SAHD Raising a Preemie
November 19, 2004 10:36 PM   Subscribe

On September 30th, 2004, my son, Jonah David, entered this world 10 weeks ahead of schedule. Tomorrow he's finally coming home, after a very weird 40ish days of commuting between the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unity), home and work. On December 10 I'm joining the growing ranks of stay-at-home dads.

Any personal experiences, either of raising preemies or being an at-home dad? Good online resources, other than, which I've already found? And, old chestnut as this one may be, bright ideas about potential incomes to be earned from home would be appreciated... We're willing to accept the lifestyle change for the sake of having a full-time parent on the job, but any little bit will sure help.
posted by nanojath to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Raising a preemie should be little different than any other child. If they are sending him home then he is probably close to the same position he would be had he gone full term. Having a new child is scary enough without adding extra worry where none is warranted.

Being a stay at home parent can be stressful. Even though you love your child, being in the same place doing the same thing with little new conversation with your peers can grind you down. Spend some time alone with your partner. The cost might not be welcome and it may be a challenge to find someone you trust but get a babysitter. Even if it is only lunch every second Saturday, get a babysitter and spend some time as a couple.

Spend some time with your peers without your partner and child. Again, it may only be an hour or two every week or so, but you really do need it.

Try to spend some time with friends or family with children of the same age. You can share ideas and your child will learn to socialize with others.

I was an at home dad in the early 80’s and now as I look at my 20 something sons (one was a preemie) I am glad I was. Good luck to you.
posted by arse_hat at 11:53 PM on November 19, 2004


sorry, nothing beyond that to add.

posted by fishfucker at 2:45 AM on November 20, 2004

These are my only tips for being a stay at home parent, and most apply to 6+ months;

Until they are much older any time that they are awake is their time not yours. If you are trying to get any work done don't get bitter when you're interrupted all the time.

If you do want to get work done, go to bed early and get up 2 hours before they do. Those are often the only 2 hours you'll get and you'll get more done at the stat of the day than at the end.

Everything arse_hat said about time with other people.

I made things to sell on eBay. It wasn't income replacing but the money did help. I made beanbags, they're easy and the profit you make is ok compared to other "crafty" based things.


Don't get a baby bath, it'll kill your back, use the kitchen sink instead.

posted by ModestyBCatt at 3:59 AM on November 20, 2004

I don't have anything to add except for "congratulations" on the parent part.

Re: the staying at home and working part, ... what are your skills?
posted by SpecialK at 4:53 AM on November 20, 2004

Sleep when they sleep.

Maintain outside contacts. Meet your friends for coffee, both with and without the kid.

Read now - you won't get many chances to in a few months.

Find some home projects.

Remember that frustration and irritation is normal.

Altho I'm sure that it's wonderful, be glad that you're not breast feeding. :)

posted by ashbury at 5:24 AM on November 20, 2004

One thing I'd add (but only coming from someone who has worked at home before, not cared for a child): television is, to me, nowhere near the good company radio is. So if you're missing people, I'd consider bookmarking four or five of the BBC's audio feeds, Radio Australia, several NPR affiliates (to get some local shows), CBC, and a few other stations. The level of discourse is much higher, you can move around the house while you listen, and if you miss a show, they're usually on later, too. Particularly with the BBC, it's not just news and comment: there're plenty of drama, comedy, and book readings. Of course, old-fashioned wireless radio can work, too (but then you'd get all those commercials). I constantly recommend Public Radio Fan because its listings make it easy to find a good program at any time.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:09 AM on November 20, 2004

Congratulations. I'm 2.5 years into the project you're embarking on, and can promise you that it gets better.

Just be there with Jonah. Put aside the list of things you're wishing you could be doing or feel that you should be doing, and accept that it may not be immediately (or ever) apparent to you that the time you're spending with him is important/good/worthwhile, but trust that it is -- both for him and for you. The more time you spend with him the better you'll get at reading his cues and anticipating his needs, which will ensure that you'll have more good days than bad.

When he is with someone else (mom?), let him be with that someone else. He'll have a different way of communicating with that person, and that person will have a different way of dealing with his issues. If you're around and can't resist the urge to correct, make suggestions or take over, you're never going to get any time for yourself and will only end up resenting any of his other caregivers. It's good for him to learn to accept some inconsistencies and change.

