Archive for category Gripe

Bannon and the Alt-Right

I don’t often do political commentary online. I get a lot of anxiety about the idea of people being mad at me, moreso if I believe they are upset just due to a misunderstanding. So, engaging in what is likely to be a highly polarizing debate about politics is never high on my list of things to do.

I’m finding that discourse and disagreement and vocalizing concerns in the political spectrum are more and more important as everyone gets farther and farther apart in their political camps. So I’m going to suck it up and post something I’ve been thinking a lot about.

There are some liberal responses to Trump’s election that I think are pretty silly. The whole “Calexit” thing is dumb. Announcing you are moving to Canada, unless you really love Canada (and, really, why wouldn’t you?), is not helpful. Claiming the electoral college needs to be overturned feels reactionary — whether or not it should be done away with or overhauled, only bringing it up when your side loses is… obvious.

On the other side of the coin there are very legitimate things that everyone should be concerned about, regardless of their political leanings. The rise of Steve Bannon and the alt-right is something that should be a problem for everyone in America. It’s not a partisan concern. Bannon should not be part of a Trump administration that wants to hold any pretense of governing for the better good of all Americans. And this is why.

Bannon took over as head of Breitbart news after Andrew Breitbart died in 2012 and morphed that fringe conservative news outlet into the self-professed voice of the alt-right. The alt-right likes to brand itself as a new wave of conservatism, the logical extension of the tea party movement and the future of the right-wing. Do not be fooled by this rhetoric. The alt-right is a platform built on racism, homophobia, sexism and xenophobia. It may be easy to mistake it for something more benign if you are not getting all your news from it, but at its core it is a venomous creature.

Let’s look at this article from March of 2016. This is a piece by Breitbart about the alt-right. So, I am not pulling this information from some far-left liberal hit piece. This is straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were.

It’s a long piece; I’ll try to break it down a bit for you. The authors break the alt-right into a series of groups, and there are massive problems with how they present all of them. I will be highlighting some of the low points in this write-up. Also, if you spend a few thousand words profiling your political group’s members and the thesis running through the entire thing is “see, we’re totally not racist” then you might want to consider that you doth protest too much.

First, there’s The Intellectuals. In this section, the bona fides of the alt-right are attempted to be established by listing its serious thinkers and talking about just generally how smart they all are, which is apparently what bothers everyone about them. “The alternative right are a much smarter group of people — which perhaps suggests why the Left hates them so much.” I’m going to leave alone the fact that they proudly count the internet “manosphere” among their members because that’s a whole article by itself. The thing I want to highlight here is this:

“Steve Sailer, meanwhile, helped spark the ‘human biodiversity’ movement, a group of bloggers and researchers who strode eagerly into the minefield of scientific race differences…”

Read that carefully. Unpack it. “Human biodiversity” sounds okay. Sounds scientific almost. Legitimate. And then the kicker—”scientific race differences”. Right there, first section of the article, the not-racist alt-right counts among its intellectual champions a movement of bloggers and researchers who are asserting that, yes, racial (not cultural, mind you) differences exist. And before you chime in and say “Well, but different racial groups are different” — yes, everyone knows this. White folks and black folks have different skin color, hair, features, etc. You don’t need a pseudo-scientific movement to suddenly wade into revelations like this online. They are talking about scientific justifications for racial superiority here.

I hope I’ve whet your appetite for some linguistic gymnastics, because this section is my favorite: Natural Conservatives. This is the core of the alt-right, the rank and file. Breitbart describes the group as “mostly white, mostly male middle-American radicals, who are unapologetically embracing a new identity politics that prioritises the interests of their own demographic.” 

Again, we can do some unpacking here. First off, it is rich that Breitbart can unironically champion a radicalized white populace while fear-mongering about Sharia Law out the other side of its face. But also “new identity politics that prioritises the interests of their own demographic” is not a new concept either. This is practically a textbook definition of racism. Again, it can be easy to defend this statement if you are choosing to give a generous reading. But the operative word here is demographic. We’re not talking about a group of people who are hoping to preserve their community or way or life, per se. They are specifically talking about their racial demographic.

“While eschewing bigotry on a personal level, the movement is frightened by the prospect of demographic displacement represented by immigration.” This might be my favorite sentence in the whole profile. Never have I seen a more slick redirection for charges of racism. No, no, see. They don’t fear brown person, they just fear brown people. Also worth noting, this concept does not cite illegal immigration, but rather all immigration. A major cause of the alt-right is the cessation of all immigration into the United States.

Now, before you try to defend them by saying that you’re sure the alt-right would have no problem with other races as long as they believe in the American dream and pay their taxes and etc. etc. etc. Nope. “[Alt-right intellectuals] say that when different groups are brought together, the common culture starts to appeal to the lowest common denominator.” Two races, two cultures existing side by side is something that the alt-right specifically refutes here. Instead of a strengthening bonds and increasing shared understanding between two groups, all that can result from the blending is the worst possible outcome for both. Oh, and then they claim that this idea is the same as the left’s opposition to cultural appropriation. So, having a problem with a runway model perhaps wearing sacred Native American headgear down the catwalk is pretty similar to believing that those of Muslim descent cannot live in American neighborhoods.

Here come the cringe. The Meme Team is a portion of the alt-right that Breitbart cannot ignore, because they are its mouthpiece on the web. The profile asserts that they are largely attracted to the alt-right due to a sort of punk-rock desire to mock the establishment. The article even goes so far as to make this astounding equivalency: “Just as the kids of the 60s shocked their parents with promiscuity, long hair and rock’n’roll, so too do the alt-right’s young meme brigades shock older generations with outrageous caricatures, from the Jewish ‘Shlomo Shekelburg’ to ‘Remove Kebab,’ an internet in-joke about the Bosnian genocide.” Wait wait wait. What? Growing your hair long to piss your parents off is the same as posting racist cartoons all over the internet? That’s… I mean… what? Like… what?

This is also where the profile tries to make the strongest push that the alt-right is born of the same fires as the progressive left was. They’re just out to shock their parents and grandparents and shake up the status quo. It’s all just hijinks. “Were this the 1960s, the meme team would probably be the most hellraising members of the New Left: swearing on TV, mocking Christianity, and preaching the virtues of drugs and free love.”

