“I’m sorry, but we will be letting your department go.”
I stared at my coworker from human resources in disbelief. I quickly scanned the room at the rest of the group that was gathered in this now tension filled conference room. I saw tears streaming down faces and blank emotionless faces peering right back at me. And I could feel the fog of uncertainty start to clog my mind. I quickly snapped out of it and spit out the first thing that came to my mind.
“This can’t be happening, I…I…I have a baby now, what am I supposed to do?”
I could feel the panic rise in me as I pictured my 7-month old baby girl resting in her crib.
I’m a father now, it’s my job to provide for her. What do I do if I can no longer…provide? I could hear a response from the question I asked, but those words floated away into space. Nothing she said could help me now. I began the drive home and called my wife to tell her the news. She reacted the way any normal wife would, she was scared and worried. I pulled into my driveway, parked, and just sat there to collect my thoughts. After what seemed like an eternity, my wife walked out with our baby girl in her arms.
“We are going to be ok, alright? Look, you stay home fulltime to take care of Bug. We will save money that way.”
I agreed and the next day would be a true test of fatherhood.
My wife’s alarm blared through our bedroom and I watched her prepare for the day while I laid motionless under the covers. Talk about multitasking, she barked out instructions about baby care, fixed her makeup, and straightened her hair all at the same time. It was a blur and I wasn’t really paying attention to anything she was saying. I would regret that soon enough. I looked over at my bundle of joy sleeping peacefully.
“This is going to be easy…feed her when she wakes up, play with her, she goes back to sleep, and I can play video games.”
As soon as my wife closed the door, I could hear Bug start to stir in her crib. And as soon as she saw who was taking care of her that day, it was over. She started to cry. I took her in my arms and went downstairs to fix her a bottle and she refused. I tried everything.
A game of peekaboo? No.
A puppet show? No.
Sing songs from her favorite baby show? With my terrible voice, I’m pretty sure that made things worse.
The crying went on for hours and I found myself in tears. I was frustrated and had no clue what to do. Am I cut out to be a father? Do I know how to do this? My own baby hates me. So, I had to figure something out. I picked up my cell phone and called my mother-in-law. She was magical with babies and I had faith she had the answer. The phone rang and went to voicemail. Panic started to seep into my head again and my mind continued to work.
“Ok, you know what? I will just bring the baby to her. Yeah, that’s it. She will know what to do.”
I grabbed the keys, put Bug in the baby seat, and drove to my mother-in-law’s place of employment. I walked through the hallways with my baby in my arms and paid no attention to the staff members who stared at me with confusion. Finally, I got to her office and knocked on her door. She was very surprised to see me and bug, but I think it had more to do with the fact a man in his mid-thirties dressed in pajamas knocked on her office door holding a baby with tears in his eyes.
“She won’t stop crying; I don’t know what to do.”
She took the baby in her arms and that’s all. Bug stopped crying and starting smiling. I was dumbfounded. I’m her father and I have no clue how to soothe her. And then it hit me.
As fathers, we don’t have to know the answers, but we have to know how to GET the answers. Like they say in show business, it’s not what you know…it’s WHO you know. Today’s fathers have a wealth of tools to get this father thing down right. We can lean on other fathers for advice, we can go online and watch videos on how to swaddle our newborns, and pretty soon we become the masters of multitasking just like our girlfriends or wives.
That crying incident was years ago, but the lesson I learned about what it takes to be a good father still rings true. It’s about assessing the situation, humbling yourself if you don’t know the answer, and then doing whatever it takes to resolve the issue. In today’s world, it takes more than just that to be a “good father” but ultimately the moment you are willing to do anything and everything to protect and care for your baby is when you become a good father.