized how much of my personal parenting philosophy was based on appeals to my child’s logic. I’d been so, so naively thinking that I’d be able to explain something to my child, and she would listen, and she would understand, and she would then make the “right” decision. I know. You experienced parents out there just laughed out loud at my stupidity. The success of my personal parenting philosophy would only require that my child be better than every other child who had ever existed. I’d been thinking about this all day as my ideals crashed in around my ears. I was chuckling to myself as I put a little self­ deprecating post up on social media about this realization, that my daughter would need to be better than every other child ever, when I heard a shout from the bathroom where The Toddler was getting bathed by The Wife. 

My child, who would need to be better than every other child who had ever existed if I wanted to succeed as a father, had just pooped in the bathtub.

That night I scrubbed a lot more than the bathtub. I scrubbed away a lot of naivete.


Born and raised in Southern MN, I lived all over before coming home. I’m a dad, husband, reader, writing aspirer, cyclist, beer geek, occasional woodworker, tinkerer, and complacent underachiever. He blogs about life and parenting at

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