Now, strap in for this one. Time to talk about Millennials. (As a Millennial, I super hate reading things about Millennials.) “Millennials aren’t old enough to remember the Second World War or the horrors of the Holocaust. They are barely old enough to remember Rwanda or 9/11. Racism, for them, is a monster under the bed, a story told by their parents to frighten them into being good little children.As with Father Christmas, Millennials have trouble believing it’s actually real. They’ve never actually seen it for themselves…” I straight up cannot understand how this sentence is written and expected to be taken seriously. In the world of Black Lives Matter and post-9/11 fears about terrorism and Islam and, well, this entire election cycle with its talk of Mexicans as rapists and Muslim registries how can Breitbart be asserting that racism is a phantom that the Millennial generation has never been exposed to? This is a stance that they have to take, though. The actions of this meme brigade are so public and so blatantly racist, the only way to attempt to excuse their behavior is to make the tenuous claim that racism doesn’t mean anything to them because they do not understand it. Therefore, they cannot be culpable.

To help point out that there IS racism in the alt-right but it’s totally not THEIR racism they refer to the 1488rs. This name is explained like so: “a reference to two well-known Neo Nazi slogans, the first being the so-called 14 Words: ‘We Must Secure The Existence Of Our People And A Future For White Children.’ The second part of the number, 88, is a reference to the 8th letter of the alphabet – H. Thus, “88” becomes “HH” which becomes ‘Heil Hitler.'” This group is brought up to show that, look, there is a fringe element to the alt-right that is super racist, but we think they are assholes and they think we are assholes, so we can’t be racist because THESE guys are racist and they are not us. They are violent and want to take their political desires by force… but not us. We’re super civil. This admission gets real problematic as the article ends.

The conclusion of the entire piece seems like a call for compromise — a world where the liberal left acknowledges that the alt-right has just cause and must be allowed their safe spaces (which again, considering how much the alt-right loves to mock liberals for their trigger warnings and safe spaces, is pretty ironic) where they can maintain their racially pure demography.

But there’s a twist. What would happen if the left does not feel a need to compromise on the concept of white nationalism? “Well, the risk otherwise is that the 1488ers start persuading people that their solution to natural conservatives’ problems is the only viable one. The bulk of their demands, after all, are not so audacious: they want their own communities, populated by their own people, and governed by their own values.”

I sat with my mouth open for a minute after reading this. The crux of this entire profile that seeks to normalize the alt-right, to explain its motivations and origins, to make it seem less, well, super racist ends on a bald-faced threat. What will happen if you don’t agree with us? Well, if you don’t agree with us, we’ll start agreeing with the Neo-Nazis because, after all, they’re pretty reasonable guys with pretty reasonable desires.

This is why Steve Bannon is dangerous. This is why he has no business in the White House or anywhere near it. It does not matter if he himself has not said any of these things. He’s a smart man. He would have to be to get where he is today. You don’t have to say racist things to be a racist. And you cannot claim to not be a racist while sitting atop a media empire that defines itself by the tenets of racism. Bannon is a danger to America and Trump’s trust in him carries with it the same transitive property. Just as Bannon cannot hide from claims of racism while he allows Breitbart to operate as it does, Trump cannot claim he plans to be a President for every American while he allows Bannon to operate as he does.

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The Changes

Raising two children is tricky. It’s as if, instead of having just one child, you had two. I don’t know if you guys knew this.

Matthew is not more difficult than Joshua was (per the last post). He seems much easier to manage, except for all the spitting up. Joshua is more difficult than he once was, but is a known quantity and can do many things for himself. However, together… Wonder Twin Powers Activate! Form of… Hassle!

We are essentially on a 14 hour non-stop parenting cycle each day. I wake at just after 5am and shower and get ready for the day. This is basically my only personal time now. Joshua wakes up between 5:45 and 6:30 most days. Ideally, Joshua is at daycare just after 7 and then I am off to work. Janelle wakes basically when Matthew wakes, which tends to be closer to 6:30. When I’m home from work, I snag Joshua and play with him until dinner, or I tag-team on and off with Janelle for watching Matthew. Dinner is around 6. Bedtime for Joshua begins around 7 and completes around 8:30. Bedtime for Matthew is basically anywhere from 8-10:30pm. If he sleeps closer to the later end, Janelle and I just go to bed immediately. To the earlier end, maybe we take about 30 minutes to hang out before we sleep. That’s about it. There’s not a lot of room for much else, and you’ll note I didn’t mention any personal time for Janelle. That’s pretty variable. If Matthew is napping well she’ll get a few hours in the day. If he’s not she’s just on duty all the time.

I’ll take a brief pause here to salute single parents because it is basically inconceivable to me how they manage to keep it together with small children. I feel like if I met a single parent of two children under the age of 5 I’d probably offer to be their live-in manservant. [NB: Hyberbole]

With children at these ages, it is very difficult to be a parent to both children in equal measures. Of course I don’t mean this in the emotional sense, though even that is likely true at times. Matthew is tethered to Janelle as long as he is breastfeeding. Yes, soon she will begin to pump and there will be times when I can feed him, but remember that it’s not as if just because someone else is bottle-feeding the baby a breastfeeding Mom is free to roam about. She still needs to pump on the safe regular schedule the baby normally feeds so she can continue her milk production. So, sure, Janelle can head out shopping while I feed the baby, but she still needs to sequester somewhere to pump and that’s much trickier to do on the road than breastfeeding itself is. So, logistically it makes sense for Matthew to essentially be an accessory for Janelle. That means that I’m on Joshua duty. Weekends are now two 16-hour days where Janelle and I see each other if we’re lucky enough to get Joshua to nap in his bed in the house and after he goes to bed. Otherwise I’m at swim, the park, soccer, a friend’s house, the park, on a walk, at the store, getting lunch or doing whatever else needs to be done to fill time for Joshua. If the timing works out, Janelle joins us.

We each end up trying to steal little snippets of time to be with the other child but it’s tricky and often doesn’t go how we want. Janelle’s stint with Joshua at bedtime can very easily turn into tantrum time and my intended face-to-face playtime with Matthew could easily end up as needing to walk him around facing outwards so he won’t end up just crying constantly.

My hope is that as Matthew ages and becomes more capable and portable and interactive we’ll be able to increase the whole-family outings and interactions because at this point both Janelle and I are missing out in some way. Ultimately I think Janelle and I are going to have to learn to start compartmentalizing. We’ve gone essentially our entire relationship attached at the hip, which is how we both prefer to operate, but we’re going to need to adapt that because while as our two boys get older they’ll become more capable and easier to manage but they’ll also begin to pick up divergent friends and activities and hobbies and plenty of things that will necessitate us to plain old not do things together.

