At some point during your journey as a father, your child is going to do something that makes you wonder if he is developing “normally.” I use the word loosely, because every child is different, and every new pairing of DNA results in a unique combination of genes that has never existed before nor will ever exist again. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself wondering at times if your child is developing typically, or if it’s time to seek out professional help. Read on to learn this father’s experience with the fear of autism, what we did, and how it turned out.
My wife is a very loving person with a classic “Type-A” personality, and tends to be more of a worrier than I am. She has dealt with anxiety most of her adult life and it manifests itself in different ways at different times. I tend to be more laid back, and more of a “go-with-the-flow” kind of guy. I prefer to let our son learn about his surroundings organically, by exploration, while she would prefer a controlled environment designed to expose him to cause and effect. I don’t believe that either preference is superior to the other. They are different and they both have their strengths and weaknesses. Her method has the advantage of being structured, and therefore there are no surprises. My method is more adaptable and its “off the cuff” nature makes it more suitable for “real world” scenarios. Neither approach is ideal for all situations all the time. That’s why, in this father’s opinion, it takes two parents to raise healthy children; to set them up for success and empower them to achieve their fullest potential. (Read my article https://mistermommy.com/the-importance-of-a-father/ for a more complete take on my opinion about the critical role that fathers play in their children’s lives.)
One of the benefits of having a Type-A person as a partner is that you’re less likely to be blindsided by the inevitable
curve balls that life throws you. I can’t tell you the number of times my wife’s foresight has saved me headaches and strife. However, this level of foresight is often at the expense of our collective peace of mind and her serenity, especially when it manifests as what I’ve coined as “vicarious health anxiety” for our children. Many people talk about postpartum depression, but many women also deal with postpartum anxiety, and women who have preexisting generalized anxiety are more likely to see an increase in the number and severity of symptoms postpartum. I mention these conditions because if you notice your partner experiencing things like constant worry, sleep problems, racing thoughts, unfounded fears, etc – something may be going on that they need help with.
If you Google anything your child does, and scroll down far enough, you’re likely to see a foreboding word somewhere on the page: Autism. My wife first began wondering if our older son TJ was on the spectrum when she Googled milestones. As new parents, we didn’t really know what the typical child should be doing and when he should be doing it. She wanted to make sure that he was hitting the milestones that he should be so we could check in with the pediatrician if he wasn’t. For our son TJ, the first milestone that she questioned was eye contact. Infants generally start making direct eye contact between 6 and 8 weeks. She wasn’t sure if he was actually making direct eye contact, and if he was, if he was doing it as often as he should. So she then googled “infant lack of eye contact.” The first result that comes up is “Avoidance of Eye Contact: An Early Sign of Autism,” so she read it – this was her downfall. If you Google something that your child does that’s even remotely atypical, be it a particular finger placement, a tendency to play with toys a certain way, or only certain toys, I can guarantee you that you’ll see autism spectrum disorder somewhere on the page.
My wife then started to monitor TJ’s eye contact. While he was breastfeeding, he often times wouldn’t look into her eyes. She described him as “looking over her shoulder.” This concern led to more googling. If you find yourself or your partner doing this, you should stop, close/turn off the computer, and talk to your pediatrician instead. She read more about symptoms of autism, and then started to wonder about other things he did or didn’t do. Since children with autism often have trouble with communication and social engagement, things like his general aloofness and lack of separation anxiety (Rowan, his younger brother, literally cries if he’s put down for five seconds) became concerns.
Additionally, TJ didn’t have a word that he knew by a year old (not even “mama” or “dada”). This was probably one of our biggest concerns. All the literature that we read on childhood development clearly indicated that most typical children have a word that they use regularly by one year of age. All of these things, when combined with my wife’s anxiety, led to months of her going back and forth and wondering if he could be on the spectrum. Her fear was so strong that I began to worry, too.
This left me in a very challenging position as his father. A small part of me felt almost angry at her for even letting herself think that something was wrong with him; not because of any sense of paternal pride, but because I was helpless to stop the runaway train of worry, concern and emotion that was robbing her of some of the most joyous times of parenthood. A larger part of me wanted to do emotional damage control in order to prepare for every possible outcome. What would our lives be like if he was autistic? How would our relationship with each other change? Would we rise to meet the challenges that having a special needs child presented together and emerge a stronger, closer couple? Or would our marriage deteriorate into a bickering, sniping, resentful cohabitation headed for ruin? The largest part of me hoped our son would be alright. These scenarios played out in my mind, and I found myself trying, impossibly, to emotionally prepare for all of them.
