Name: Kelsey Etter
Children’s ages: 06/20/2020 - 1 yr 11mo.
City: Cleveland, Ohio
Occupation (pre and post baby if it changed): Production Specialist > Stay at Home Dad/Artist
Instagram handle: @kelso_online
EXPLORING THE IDENTITY CHANGE OF PARENTHOOD
What was the transition to Fatherhood like for you?
The transition was naturally a little overwhelming and a bit surreal. As the first one of my friends and siblings to have a kid, I only had outdated examples from my childhood to pull from. (want to say something about how *most* guys start thinking about being a dad once its on the way but *most* girls think about it from a young age. It’s a lot of mental preparation pretty fast) I remember calling my dad a couple of weeks before Owen was due to ask for some “how to be a dad” advice. At a time when I was looking for a highly specific how-to guide with all the details, he said “you kinda just do it”. Short, simple, and true. I’ve, in fact, been “doing it” ever since.
How did your identity change?
Subtly, at least to me. I feel it’s very important to keep your pre-dad identity intact and add in the good things you pick up along the way. Kids learn a lot by copying and will naturally adapt parts of your identity (they also look like you which is isane). Every hat I wear now is by default a dad hat.
Did your career change?
In a couple of ways. Firstly, after my wife’s maternity leave was over she tried to work from home while watching Owen. We quickly decided that wasn’t going to work. Since she was the breadwinner, and child care would be the same cost of me going to work, we agreed that I would stay home. This was a little crushing at first because I had JUST made it out of the service industry, but I’ve come to fully embrace the stay at home dad lifestyle. Secondly, I’m also a musician and it turns out kids don’t like it when you turn it to 11. Owen is a fairly light sleeper so I only play guitar when he’s awake and have shifted my creative energy to art that I can make silently. At least for now.
How would you describe yourself pre baby? How do you describe yourself now?
Before I became a parent I was a dude being a guy, now I’m a dude being a dad. Again, in my mind I still feel like the same person but I’m sure there’s been noticeable change from other perspectives. I’ve always been a pretty patient person but Owen certainly puts that to the test sometimes.
UNDERSTANDING THAT YOU CAN’T COMPLETELY PREPARE
What do you wish you knew that you learned the hard way?
I had no idea babies spit up so much. Not only do they do it a lot, they always do it when you're looking your best. Keep that burp cloth close and don’t get too attached to clothes.
Knowing what you know now, what would you change?
I would certainly start sleep training earlier. We relied pretty heavily on a bouncer early on because we were fried from not sleeping and working. It makes it easy in the moment but putting the work into sleep training will pay off in the long run.
GETTING ALL THE GEAR
What would you definitely purchase?
Boudreaux’s Butt Paste. Seriously, that stuff works miracles. Doc-a-tot. Good for naps anywhere, anytime. Dogs also love them. Silicone bib, specifically one that catches dropped food. Less waste, less laundry. Quality stroller. White noise machine.
What do you actually need?
There’s a million products that claim to make being a parent easier. Personally, the more stuff I accumulate the more I start to stress out. Babies really just need you and your time early on. Having friends and family that can come over to give you a small break is absolutely invaluable. Also coffee. Lots of coffee.
WHAT ABOUT DAD
Did you struggle to eat well in the first few months post birth?
Definitely. I put on some sympathy pounds while waiting for Owen (it was also a pandemic) and that was hard to shed. We did a few online meal services (Freshly, Blue Apron, Factor) to help get our nutrition up and cut down on cooking/cleaning/shopping time. That was very helpful early on.
FEEDING BABY [0-6 MONTHS]
Nothing seems to have created more judgement than the way we choose to feed our children. Breastfeeding is filled with benefits, but not always possible for a myriad of reasons, and that’s OK too. What do you learn from the feeding journey that you wish you knew going in?
It was pretty eye opening to see first hand the pressure new moms face with breastfeeding. They’re already going through all these intense changes and they are expected to have immediate success with something they’ve never tried. My wife would often be on the pump in the middle of the night while I fed our son her milk to keep the routine. I didn’t mind because it allowed me to help and participate with feedings. There’s no right way, only your way!
ROUTINES AND ACTIVITIES
Routines can be a lifesaver in the early days, even if just for your own sanity. What worked for you? Did you try to keep to a schedule?
I thrive on schedules. If I don’t have something to stick to, I'll end up doing nothing and get sad about it. Hitting the gym a few times a week and getting an early morning shower really helped the ol psyche.
What are some favorite books and activities to do with your baby (0-12 months) and toddler (12-24 months?).
One of my favorite things to do was to lay Owen down in the doc-a-tot and play him some guitar. It was a good release for me and (I think) he enjoyed the sounds. Stroller rides are always nice if you guys need some fresh air, also a good way to give your partner a quick break. Bonus points if you take the dog. Books are also essential.
What traditions are you creating and celebrating?
Mostly just the classics but the most fun one is record time. I have a pretty extensive record collection and Owen loves to pull them out from the shelf. So I toss on whatever he picks and then we listen!
SLEEP GLORIOUS SLEEP
Sleep deprivation is real! Because it’s not challenging enough to learn to look after a tiny human. How did you make it through with getting your baby to sleep as well as yourself?
Honestly, I’m not sure. When I try to think back to that time it really is a blur. What I do know is that when I see pictures, I definitely look as fried as I felt. Baby, and now toddler, sleep is still a mystery to me. I spend a decent amount of my waking hours theorizing how to make Owen’s sleep conditions ideal but even still he wakes up in the middle of the night and climbs into our bed.
Any final words of wisdom you’d like to share?
Remember there are no rules. People will give you advice without even asking and swear by certain methods, ect.. That is their experience but even though you may have some things in common, your experience will likely be different. As long as you and your family are happy and healthy, that’s all that matters. Don’t overthink it, have fun, enjoy it. It really does go fast.