Finally -- the surest way to ensure that a kid is happy is to ensure that his parents are happy. Do the things that make your life full and pleasant, and he'll pick up on that and do the same. You'll be surprised at how quickly the two end up complementing each other.

Enjoy. You've got a new buddy, there. Nothing's ever going to be the same.
posted by Framer at 6:17 AM on November 20, 2004

I was also a stay at home dad twice -- in the early 80s and the early 00s. Everything arse hat said is dead on.

What I can add is: as your baby gets older get out of the house on a regular schedule. Both you and the baby need the sights and sounds of other people. Your local library has programs for all ages.

Support is a key componant of your well-being. Find another stay at home dad and use each other for complaint (and brag) sessions through email, phone or occassional lunches.

Start a blog for the baby. Grandparents, other family and your spouse will love seeing what they are missing. I had broadband with my last baby and mounted a webcam over the crib. With my family spread all over North America it was the only way they could see her. Plus, we love going back and laughing over some of the posts I'd make when harried. I can tell you the exact day she first said "dada."

Making money: In the 80s I wrote a freelance column on the history of my little town. On Saturday my spouse would watch the baby while I did research at the library and around town. I wrote while the baby took his nap. With the last baby I wrote a column on baseball. The idea is write about what you know.

Also, you could try stay-at-work parenting. In the 80s my son and I operated a small town bookstore for little over a year. I built the store with a room behind counter and he and I spent the day in the store. When it was time for a nap he had a sleeping room with a bed. (He was three by then) I included a play area for children in the store and he rarely didn't have friends over. I was able to hire some help for trips outside and my customers didn't get upset with the occasional Closed for Doctor's Appt. signs. But, it was a small town and I was given a lot of leeway. They were very happy just to have the store. We were all sad when I had to move. A bonus: my son grew to be a voracious reader.

I know those ideas may not work for you, but I thought you'd like to have a couple of extra success stories. I loved being able to stay home with both my children and really miss that I wasn't able to with my middle child. Even when you get low; when the baby is very needy and so are you; when you wonder if you've done the right thing; you'll lay back on the bed with him falling asleep on your chest and know there is no report filed or account won that could ever make you feel that great.
posted by ?! at 7:26 AM on November 20, 2004

It will take a great deal of patience on his part, but Jonah will teach you everything you need to know.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:07 AM on November 20, 2004

One of my best friends is a stay-at-home dad, and tells me that the hardest part (for him, anyway) has been dealing with people who think it's weird that he stays at home with his little boy. They assume that he's divorced or widowed, and when they find out he's happily married they give him looks like he must not be a "real man". Or so he says. I doubt this happens to everyone (or even most), but it's a possibility you might want to be prepared for.

As a stay-at-home mom, the best advice I can give is this: 1) relax and don't worry about every little thing that happens (or doesn't); 2) make sure you get some time for yourself; 3) take anything and everything you read abut parenting and baby stuff (illnesses, development, etc., etc.) on the internet with a HUGE grain of salt. Parenting websites and message boards and so forth are filled with "drama-mommies" who blow everything out of proportion, and have atrocious spelling and grammar to boot.

posted by Janta at 9:13 AM on November 20, 2004


My daughter was born at 1lb 6oz and stayed in the NICU for a while. She's now 14 and is 100% healthy.

There were three things we had to consider when we brought her home:

1) We got involved with the after care provided by the hospital. This included nurse visits and developmental testing to track her. This helped us as it ensured there weren't any lingering issues and helped them track data related to kids.

2) We enrolled in the Parents as Teachers program when she was old enough.

3) We always focused on her as a term baby. This meant that the cough she got or the fever she was running wasn't related to her prematurity, but part of the normal development process.

Make sure you keep in touch with the NICU folks, too. They can help point you to resources you'd never know about.
posted by zymurgy at 1:10 PM on November 20, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for some great thoughts. As you can imagine I'm not going to be finding loads of time to be posting these days but I read it all and I really appreciate the well-considered thoughts and suggestions.