Of course, I wanted him to be okay. I also knew, from my own research, that the exact cause of autism wasn’t known. Often times, I would find myself making the mistake of trying to “reason my wife’s concerns away.” I would say things like, “If he has it, he has it. It’s nothing that we did or didn’t do as his parents that caused it. Or, “Even if he does have it, it’s done now. It doesn’t change anything.” The second one almost caused a blowout between us on several occasions, because my wife thought that I meant that it wouldn’t change anything for him. What I meant, but failed to adequately articulate was, “It doesn’t change anything about the way we feel about him; the amount of love we had for our little/ man.” In hindsight, the predominant feeling I had was sadness. Sadness for my wife, sadness for TJ, sadness for myself. I found myself cringing inside when TJ would do something “strange” and I would see the inevitable look of concern flash across her face. To my chagrin, I learned during a good conversation that we had after TJ was professionally evaluated that she had begun trying to mask the visible signs of her worry to forgo my reaction.
After months of doing our own research, alternating between being cautiously optimistic, and feeling like our son’s future was fated to be filled with specialists, therapists, and their ilk, we decided to have him evaluated. We made an appointment with early intervention when he was around 18 months old. (click here to access a statewide database of early intervention resources from the CDC). Three professionals came to our house for his evaluation. They talked to him, played with him, and talked to us. They made us feel at ease. After about 30 minutes, we had our answer:
“TJ does not qualify for additional services.”
At first, I heard the “not” in that statement, and my already heightened papa bear instincts seized upon that negative. I was filled with trepidation. I cleared my throat, and asked “What does that mean?” They happily elaborated: TJ was a bright, inquisitive, young boy, and that he didn’t need early intervention. His aloofness was just his personality. His lack of separation anxiety? Chalk that up to confidence. His quirky finger placement was just a quirk. His general interest in and preference for things instead of people? He’s a typical boy. His lack of vocabulary? By the time of the actual evaluation he had started using words and had about 50-60 he would use regularly, so nothing to worry about there. Now, he’s a 28 month old toddler who talks non-stop. We tried to count at one point and he has hundreds of words in his constantly growing repertoire.
Let’s play the odds: The odds are, if we’re just looking at the numbers (not any of the other variety of risk factors) that your child does not have autism. According to the most recent data from a 2018 analysis released by the CDC, 1.7% (or one in 59 children) is on the spectrum. That means that 98.3 percent of children do not have autism.
Ask yourself if you’re judging your child’s behavior with an impartial eye (something that, as a father, I find all but impossible to do). Are you playing up (or down) behaviors based on what you’ve read? Are you seeing behaviors that aren’t really there, or aren’t what they appear to be? This is your child. You owe it to him to give him the best start in life possible, and part of that is an unworried, present parent.
If you’re truly concerned about your child’s development, then there are resources you can utilize. Your pediatrician is always there to talk to, and you should feel comfortable enough with him or her to speak freely and share your concerns. Pediatricians are not experts in the autism spectrum, however, so if you are still concerned or your gut is telling you something, you can have your child evaluation at any point by Early Intervention. Early Intervention assists children and their parents with developmental milestones and provides services if there are developmental delays. The CDC maintains a searchable statewide database of Early Intervention providers that can evaluate your child for free, with no insurance necessary. Click here to access it.
I asked my wife if there was anything she knows now that she wished she had known then, anything that she would tell other parents that were concerned about their child’s development. She said that she wished she really had understood that kids do weird things all the time, and that there is no definitive checklist for autism. Take hand flapping, for example: developmentally typical children and atypically developing children at young ages will often hand flap when they are excited in order to express themselves. In other words, just because your child does one or even several things that may indicate that she may have autism does not mean that they actually have it. Try to look at your child as a whole and wait and see how their developmental trajectory plays out.
…your child is still perfectly them! They haven’t changed at all. Labeling something doesn’t change the nature of it, nor does it have any bearing on the future. All labels do is allow people to easily categorize things to sort them. It’s important to define something for what it is, but don’t let this definition limit the potential outcomes of a given situation. If your child has autism, it’s not their defining attribute. It’s just one aspect of a myriad of things that make them who they are.
Our 27 month old, TJ, started a program called mother’s morning out (MMO) last week. It’s run by a local church, and it provides a chance for mothers to, put simply, get a few hours to themselves for one, two, or three mornings during the week. A Google search will reveal just how prevalent these programs are, and just how gender specific the search term has to be. For example, googling “Father’s Day Out” returns a bunch of cheesy Father’s Day websites. There isn’t a single reference, resource, or pointer to anything related to programs such as Mother’s Morning Out.