Another change is that a third kid is looking like a longshot now. I had been of the mind previously that a second son would mean I would be more likely to want a third child to see if we can roll the dice once more and get a girl. Three sons would of course be fine, but I’ve always liked the idea of having a daughter. But now we’re not so sure. As much fun and as cute as kids can be, another pregnancy and infancy means a lot of inconveniences. Janelle would almost certainly be on an extremely strict diet and likely on insulin to control her blood glucose since Matthew was pretty close to a size that may have mandated a C-section. It’s not likely that we can expect her to be any more comfortable for the length of the pregnancy than she was with Matthew. And, frankly, the entire process essentially downgrades Janelle and I to roommates for about 12-18 months.

All told though, as it was with Joshua, what seems like a lot of hassle on paper has very quickly become a routine. It helps that Matthew is already sleeping through the night, but adjusting for two kids instead of one is more a tweak to our routine than a brand new routine. It’s already hard to recall what life was like with just Joshua. Very quickly my brain is telling me Matthew has always been around and Joshua has always been a chatty toddler and in a couple years I’ll be at a computer looking at video of Matthew and thinking that it seems impossible there was a time he couldn’t talk. So it goes.

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The Difference

I’ll get to why this post is so very late in, well, the next post. I want to talk about the differences now, and later I will discuss the changes, if I can be allowed that semantic distinction.

Both Joshua and Matthew are human males and Joshua was also at one time an infant, but that may be where the similarities end. From the manner of their arrival on down, not much has been the same.

Janelle was pretty content with her pregnancy with Joshua, but was much more uncomfortable throughout with Matthew (so when someone tells you that a different feel for the pregnancy means a different gender feel free to ignore them).

Matthew’s delivery took something like 2% of the time Joshua’s did – but was a significantly more dramatic affair overall. We much preferred our stay at Pomerado Hospital, though. The feel at Zion was much more rigid and while we overall liked our nurses, they made Joshua’s early breast-feeding difficult (well intentioned as they may have been) and made what we have since learned was sort of a dicey call to put Joshua into a UV box to help with what was apparently a pretty mild case of jaundice. So, it was probably a mixed bag of circumstances and personalities, but we just preferred Pomerado. Only being there for less than two instead instead of almost five days probably helped too.

Joshua was much more of a cryer than Matthew is. In fact, this is still the case. We have far more tears from the toddler than from the one-month-old (FAR more). This is pretty awesome (also: not awesome). Matthew is also a good sleeper right away, much like his brother was, but requires much less work to get him to go to sleep in the first place. I remember a lot more late nights awake calling off grandparents who had awakened to help put the crying baby back down. This means Janelle can sleep more and sleep more easily, as I know she was worried with Joshua at how frustrated I would seem when he wouldn’t sleep (seriously, it’s so frustrating).

This relaxed attitude extends to Matthew in general and really shows what we learned with Joshua. By necessity, we cannot pay him the same level of attention that was paid Joshua, but even when Joshua is not around we are fussing over Matthew less than we would have with Joshua at that age.

I scoff at infant tears now. Baby cries are something I think I talked before about being specifically designed to trigger the parent to act. They get into your brain and scream at you to do something to help. Now, though? Do your worst baby. I am immune. I’ve heard toddler screams and they are so much worse. If I’m busy with something critical and Matthew is crying but is clearly not in mortal distress well — too bad Matthew. I don’t WANT to do it that way, but it is no longer is a problem if I have to.

Because of this Janelle and I are handling the whole process better. We can still focus on Joshua and are not sniping at one another as we did with Joshua when crying and stress made our tempers run hot. It’s good that we can maintain that focus because while Matthew is wholly dependent, he’s very simple. Joshua is the complicated one because of holy shit three year olds.

Overall, Matthew seems a bit easier than Joshua was at that age… but outside of a baby with colic or reflux or something else, how hard do they get, really? The largest difference is so far in Janelle and I. We are more relaxed and more prepared — but that doesn’t mean anything is easier… and I’ll get to that in the next post.

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I started this post awhile back when we were having, you guessed it, a lot of trouble with Joshua and tantrums. While they have lessened quite a bit, they have not abated entirely and I wager will continue for quite some time. But, take heart that they will get better. Maybe.


A tantrum is going to mean different things to different parents. As we’ve discussed, all kids are different blah blah blah unique snowflakes. Regardless of this fact, there is an immutable threshold your child must cross before you can call whatever it is that they are doing a tantrum. Some parents are incorrect about tantrum status. A tantrum is not when your child gets upset for 3 to 5 minutes and cries because you said that they can’t have a new toy. If it doesn’t cause you to wonder where you went wrong as a parent, it’s not a tantrum. Tantrums are scary shit.

We have yet to find a way to effectively defuse a tantrum. We do know how they start. Joshua’s tantrums start when something upsets his set routines. Typically, though, Joshua is the one who upsets his own routine. He will ask to do something, and then refuse to take any steps to actually accomplish it. When we finally give up asking him to comply and warning him that his time is running out to do whatever it is he’s asked, we’ll announce that the window of opportunity has passed and then the madness begins. Or he’ll just decide without warning that something you did—turned off a light, moved a shirt, stood up from a chair—is something he didn’t want you to do.

Sometimes you can see the tantrum coming. When there’s been simply too much fun had and you’ve got an amped up but super tired kid, you’re prime for a tantrum. When you’ve got a kid who doesn’t feel well, be it an actual illness or something like constipation, you’re ripe for a tantrum. Again, this doesn’t mean that you can stop it. You may just be able to prepare yourself.

A tantrum isn’t just a lot of crying. It’s crying and screaming and kicking and flailing and yelling and just absolute insensate anger. Joshua averages around 30-40 minutes for a for-realsies tantrum and I must stress that this is not 40 minutes of him being moody. This is 40 straight minutes of non-stop wailing. He picks a refrain and sticks on it. “I want to take a shower!” Over and over again without stopping, unless he thinks of something else that happened earlier in the day he was upset about, too, and then he’ll switch to yelling about that. Any attempts to talk to him or hold him are met with “Don’t talk to me!” or “Don’t touch me!” and then, inevitably, “Don’t look at me!” He will kick and flail so hard that he hurts himself by hitting the floor or the wall or even himself (thankfully this is more rare). Then he will yell “Owie! Owie! Owie!” for minutes at a stretch. He’ll cry out that he wants Mommy or wants Daddy, but if you go to him and try to hold him or calm him down you get more of the the don’t-touch or don’t-talk.

It’s hard to communicate what being present for a tantrum is like. Chances are you’ve never been around another adult doing something like this, so it’s a very alien thing to experience. There’s no reasoning or bartering or threatening that can bring about a change in momentum. Everything you send out just gets sucked into a black hole.