SpecialK - my most developed skills (beyond basic office clerical/administrative stuff, which is how I've earned a living the last decade or so) are writing (fiction essay and verse) and research (just about any kind - online, literature, direct interview, I've always had a knack for tracking down information). I got a bachelors degree in chemistry over a decade ago and haven't done much with it for a long long time. I'm merely competent with computers, although a profusion of temp jobs extended that competency to an unusually broad cross-section of programs and platforms.

weapons-grade pandemonium wins for the comment that put the biggest smile on my face. Zymurgy has my favorite nickname so far (let me guess, the occasional home brew took the edge of parent anxiety?) Thanks again.
posted by nanojath at 3:39 PM on November 20, 2004

Congratulations, your Jonah David shares a birthday with a certain OldSkool MeFite; which means, if you believe in Astrology, he's doomed.

I was a preemie almost a half-century ago, only 2 weeks early, but I took just as long to come home from the hospital. That's how much better things are today.

And, if I had any idea how to become successful as a "stay-at-home" writer, I'd be doing it myself.

To sum it all up..................... Congratulations!
posted by wendell at 8:44 PM on November 20, 2004

I've been a stay-at-home dad for a year, ever since my daughter was born.

My advice is to research and use "vestibular stimulation" on your baby. Basically, your vestibular system tells you where you are in space. It consists of several tiny sacks filled with liquid in your inner ear. There are lots of tiny hairs inside these sacks, and whenever you move around, it detects the motion of the liquid.

You experience the results of this system every time you get carsick or airsick. When it's overstimulated, people tend to get nauseous. However, babies don't get sick when their vestibular system is overstimulated. In fact, they love it. They become either very excited or mesmerized, and then after a while they just fall asleep.

This rocks. Whenever my daughter was crying, rocking her back and forth (in various creative ways), always worked. She would immediately stop crying and start staring at some fixed object.

But anyway, this "movement" thing is a totally new sensation to them, and they need to experience it before they begin to tackle rolling over, crawling, and walking. In fact, studies show that babies that are given frequent vestibular stimulation have higher IQs and reach their locomotor skills much sooner than normal.

It rocks. No matter what my daughter was crying about, stimulating her vestibular system ALWAYS worked. You can rock your baby, hold her and spin around a bit, or just be creative. It works.

I can't explain to you the skull-splitting, nerve-wracking, soul-destroying effect a babies' screaming can have on a parent. After a while, it is like having razor blades being scraped repeatedly over your nerves.

Now, mind you, at first, it's no big deal at all. But after about 6-8 months or so, it does start to wear on you. So because of that, plus the fact that it has amazing affects on their intelligence and locomotor development, I highly recommend looking into this.

Also, I'd recommend teaching your child sign language. It not only speeds up their vocal language development (because they learn the concept of symbolism in communication), but it also helps out during that crucial period where they are smart but their vocal chord's haven't developed well enough to actually speak. They can get really pissed off not being able communicate their needs. I know I would be.

posted by juju at 5:31 PM on November 21, 2004 [1 favorite]

Oops.. I shoulda used preview on that last comment.

Also, many of the posters here are right: 95% of all parenting books are strictly opinion. However, I highly recommend this book, which was writted by a neurobiologist. It helped me immensely to filter out the BS people constantly tried to tell me.

What's Going on in There
posted by juju at 5:35 PM on November 21, 2004


I pulled this from the blogroll on my baby blog. Good SAHD resources, and some good baby blogs in general.
posted by eustacescrubb at 4:20 PM on November 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

How could I have forgotten sign language?! (That is not a self-reference.)

Great reccomendation juju! It really helped my daughter feel much more calm when she needed to ask for a need to be met. Eventually her entire play group ended up learning the basic signs. Stay-at-home (and not) parents were very happy with the results.
posted by ?! at 10:35 AM on November 23, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks again for many great suggestions. I actually had read about teaching sign language and have been giving it serious thought. I'll look into that vestibular stimulation. And eustacescrubb, thank you, that's awesome. It's sort of nice in here when you're not talking about religion and/or politics, innit?
posted by nanojath at 11:25 AM on November 23, 2004

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