So, fellow father, you may be wondering what to do if you find yourself in need of a couple hours’ respite in the morning, and mother’s morning out is your only option. Read on to discover what you should know, what to expect and how to prepare for this misleadingly named parent’s program.
Let’s dispense with the foreshadowing and get right to the point; MMO Programs aren’t gender-specific. Yes, fathers are just as welcome at these quaint,mostly church-run, parental refuges. To my delight, I wasn’t the only father there when my wife and I dropped TJ off for his first morning at “school”, which is what we call it when talking to our son. I was definitely in the minority, though. There were about three other men there, at least one of which was obviously a grandparent.
My older son, TJ, was so excited
to go to MMO on the first day!
The biggest misconception I have found among not only fathers, but all parents, is that Mother’s Morning Out programs are the same as daycare. While there are some similarities, they are not the same thing. There are two main differences; namely: time and cost. Most MMO programs are one, two, or three day(s) per week, and about two hours per day only. Daycare is an all day child care service that is typically five days per week for eight hours per day. The cost difference is reflected in this, as well. The MMO program that my family uses costs about $20 per day. In my area (a suburb of Philadelphia), the average annual cost of daycare is $19,575. Furthermore, many daycares require a contract that you’ll have your child attend their daycare for a given period of time. To get a more accurate comparison, however, let’s break that data down a bit.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s round the annual cost of daycare to a whole number; $20,000. Per year, this equates to about $10/hour ($20,000 / 50 weeks (leaving two weeks for holidays) / 40 hours per week = $10). So, in terms of the cost per hour, daycare is actually about half as expensive as a typical MMO Program. However, when you consider the fact that mother’s morning out programs are only between one and three days per week and don’t require a contract, they are by far the more affordable option.
Mother’s Morning Out Programs are typically run in a local (Christian) church. That being said, they maintain a secular environment for the children who attend them. It makes sense; an age when most children are still not toilet-trained is not an appropriate time to teach them about religion, spirituality, and matters of the spirit. When it comes to those most important aspects of life, I prefer to steer the ship. The Mother’s Morning Out program that we use respects those boundaries, and focuses instead on more age-appropriate matters, such as:
Since attending MMO, TJ has been more patient with his little brother, Rowan, more receptive to my instructions when play time is over, more willing to take a nap, clean up, follow directions, and an all-around more well-adjusted boy. I noticed this difference almost immediately after his first day. It’s a funny quirk of some children that they do things first or more willingly for strangers than they will do them for their own parents. I call it “performance behavior.” However, once TJ “performs” for someone else, he usually incorporates it into his repetoir of normal, routine, behavior.
Mother’s Morning Out is the clear winner in this dad’s opinion. From the cost and lack of a contract to the effective methods used to socialize your child, MMO provides the most value for your dollar. Unless you need all-day childcare, and you don’t have a trusted friend or family member to provide this, MMO is a far more practical solution than daycare. It provides an educational socialization opportunity for your little one, as well as providing you some time to catch up on some blissful sleep (or dishes, cleaning, and changing your other baby’s diapers).
You just got home from the hospital. Hopefully everything went well, and Mommy is home too. If this is your first child, prepare to feel a bit like a third wheel (if it’s not, you already know the drill). Below I list some of the best ways for a father to bond with his child, and hopefully feel less like a third wheel. My hope is for dads to feel more like the critical member of the family they were intended to be.
Ever wonder why one of the first things doctors do immediately after delivering a child is hand them to their mother (well, besides the fact that she has the food, and who wouldn’t be hungry after going through an experience like being born)? It’s because of a phenomenon that occurs when your baby touches their parent’s skin. It’s called “skin-to-skin” contact, and it means so much to your baby. However, dads can get lost in the shuffle during this crucial window. I recommend setting time aside specifically for this every day. You will find that you have skills of your own to bring to the table that your child’s mother doesn’t, or isn’t as good at. For me, it was “gliding”. It was a term we coined for sitting in the glider with our firstborn, TJ, and rocking him to sleep. He wasn’t as good of a sleeper as Rowan is. I spent many nights with him: his little body laid across mine, tummy to tummy, patting his diapered butt with my hand while gliding him to sound sleep. If you had told me that I would actually miss those sleepless nights, I would have scoffed. Little did I know just how right you would have been!