No matter how the tantrum started, you will inevitably begin to wonder two things: Is there something wrong with my child? What am I doing wrong as a parent? The answer to each is that there’s nothing wrong. Toddlers will tantrum and you can’t always stop it. But knowing that is useless. You will wonder both things because it just seems impossible that what you are witnessing could possibly be borne of a normal child in a healthy family.

Since tantrums for Joshua occur around nap time or bed time, we cannot really do much to distract him. We don’t want to try to get him off track onto something fun because, well, it’s bed time. It’s not time to head downstairs and try to have a dance party. And, even if we wanted to try that tack, he tends to be upset because he’s not getting to shower or do something bed-time-related anyway. Reasoning and bargaining don’t work. He doesn’t seem to pay attention to warnings that time is running out on what he wants to do. He’s adamant about not wanting to calm down, and about wanting to keep crying.

So what Janelle and I do is just walk away. We leave him to writhe around on his floor and sit on our bed and look at one another with tired eyes. Our absence doesn’t change the mode of the tantrum. It continues unabated. The spectacle will hit such absurd crescendos that it becomes hilarious, and will then just as quickly plummet back to heartbreaking. Just sitting and listening to Joshua rage on like this is exhausting. My chest will feel like I’ve spent the day crying even though I haven’t shed a tear. And Janelle and I are left with our thoughts both rational (that many, many, many toddlers do this regardless of how loving and skilled their parents may be) and the irrational (that we are failing Joshua as a parent and these outbursts are just the outward sign of our failure).

There was a period where this went on more often than not for a few weeks and then… it just stopped happening as often. I wanted this to have more advice in it, but I think with something like a crazy tantrum jag all you can do is try to distract when you can and just ride it out the rest of the time. You don’t have anything to do with it. It’s all about a young mind unaware of the best way to express itself. Unless you encourage it (oh yeah, advice: don’t cave and just give your kid whatever they want during a tantrum), your kid will figure out this particular tactic is a lot of effort for no real payoff. And lately we’ve finally started taking toys away from him when he refuses to stop yelling at us. He’s learning pretty quickly that not only is there no payoff, there’s a tariff.


How to Talk to a Pregnant Woman

Typically I try to write from either a general child-rearing perspective, or more specifically about Dad issues. Today I’ve got some advice for you about pregnant mothers.

There are certain things about pregnant women that are a bit more to the side of myth. I’ve yet to hear about a mother from any of those I am acquainted with who was seized by strange food cravings or particularly intense aversions. I don’t know anyone who has experienced extreme and erratic mood swings. What I can confirm is that pregnancy gets pretty uncomfortable near the end and that pregnant women are going to be pretty sensitive to how they look.

Just think about it, or think back to when it may have happened to you: none of your old clothes fit, and clothes that you have purchased to fit even your now larger self grow less capable of covering your growing belly each day. Your skin is stretching taut and, in the winter, the dryness of the air is only exacerbated and your belly will be itchy and red or, in the summer, you are running an internal factory and you are always overheating. You can only sit and lay down in certain positions and you will have a baby approaching about 20 inches long try to stretch itself out inside your tummy, jabbing your ribs with feet and shoving itself into your already cramped bladder. You likely are not sleeping very well and this makes you even more tired than carrying around your baby and new-found baby-weight (because you ARE supposed to gain 25-35 pounds for an average-size woman) would have otherwise made you. Bathing is tricky and takes longer than it used to. Very likely it’s not advisable to partake in comfort foods that you once were able to enjoy and former staples like caffeine are now verboten. Oh, and there’s the chance you have one of those pregnancies where you spend 9 straight months nauseated and vomiting from time to time.

These are just some of the myriad ways pregnancy will begin to affect a mother as it winds along down towards the final stages. Your mileage may vary, of course, but many of these things are pretty standard. Suffice it to say, you’d likely be a little touchy in general, and more aware of a few things in particular.

Here are some tips for everyone to employ when interacting with a pregnant mother:

Greet the Mother, Not the Belly

Do Mom the courtesy of at least pretending you’re happy to see her specifically and then maybe give the baby a follow-up “Hello” after the fact. After all, one of the pair cannot speak English and can’t hear anything you’re saying anyway. [Bonus fact: This one is Janelle’s biggest peeve.]

Get Permission before Violating the Personal Bubble

Don’t lay on hands without asking. It’s weird to get touched by people all the time, even friends. Touches to the arms or hands are pretty common social cues. Touches to the stomach border on the intimate because in a normal context why the hell are you touching someone’s stomach? Sometimes Mom isn’t going to be in the mood, or doesn’t feel well.

DO Commiserate 

If you’re going to gab about the pregnancy, it helps to say things like “Hanging tough, huh?” or “At least it’s not the summer, right? You’d be so hot.” or anything else that acknowledges that Mom may be having a rough go of it, but is making the best of things. If she disagrees, let her tell you how wonderful the pregnancy is and how great she’s feeling. And if she’s not feeling great, she can sigh and agree with you and feel good that someone is recognizing that this is hard. If you open up talking about how “Isn’t this all just angel kisses and rainbow massages?” you’ll make her feel like she’s ungrateful if she feels otherwise.

DO NOT Comment on Size

I can’t stress this one enough. Just don’t do it. She knows how large her belly looks. She sees it all the damn time. It makes walking, getting up, sitting down, laying down and standing up hard. She’s aware. Saying “You’re huge!” or “You sure you’re not having twins?” is just the worst. What’s the upside to a comment like that? At best you’re telling someone they look huge, which with anyone other than a pregnant woman would just be you teasing them. At worst you’ve just taken a slam at an issue that is already bothering someone during a particularly vulnerable time of their life. Plus, if you REALLY want to be able to comment on how large a Mom is basically 90% of the time if you open up with “You look great” she’s going to counter with “I feel like a house” and then you can work in phrasing something nice like “That’s just a healthy baby growing in there.”


Unless your comment on size is “Other than that belly, you look like you haven’t changed at all.”

BONUS SIDE ADVICE: Don’t Ask if Someone is Pregnant

All I’ll say is this: Do you have such a burning desire to find out that you’re willing to risk the offense if you’re wrong? Just don’t do it. Let them tell you.


In the end, just consider that while many-to-most women really like being pregnant and will come away with positive feelings about the whole experience, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find women that think pregnancy has them looking or feeling their best. Think about it like a temporary weight gain. Would you just casually and openly be talking about a friend’s sudden 25-pound gain, rubbing their tummy and telling them how giant they look? Not unless you are an asshole.

