You’ve probably heard of “pregnancy brain” or “momnesia.” You know that forgetfulness and loss of razor sharp thinking so many moms (especially academics) experience with pregnancy. Well today I invented a phrase called the “paternity leave brain”. In my case it’s that fuzziness of mind that comes with trying to be a “stay at home dad” of 5, lacking sleep, cooking, cleaning, nursing a nursing mommy, handling staff issues at work (at an arms-length), writing, grading, teaching, and such. I know you are thinking “Andrew you are just crazy for having a big family like that…” and perhaps I am, but I am also crazy about the subject of fatherhood and family life, and as you can see, I’m getting all “ethnographic” about it. When people comment, “After four kids and a degree in that field, I guess you have everything under control,” I do my best to suppress a mischievous “cackle” (as my students would say) by simply responding with “I’m not sure ‘control’ is the right word but we are doing fine.”
It is hard to admit that most days I join the ranks of moms and dads who feel like they are “ruining their kids,” just to find out that I too am doing a pretty good job. Yes you can be a good parent even if you are a little distracted juggling so many things at once. I just wish I had that multitasking gene that my wife seems to have been born with.
During these last couple weeks I have been calling on my favorite two parenting tips: 1) I’m paying attention to what I want to see more of in my kids (noticing the good and rewarding with my attention), and 2) I’m actually being a bit more consistent and making a routine my new best friend, even though its not easy. And though I am a bit rusty at both, I have had more time than usual to practice and I can see truly how helpful they have been as a zookeeper of sort.
Yes, life keeps you a bit busy at times (especially with a tenure clock ticking), but hopefully not too busy to smell the roses and remember what you value most: family, relationships, and all that fun stuff that goes with those.