This one can seem silly sometimes, because until your kiddo learns how to talk, it can feel like you’re talking to yourself. However, many studies have shown that a child hearing their parents voices has tons of benefits for them. Your child’s brain is like a dry sponge; ready to soak up any knowledge it’s exposed to.
I felt a little awkward as I was trying to think of what I should say to my son when he and I were alone during the day. I soon realized that it didn’t really matter what I talked about, it just mattered that I was talking. While you’re getting a bottle warmed up for your little one, talk to him or her! Narrate the process, even though they won’t be able to understand what you’re saying. Say things like, “Okay, I am going to go get you a ba!” Or, when you’re changing your child’s diaper, say what you’re doing out loud. I was very animated when I would change my son’s diaper. If he had gone number 2, I would say, “Oh! Poo tanky!” (Poo stinky). To his delight, I would then pretend that I got knocked out by the smell. If he had just peed, I would say, “Oh, phew! It’s just pee!” while wiping my brow in an overly exaggerated expression of relief. Sometime around six to nine months, your child will start babbling and making sounds like, “Goo! Ga! Ba! Da!” To encourage them and the development of their language skills, I recommend that you always mirror their sounds back to them.
Before long, he or she will start making connections between the sounds you make and what you’re doing. TJ’s first word was “Ba!” for his bottle. His first name was “Da Da!” for daddy. I still fondly recall walking in the door from a long day at Starbucks (where I worked at the time), and TJ, for the first time, saying “Da Da!” while crawling excitedly over to me as fast as his little fat legs and arms could carry him. It made me feel ten feet tall.
Hide and seek is a classic and fun way to make your child squeal with laughter. Peek-a-boo is also a go-to for infants. Or you can play, “Where is it?” and hide a favorite toy or stuffed animal and let your kiddo look for it. I used to pretend that I forgot where I put something of his and let TJ look for it for a while sometimes (an easy way to buy yourself some down time during those super-tired days). Another favorite is “Play Cars”, which is TJ’s name for laying on the floor with Da Da and just… playing cars. Play time is when a lot of early childhood development, physical, psychological, and emotional occurs. One thing I’ve learned is that children (at least mine) don’t really care what you’re doing with them, as long as you’re paying full attention to them.
When you’re going to be a stay at home dad and you don’t want to lose your mind, you’re going to have to find a way to make it fun for yourself and your kids. Children are very perceptive, and have an uncanny ability to intuit things that haven’t been explicitly said. If your heart isn’t in it, they will know. When you’re distracted, they will know. When you’re unhappy, they will know. Don’t worry about being the “most fun dad” or the “best dad” or anything like that. After all, you’re without a doubt the most fun dad that your children have, and the best dad they’ve ever had, too!
What are some of the ways that you bond with your child/ren? Leave a comment below. If you found this post and mistermommy.com helpful, please share it with your friends and family using one of the social media buttons below!
Hello fellows! I decided to write this article at 1:30 in the morning on a Sunday night in order to share my business(es) with you guys (and hopefully drive some of you to make a change for yourselves, since anyone can do what I do)! Both of these businesses can be done from your couch, making them ideal for work from home dads! The way I see it, just because you’re a stay at home dad doesn’t mean that you can’t also be a working dad. You just need to change the what and the where; namely what you do and where you do it from. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all “salesy” on you gents. I am, however, going to ask you to think about several things that may seem silly and/or uncomfortable at first (don’t worry, I will tie it all up in a neat bow at the end, I promise!). There are three questions I have for you:
I know, I know; it sounds like a BS question. Before you click away from this page, though, hear me out! I asked this question so you would honestly search yourself for the driving factor behind your angst. Some guys are just not cut out to be stay at home dads, while others are satisfied with the padding their bank account has. If you’re already comfortable with your current income, none of these opportunities are unlikely to work for you. Why? Two reasons:
No, I am not being smart or facetious; this is critical. So many times in my business I have tried to help others achieve a life changing residual income; laying out the steps that they needed to take in order to get this result, even breaking it down into manageable tasks, only to have them try to take matters into their own hands, rush the process, and ultimately, fail. If you’re a genius level individual, I respectfully ask you to keep it moving, and use that IQ to save the planet, cure diseases, and end world hunger.
If, however, you’re fairly intelligent (and you most likely are, since you’re here), and able to keep it simple, then read on! If you do what I did, you’ll get what I got!