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I’m a pretty moderate guy. I don’t get mad much. I don’t yell. I don’t get into many arguments. I do like a good gripe from time to time. But damn if Joshua can’t drive me up the wall.

You’ve probably seen a frazzled parent losing their cool with a child that has not yet been issued any fucks to give. And you’ve likely shaken your head at the parent who can’t seem to keep it together. There are some times where that parent probably is kind of an asshole. Some people just don’t handle things well. But much more likely is that this is parent who has been driven to the brink by a small maniac.

Here’s what’s tricky to understand unless you spend really extended lengths of time with a small child: it’s not the big things they do that are maddening. A child that spills something or breaks something or what have you isn’t what will drive you over the edge. Those are accidents and more often than not they happen because your child has not yet figured out how something works. Adults know that milk will pour out of a glass that is tipped on its side, but kids won’t until they’ve done it once. More malicious acts like coloring on the wall or anything else similarly purposeful from a child aren’t that bad, either. They’re events that may make you mad, but you can work with that. It happened and you can scold and educate and move on.

What gets a parent are the small, simple requests that are met with an absolute steel wall of inattention. When you’ve asked a child for the 10th time to please come over so you can put their shoes on, or asked them to please sit on the potty for the 15th time, you’ll start to feel your armor begin to crack. It’s intensely frustrating. These are things that should be small. Needful moments dealt with immediately and left behind. But children make them both incessant and unending. Putting shoes on suddenly takes 15 minutes. Climbing into the stroller takes five. Going potty takes 10 minutes for the kid to get on and then another 10 of sitting there while he keeps announcing “I’m not finished yet.” Oh sure, you can try to force the matter. How much do you enjoy making children cry? I didn’t think so.

Stack enough of these banal moments together and it’s like water torture. The drips just keep boring into your forehead. On a long enough timeline, anyone will snap.

What is most maddening is that you are typically trying to accomplish something to specifically comply with your child’s wishes. When Joshua announces he wants to go outside, I grab some shoes and tell him that we can put them on and go outside. You’d think he’d be thrilled. “I get to do what I asked to do!” NOPE.

What’s that little guy? You want to go pee-pee? Alright! Let’s go upstairs and use the potty. NUH-UH.

You want to take a ride in the stroller? Let’s climb on up in that sucker and go for a ride. I THINK NOT.

Toddlers will ask do the things you then tell them they can do while they are intently in the process of avoiding doing those exact things. Is that sentence confusing? Exactly.

“Joshua, do you need to go pee-pee?”


“Then why don’t you want to go to the potty to go pee-pee?”

“Because I don’t.”

“But you have to go pee-pee?”


“Do you want to go to the potty?”


“Okay, buddy, let’s go.”

“I don’t want to go.”

“You said you want to go to the potty, though? Why don’t you want to go?

“Because I don’t. I have to go pee-pee.”




Oddities and Children’s Media

I watch a bit more kid-centric media than I used to. I’ve been watching cartoons for a long time, don’t get me wrong, but those are geared more to the older kid, ages 8 and up. Children’s television is a different beast entirely. Small kids are interested in different things. Joshua did not care for Transformers cartoons at all, but loves Elmo. He is also not bothered in the least by repetition. He could watch the same video every day and not tire of it. Combining the repetitive viewings with the fact that I’m not really invested in the content gives me the chance to sit back and view things at a level that they are not really intended to viewed.

Joshua is obsessed with trains (something I keep meaning to explore in greater depth: Why is it that it seems almost all little kids love trains and then that love doesn’t really transition to adulthood for most? What is so universal about trains that it seems to hit the psyche of little kids so hard?) and this means he is obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine. Thomas is not what I would refer to as annoying in the traditional sense. The classic episodes feature some impressive model-work and attention to detail and feature such parent-friendly narrators as Ringo Starr, George Carlin and Alec Baldwin. It has the workings of what should be a pretty inoffensive children’s show. It is, however, pretty goddamn weird.

For starters, the trains are all assholes. They are best friends and bitter enemies at random depending on which episode you are viewing—there’s no real consistency. Thomas and Percy are best friends. Thomas is teasing Percy mercilessly. The trains are AWFUL to one another and more than a few episodes feature trains being teased to the point of taking a drastic and poorly thought out action that results in great harm to themselves and general damage to the surroundings. The moral is never belabored, either. There’s no real consequence to the aggressor. They get scolded by the head of the railway, Sir Topham Hatt (bonus fun fact: in the original books, he’s known as The Fat Controller). There’s typically a brief admission of fault. No one seems to dwell on the fact that, were these trains people, one of them would be dead or seriously maimed by what has just transpired.

I would love to say that the newer, computer-animated shows are better but two instances of questionable “lessons” stand out. In one episode, one of the only female engines, Emily, is coerced into believing that she should be excited that she’s been tasked with picking up the laundry while other trains take on jobs she once thought were more desirable. In one of the Thomas movies, as important tasks are being assigned, a diesel engine (one of the only all-black engines on the show) is told that he’s not special enough to take part in the important tasks. The point is never once revisited.

The thing that really drives me nuts, though, is a serious logical inconsistency in the show.

The trains are alive. They all speak to one another and have distinct personalities. They have desires and goals but they have no ability to act for themselves. They are still trains and trains require operators. This is very directly addressed in the show. In one episode, Thomas is complimented by his driver that he’s working so efficiently that it’s almost as if the driver wasn’t needed at all. His ego balloons and the next morning Thomas decides to try and start his day on his own, without his driver. Thomas then finds that he’s able to start moving (we are told this is because an attendent who was cleaning Thomas didn’t properly secure him) but then very quickly learns that he has no ability to do anything else. He can’t stop, can’t whistle, can’t do anything. He ends up crashing into a house at the end of the train yard because he is totally unable to control himself without a driver.

So we have that established. It’s canon. In almost every episode the major lesson is that the trains need to be patient and follow instructions. They tend to try to rush or perform functions haphazardly, causing as Topham Hatt says “Confusion and Delay”. When something goes wrong, the trains are scolded and punished. But… why? They can’t do anything at all for themselves. Their every function is performed by their drivers who apparently have carte blanche to roll around and, in today’s parlance, fuck shit up. They are never addressed or punished for actions that they clearly either must have engaged in directly, or at the very least enabled. It’s not as if the humans in the world are not characters. Topham Hatt is the ultimate leadership and many storylines revolve around the trains helping citizens on the island of Sodor. They have clear agency. It’s not as if we were dealing with some mindless slave race of train conductors in a world populated only by locomotives.

