Dad’s Guide to Staying Home with Babies

By Sharon Perkins, Stefan Korn, Scott Lancaster, Eric Mooij

If you’re the primary caregiver, the buck stops with you. Being the primary caregiver is like being the head of a major corporation, only you have one very demanding, unforgiving, but utterly cute client who pays you in smiles and love.

Figuring out what your baby wants

Trying to figure out what your baby is saying to you when he arches his back or screws up his face in a certain way is daunting. It can be baffling when he’s grumpy and cranky and nothing seems to settle him. You’re not a bad father; you just don’t have the skills to deal with each stage of your child’s life yet. By the way, stay-at-home moms face the same challenges.

Figuring out what your baby is trying to communicate is a matter of finding out what you don’t yet know. Fortunately, this is relatively easy these days! Parenting classes are available to help you decipher your baby’s many cues and help you act on them. Parenting classes can also be an invaluable support network. You’ll meet other dads, hear what they’ve been experiencing, and get tips on how to deal with any issues you have with your fatherhood experience.

Healthy bodies and active minds

Just as your child needs food to grow her body, active movement and experiences feed her mind. When she was first born, her brain was about 15 percent developed, but by 3 years of age, her brain is well on its way to being fully developed. The first three years in particular shape your child’s life like no other period. By making a great connection with your child, giving her lots of opportunities to explore and learn, and lots of physical encouragement, you’re doing the best job a dad can do.

All those little things children do when they play — feeling textures, judging distances, figuring out what’s hot and cold, pouring water from one cup to another, and making those raucous noises and squeals — is all about practicing skills that adults have (almost) perfected. By offering lots of things to touch and play with, you’re giving your child lots of opportunities to get some practice in for the real deal — growing up and adulthood.

To ensure your child’s body stays as healthy as it can be, give your child lots of healthy and nutritious foods. You may also need to improve your cooking and baking skills in case you’re not a natural-born chef. Remember the basics — avoid fatty, sugary foods; establish a feeding and eating routine; avoid distractions during eating; and ensure your child gets lots of rest and good sleep.

Keeping mom in the loop

In a busy household, where you’re at home with your child and your partner is out at work, it’s easy to fall into a trap where you’re so absorbed by the hectic lives you lead that you have no time for each other. You’re tired from chasing your little one all day and can’t wait to hand her over to your partner, who’s exhausted from meetings and deadlines. You may fall into a trap of thinking that spending time with your child is a chore.

Remembering that the three of you need to spend time together as a family and enjoy each other’s company is really important. If your partner is away at the office and your child does something that would be of interest to her, let her know — send a text message or an image of your child to her.

Have the video camera around to capture any new words or milestones your child reaches when your partner isn’t there. And when she comes home, rather than plopping your child on her lap the instant she walks through the door, have a family meal or a general catch-up on what the three of you have been doing all day.

As your child gets older, encourage him to do something special for his mom when she gets home, such as bringing her slippers or showing her a drawing he has made.