I have learned in my 34 years on Earth that people either work hard to make a change, or they work just as hard to resist it. As I previously stated, these are not get-rich-quick schemes. These are businesses. Like any other business, individual effort is the single most important factor in predicting success. You are building a future for yourself and your family. Because I want to be successful at what I do, I am putting in some extra time, and writing this article in the early morning hours. I knew that being a dad was going to be the single most challenging, frustrating, rewarding experience of my life. There’s one thing, however, that makes any situation in life harder: lack of money. No one likes being broke. Stay at home dads are no exception to this rule. I want to be a role model for my sons, and show them that their dad is a determined individual who rose above the challenges that life gave him, and thrived in spite of everything that was against him. If you want to do the same thing, you should check out the following two business opportunities!
Put simply, Wealthy Affiliate is a community-oriented website building tool and group of online entrepreneurs that will teach you how to make money online. I can’t speak highly enough about this program. It will teach you, from start to finish, how to build a website, monetize it, and profit from it. There are literally tens of thousands of other Wealthy Affiliate members around the world, and we’re all rooting for each other! The internet has made working from home not only possible for anyone and easier than ever, but also a viable source of income for almost anyone.
Kynect is, at its heart, an energy retail company. Formerly known as Stream, it is based out of Texas, and now sells electricity in over a dozen states. Around 2015, we took our services nationwide by offering cellphone service for an extremely competitive rate (around $45/month for unlimited everything– high speed data included). For $200, you can become an Independant Associate, and make money every time one of your clients pays their electricity and/or cell phone bills. You’ll earn one-time bonuses at 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 customers (the list goes on), you qualify for free electricity at 15 customers, you can qualify for leadership bonuses as you help other associates that you brought into the business promote through their tiers, qualify for all expenses paid vacations, cars, and more. If you’re an outgoing person, you’ll do well with Kynect.
You’ve read this post, and you’ve decided to give one (or both) of these opportunities a try. Don’t feel like you have to, or even should, do both. In fact, personally, I recommend that you choose one of them, stick with it for at least a year, and if after that year, you’re not feeling it, then you can either cut your losses and switch, or you can do what I did, and double dip. I know several multi-millionaires in both industries. The most important thing is to carefully consider the type of life you envision for yourself, and which of these businesses will best allow for that.
The longest journeys start with a single step, and so it is with these opportunities. If you’re ready to take that first step, first of all: congratulations are in order! I am genuinely excited for you! Secondly, know this: You’re not proposing to your future wife here; you’re just dating an idea. If you end up not liking the choice you made, then you’re absolutely free to change your mind at any point, no strings attached.
Your wife, significant other, or girlfriend (the mother of your child) is at work, and now it’s entirely on you to feed your baby. So, you may be wondering what the best baby bottles are for your little one. Well, mister mommy is here to share hard-won experience with you, so you don’t have to figure it out on the fly. That old adage still applies: “A smart man learns from his mistakes; a wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” So, without further ado, I’m going to tell you what you’ll need to get the job done, with none of the BS!
Your baby’s milk, whether formula fed or breast fed, will need to be put into a sterile bottle, and brought as close to body temperature as possible before you can give it to your little one. You’ll want the following around:
… and that’s it. You’ll want to put the refrigerated milk in the bottle, screw the bottle top on tightly (while there may not be any use in crying over spilled milk, your baby certainly will if you spill its milk), place it in the large mug, and fill the mug with warm water. Wait about five minutes for the milk to warm up before feeding your little one. If the milk is too cold, your baby may not take it. Too hot, and you’ll get a wail of angry teary-eyed protest. Until you get the feel for how long the bottle should stay in the water, how hot the water should be, and how it should feel through the plastic in your hand, you should test the milk’s temperature on the underside of your wrist to gauge its temperature before you feed your baby.
The best baby bottle brand, in this dad’s opinion, is Tommee Tippee. They are BPA-free, can take an angry toddler jumping on them (I can personally attest to this), aren’t overly expensive, and are the brand I used to feed both of my sons. They come in a variety of sizes, are microwave-safe (which makes sterilization easy), have interchangeable nipples (as your child grows, he or she will most likely need a faster flow), and disassemble for easy cleaning. Furthermore, they have excellent customer service (not that bottles necessitate frequent calls).
I have included links below to all the products we talked about in this article for your convenience. While I am compensated if you purchase anything using my affiliate link, I am not paid to endorse a specific product or brand. I only recommend products that I have first-hand knowledge of. If it’s not good enough for my kids, I won’t recommend it. Period.