What results is me sitting on a couch next to Joshua and saying things like, “Hey, Topham! Why don’t you fire that driver? It’s all his fault. Did Thomas use his arms to hook himself up incorrectly to those cars? You know, the arms he DOES NOT HAVE.”



The Ugly

The Ugly about having a baby isn’t ugly by default. It’s more a look at the potential for ugly to happen. It’s an old joke that you need a license to drive a car, but not to have a baby. Despite how tired this conceit has become for comedy, it remains fairly astonishing. Other than having a modern medical system (though the U.S. does not stack up super well in global infant mortality rates), there’s almost no preparation needed in the U.S. for individuals who are looking to have a baby. There are certain resources available, but these are all voluntary. If you wanted to have a baby without having any notion at all as to what’s required to raise a child, you can. No problem. Babies aren’t even terribly expensive to have, with medical insurance.

Janelle’s policy (pricing may have been lower for us since she has Kaiser insurance and we delivered at a Kaiser hospital) left us paying only $250 for a 5 day stint in the hospital. Cheap as hell for the price of a whole new baby. So there’s not even much of an fiscal impact for having a baby. Granted there’s one for raising a child… but that again assumes you’re out to do it right.

Most egregious to me is the fact that mothers are released from hospitals into the world with their new babies without so much as a second glance from our medical institutions. Sure, there are plenty of follow-ups for the child, but as long as a mother isn’t bleeding profusely or unable to feed her child properly, there’s basically no focus placed on the parents. Janelle could be suffering from a crippling case of postpartum depression and the only person who would be able to diagnose her would be me, because it’s just not something hospitals or pediatricians check on. Compare this to the U.K. where mid-wifes will visit new mothers for a period of around a week after their baby is born. They will check in daily to answer questions and calm fears. They transition parents into parenthood. By contrast, we blow them out of the goddam airlock.

The impression everyone has of babies is that they are tricky, but manageable. After all, we were all babies. We turned out okay. Even people we’re pretty sure aren’t qualified to wash cars manage to have babies and raise them. No problem! Incorrect. In addition to the time constraints surrounding babies (which I will devote an entire post to breaking down), there is the fact that babies simply do not conform to any system you may have set out for them.

Both the Baby Whisperer and Happiest Baby on the Block (both books with information I found very useful, don’t get me wrong) present baby care as something that, if contained within the systems they present, is simple and quick. Simple observation and adherence to particular practices will spell hassle-free child-rearing. For the Baby Whisperer, as long as you keep your child on a relatively structured schedule where feeding, activity and sleep happen in the same general blocks of time each day you will always know why you baby is upset, based on what time of day he cries. Is it during the sleeping block? He’s tired. The eating block? He’s hungry. Simple. For Happiest Baby, the notion is that by performing simple functions (swaddling, shushing, swinging, etc.) you can recreate a womb-like environment and calm a crying baby in moments. Easy as pie!

Each of these books are both totally correct and dangerously incorrect.

Caring for Joshua during the day is usually very easy. At night, however, it gets hard. He cries without reason and at times without means for consolation. He is a newborn. This is what newborns do (another post on this coming up as well). I presumed that I had educated myself about babies and how to handle them. I was employing all the tricks these experts presented me with, and they weren’t working. What was left for me in my sleep-addled mind was that I was simply incapable of consoling my child properly. I looked at Janelle, both of us with red-rimmed eyes, and announced that it was pretty clear to me that I was not good at this… that I had been so sure that I would be a super dad and here I was unable to figure out why my baby couldn’t stop crying. I had come into the arrival of my son raring and ready to go, filled with knowledge and hopes for heroic, epic-level parenting. Now that I am in the trenches I realize that there’s no way to come out of parenting without getting dirty. It’s why there exists such a global fraternity among parents. We have all been hazed.

It has taken a couple of rough-ish nights (after all, he’s not a colicky baby… at least not yet) and some pep talks from my Mother to really get it into my brain that sometimes I will be unable to help Joshua despite my best, totally valid parenting efforts. There are times where he will want to cry. He will defy all systems and methods presented to assist him. He’s a newborn. This is what newborns do.

This is the greatest failing of childcare preparation here in the States (in the world? I don’t know. I imagine it’s not much different anywhere). Babies are now presented as a closed system that can be “hacked” for lack of a more graceful term. We have figured out all the curves babies can throw us. Babies can be understood and their crying can be fixed. A parent who is handling things correctly is a parent who is the master of their child’s wails. Our available education tells us this. Spending days in a hospital surrounded by nurses who care for literally thousands of babies and wield them effortlessly and unflinchingly tells us this. We are shot out into the world alone but for whatever support system we have cobbled together believing this.

I will tell this to you now. You child will not start out easy. Your baby will cry and wail and that wail will pierce your mind at times and tell you that you are a failure. But as long as you are trying to learn why your baby is crying, you will never be a failure as a parent. When you stop caring, then we can review that statement. Your baby will be difficult and your baby will sometimes be nothing like what the books describe and nothing like your baby is like 99% of the rest of the time. Your baby will be difficult, and this will not be your fault. Keep trying different methods. Hunt to find what you baby likes, however outlandish. Do not try and adhere to timelines. There’s no pit crew waiting to see how quickly you can get that baby down. It takes the time that it takes, and that is not your fault. Remember that.


The Bad


We’ve covered the Good about having a baby (there is of course more than that, but there will be many posts to come outlining those items as they develop), but now I want to get into the Bad. These are the things that the baby books you read won’t tell you and the parents you talk to will not remember because they are caught up in baby bliss by the time they talk to you and they love discussing things with new members of the International Fraternity of Parents.

Your baby will not be how you expect it to be.

Your baby will still be wonderful and unique, but it will not be exactly what you have envisioned and nor will it conform to any real images of a baby that you have been fed in any books you’ve read or seminars you’ve attended. Your baby is here to bust up expectations and chew bubble gum… and he’s all out of teeth with which it would be possible to chew bubble gum so he guesses he’ll do that other thing instead.

Many books will simply give you a general over of “baby” as a sort of Platonic absolute. They will then list off things presented as sort of problems or variants from the norm and detail how a new parent should deal with them. Other books (notably The Baby Whisperer) will break down types of babies: Angel Baby, Textbook Baby, Touchy Baby, Grumpy Baby, etc. It is then presented that your baby will be one of these types of babies.

This is a wild mishandling of an expectant parent’s envisioning of their future. Your baby will be all of those things in its time, sometimes in the span of a few moments. By all accounts Joshua would qualify as a pretty Textbook Baby. He’s hitting his developmental milestones (few though there have been) and he doesn’t really have any health problems. But that’s where that match ends. There are times when he’s an Angel Baby, happy to sit and flail about and gaze at Mommy and Daddy. There are times when noises make him jump and flinch like any Touchy Baby and there are times when he will simply refuse to be calmed, a classic Grumpy.

Setting a parent up to believe that there baby will match a category can lead to some real parental frustration. “But I have an Angel Baby most of the time, what must I be doing wrong to make him cry now? I’m failing as a parent!” While it may be true that some babies have a tendency to display a certain temperament, that does not make them a Happy Baby. That makes them a Baby who is happy.

That’s my general lead-in. It’s important to remember that you don’t have a baby you read about in a book. You have your baby, and you could write a book about just them alone. Which is basically what I’m setting out to do.

Now, onto the specifics about Joshua’s birth and some of the general information that might benefit you one day.


Joshua came out a bit jaundiced. It wasn’t something that really noticed at all until after his treatment had started, but blood tests revealed that his billirubin levels (a yellow byproduct of red blood cell breakdown that is normally processed out by your liver – but can stick around and cause jaundice) were high. With babies, it is expected that their billirubin levels will rise as they start life, typically peaking at the third day. Since they measure danger levels of billirubin in the blood on a scale like this, if a baby has a level of, say, 9 on Day 1 that may place him in the high risk zone, but that same level on Day 3 means he’s safe and sound, since his levels did not elevate as they were expected to. This was the case with Joshua.

However, to help ensure his levels didn’t rise, he was given UV treatment. The treatment is simply that your baby is placed in a plastic container (pictured below). Lights are directed on him from above and the mat he lies on also emits UV rays. His eyes are guarded and he is intended to stay in that light for three hours at a time, and then to be taken out and fed to keep him hydrated. Then, it’s back into the light box. It’s important to keep a baby fed during UV treatment, as billirubin adheres to bile and urine and so the best way to have the baby flush his system of billirubin is to have him poop and pee it out. The better he feeds and excretes, the better his treatment will go.

The UV box

This makes for a pretty miserable treatment for a newborn. There are constant bright lights, which goggles are meant to prevent, but which surely creep in at the edges of vision, especially as your baby shifts about. There’s constant heat which dries the skin. There’s no chance to swaddle your baby to help prevent him flailing about and scaring himself awake. There’s no chance to really hold him outside of placing hands on him to soothe him. The box removes all creature comforts from a new baby outside of warmth.

If your baby is in UV treatment in the nursery and away from your room, you will be blissfully unaware of any discomforts, and so will the nurses, but more on that in a moment. However, if you can lobby to get the light box in your room (bonus of having the box in the room: they don’t put roommates in with you if you are in a shared room), you are pointedly aware of all these things and ministering to your child will become a constant task. It will be hard to watch him be forced to suffer and difficult to convince yourself that it’s a necessary treatment for a health problem that seems so esoteric.

Making matters worse for us was that our light box began to overheat. The ideal temperature in the box for a baby of Joshua’s size was 29.1 degrees Celsius. Under normal operation, this temperature would rise very, very slowly assuming all the little gates and ways to reach in and touch your baby are closed. Once opened, though, the temp should regulate itself back down. With our unit, however, it began to have issues regulating its internal temperature. I timed it. The box would take 5 minutes to heat up from its baseline temperature of 28.8 degrees to 30.6 degrees, the point at which it begins to issue forth an alarm that the temperature is too high. It would take three minutes for it to cool from the high temp back down to the minimum temp. Getting the unit to begin heating back up on its own before dropping below its minimum temperature setting was important, too. If it dropped below that set temperature, it would kick on its heater, exacerbating the timing for heating up and cooling down.

The net effect of this on Janelle and I is that in the middle of the night, for something like six straight hours, we were expected to, basically every four minutes, open up the door to the light box or close the door to the light box as we waited for it to begin to regulate itself properly again. When I informed the nurse that this meant that I would have to perform this function 80+ times over the course of the night, she nodded and said “I know.” And that was that. It was a rough night.

After 24 hours of UV treatment, babies are tested. If their levels are clean, they are taken out of the light and then tested again 6-12 hours later to see if they have remained stable. It is only after that final test shows positive results that you may be cleared to leave. Your baby will not be cleared of jaundice, but will have reached a point that his body will be able to take care of the rest on his own without much chance of danger.

The UV treatment was a rough patch for us, but it mostly illustrated a few problems with hospital care that I’ll get into now.

Ease of Care vs. Good of the Child

There’s a real disconnect in the hospital between what makes caring for a baby easy and what makes for the best care for your baby. A big problem with the care we received in the hospital was that providers used different philosophies in the care of the baby. Some will seek to educate parents on the best and most comprehensive methods, some will simply arrive and perform their functions and leave again. Some are focused on what is best in the long term for the baby, some are focused on making sure his immediate care is comfortable.

It is not necessarily that ensuring immediate comfort is wrong, it is just frequently counterproductive. In the case of Joshua, he wasn’t taking to the breast very well. Breastfeeding sessions (there will be a whole post on this) were really traumatic experiences to start. Without lingering on the topic too long now, breastfeeding is the mother’s first chance to bond in a true physiological way with her baby outside of the womb. It’s also her first chance to feel like an abject failure as a mother. I would not be shocked to hear that post-partum depression and breastfeeding troubles are closely linked.

Physically, Janelle’s body was well-formed to handle breastfeeding. Joshua, however, would simply react to her breast as if there was nothing there. He wouldn’t latch properly and when he did, he would stay on for about two minutes at most before twitching himself into a tantrum. Heart-wrenching and a big problem when he’s in the midst of UV treatment and requires nutrition on a tight schedule. We ended up being forced to supplement formula at the breast. This was done by taking a syringe filled with 10mL of formula and then connected that to a thin plastic tubing. That tubing would then be slid into Joshua’s mouth as he latched onto the breast. I would then slowly push formula through the tubing so that he was getting nourishment as he sucked, making him less likely to become frustrated and stop nursing.

Before we were able to get the UV light box in our room, the nurses would bring him back from the nursery every three hours to feed, and we’d deliver him 20-30mL of formula and breastmilk. Then they would take him back again. Well, as we learned ourselves after we got him in the room with us, he was super fussy in the light box. How did the nurses handle that? Weren’t they too busy to pay him constant mind? Did they just let him cry it out? Turns out they stuffed him full so he would pass out. A tried and true method of putting babies to sleep, but in this case directly counterproductive to our needs and his long-term good.

After the nurses took him back to the nursery, they would finger feed Joshua additional formula, giving him more formula so he was having 50mL in total at a time. This is an amount that Janelle’s body simply cannot compete with, so he was being trained to expect more food that his mother could possibly naturally provide. Also, since he was being finger fed (the same process of supplementing with formula described above, but the tube is inserted alongside your finger rather than a nipple), he got used to the feeling of a finger for feeding. Your fingertip is going to be much firmer and larger than a nipple, and therefore easy to grip onto. This is why when we worked with the hospital’s lactation consultant she remarked that it appeared that Joshua simply didn’t recognize Janelle’s totally normal in every way nipples. He had been trained to find something else palatable.

It makes sense the nurses would take this route when left to their own devices, as well. Babies are a lot of work and an easy way to put them to sleep is to tank them up and let them doze. Easy work, easy care. But what it caused for us were hours of a screaming baby and a heartbroken new mother. Better yet, the nurses actions were ones that the hospital’s own lactation consultant didn’t agree with. Warring factions.

The Hospital

Many people made reference that we should stay in the hospital as long as possible. It was even something covered on NBC’s The Office. Two characters set to have a child delay arriving at the hospital to the very last moment so that they can extend their post-partum stay there.

I straight up cannot understand this, but I can envision a set of circumstances where someone would want to stay.

If you were going for a C-Section, bottle feeding and don’t mind if the nurses take the baby away from you for every single test that they run so you can have some alone time, then the hospital works out great. But if you want the comfort to care for your baby in the way you see fit, you want the hell out of a hospital.

There’s a pretty good chance wherever you’re going will have you sharing a room. This is fine in and of itself, but space becomes a major issue. In a space that is probably 8’x8′ you have to fit a large bed, a movable tray for food, a bassinet, a privacy curtain and a chair that will fold out into a bed. This leaves, for Dad, about an 8′ stretch of space to move through. You will be uncomfortable and finding and organizing the things you need for a hospital stay of any real length gets very tedious.

Care in the hospital is competent, but as I have explained already, inconsistent. During the course of labor alone we rotated through three different OBs and four nurses. In post-partum, we had eight+ nurses, all with different ways of handling just about everything. In some instances it was great to get different pieces of advice, but each time there was a shift change it was a gamble to see if we would get someone that we liked.

To my mind, once we had time with a lactation consultant (which took three days, though every day we were promised she would be by soon) and once we had learned one really effective swaddle from a nurse, I was ready to get the hell out of there.

Coming Up: This three part breakdown will be a four-parter now. I’m going to devote special attention to a section I call The Drama, and then we’ll look at the items I consider to be the real danger zone items in The Ugly.

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I’m not entirely sure how regular my posting will be for the next couple of weeks. Both because I’ve become pretty busy/tired, but also because I feel like I’m not going to have tons of insight to add until after the big day, which is now something like 18 days away.

My main source of exhaustion is work, actually, and not the impending infant. Part of the master plan for me here at work is that I need to be training up my three subordinates to be able to handle some of my more company-wide tasks and create a general infrastructure that will allow requests that would normally require my input to be routed to various locations that can provide solutions in my stead.

May 1, I started to let those tasks be handled by the techs in my group. The idea was that I would be largely sitting on my laurels, waiting for requests for clarification. What happened was that the hole in my schedule was immediately flooded by new tasks, and I’ve ended up with just as much work, if not more, than when I was just handling everything all myself. This leads to two simultaneous concerns you would expect to be mutually exclusive: Will work implode without me? Will work learn that it can get along just fine without me?

I think this is an overlooked stress in conversations about pregnant couples. This may be due to the overwhelming focus on the mother in literature about pregnancy and birth and the gender roles everyone tends to assume, but that feels exceedingly out of date to me. In a breastfeeding class Janelle and I attended with something like 15 different mothers, 14 raised their hands to indicate that they would be returning to work after their baby was born. The notion of Dad as a sole provider is a fairly outmoded paradigm now and it’s nice to have that bit of stress as a temporary thing (there will be a period where Janelle’s still off work full-time and income from her will be lessened)—but it doesn’t feel like the subject gets much treatment at all in the available literature.

The chance of anyone being fired simply because they are taking time off to spend with their child is reasonably isolated, and if the case was that clear-cut, there are plenty of chances for legal recourse. More likely, though, is that the workplace will change and morph while you are gone and perhaps your cog doesn’t fit so well in the machine anymore. Making that scenario all the more tragic is the fact that, in all likelihood, you were the person who prepared your workplace for life without you. Succeeding at that venture runs the risk of proving you can be done without, but failing at it doesn’t necessarily imply you are indispensable; it means you didn’t plan well.

When you have people working under you, the problem is intensified. When you are gone, they need to report somewhere still, and so you appoint a second. Suppose that individual has a different view than you do about how your employees perform? Or what if your employees begin to see that figure as more of an authority than you? Synapses can be formed that bypass your involvement.

I’m not too worried about Janelle’s job, despite the fact that she will be away from work for months longer than I will be. As soon as she went on leave, they hired a temp to cover her work. That, to me, seems to be best case scenario. It’s an immediate acknowledgment from her employers that they cannot be without her for that long. That fact is so much true that they are paying to sub in an inferior version of her just to keep things on pace. Plus, her workplace has made a show of showering her with accolades a couple of times now.

On the outside, I’m not terribly worried about my job either. But when I dig deeper, I’m less sure. I’ve been here a long time, and I’ve laid a few foundations for things while I’ve been here, but life has been moving fast lately. I’m teaching underlings how to do the things that I do on a day-to-day basis. I’m prepping the world for my absence. At the same time, we’re introducing new systems and changing the way we did something for the last decade every week or two. The topology could be very different here when I return. Plus, rewards and accolades don’t really exist around here. My boss is so busy he never pays attention to what I’m doing (which is its own form of a compliment), but by and large that also means that my own sense of my success is just that: my own sense.

What’s my advice for handling this scenario? I plan on popping in and out of my job more than perhaps I had initially intended to after the baby arrives. Originally, I had planned on being away for a solid month, but that’s been pared down. At this point, I’m figuring that for two weeks, the length of a healthy vacation that many employees will take from time to time, I’ll be offline. I can be reached, but only via text message (phone calls are no good, as I don’t care to be fielding calls from random vendors calling my office line while I’m at home). After that, I’ll begin to work from home or pull half days a few days a week. The plan is to appear just enough to be a bit of a wild-card and a bit of a savior. Maybe there will be less slacking off if surprise visits will happen… and maybe there will be less than total independence if I appear in the nick of time to answer a tricky question.

If you really want to cover your bases, though, it doesn’t hurt to shop a resume around while Mom handles feeding the kid for a bit.

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