Becoming a parent will shift your perspective and priorities in a wonderful way. But the initial adjustment to the presence of your new family member — to the start of your new life — is a special form of hell. I may have only become a father three months ago, but I know that having a kid makes your life 50 percent better … and 40 percent worse.
The level of household chaos in the four weeks after bringing a baby home is off-the-charts insane. Moms unquestionably have the tougher gig — but we dads have it rough, too. Struggling to carve out our roles as parents who can’t breastfeed, we men make clumsy mistakes and exhaust ourselves while attempting to pull our weight. And although no amount of pep talks, psychotherapy, or snarky internet articles can prepare us for the shitshow — some alcohol every now and then does make things easier.
As a full-time beverage writer, I drink quite a bit. (Sorry, honey: research. I research quite a bit.) But even in my profession, I found that sitting down to enjoy even a simple beer in the first month of my new life as a dad proved impossible. Facing this challenge, I documented a particularly harrowing 24-hour period of involuntary abstinence that occurred three weeks after my daughter’s birth. So I’d like to share my experience to commiserate with fellow dads who may be able to find solace in my struggle — and tell future dads who might like to know what they’re in for. (Spoiler alert: Get ready.)
Friday, 7:36 PM
While in Vermont, my buddy had procured for me two cans of Lawson’s Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine, my favorite IPA. So when I walk through the door this evening after a long day of work, I can think of nothing other than cracking one open and sipping the hoppy, juicy nectar contained within. But no sooner than after parking my tush on the couch with a cold Sunshine in hand do I hear erratic footsteps. Suddenly, my exasperated wife thrusts our 3-week-old baby into my arms and informs me that I am on duty for the next two hours. I whimper audibly.
Friday, 8:49 PM
After a botched bottle feed and numerous diaper changes, the baby is finally dozing off, and I am ready to enjoy my beer. Unfortunately, it’s now anything but chilled. Good thing I’ve got two! I quietly creep to the fridge to swap out my warm can for a cold one.
Of course, by opening the brew, the delightful “pffffffffft” stirs my daughter. Within seconds, she is screaming at the top of her lungs. My break is over.
I pick her up from her Rock ‘n Play sleeper, and while swinging around back to the couch, knock into the beer, which falls – seemingly in slow motion — off of the coffee table. As it glug-glug-glugs out of the can and into the carpet, I imagine hearing Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings as though I’m living out the ending of Platoon. I assure you that the carpet is my secondary concern.
Friday, 9:20 PM
At last, the baby is asleep again. And so am I, out like a light.
Saturday, 5:54 AM
THE BABY IS AWAKE. Very much awake. My wife, who has been breastfeeding through the entire night, looks like she just fought a tiger with her bare hands. “Your shift,” she says with desperation, once again shoving Baby into my arms. I warm a bottle as my daughter screams, and in the near darkness, awkwardly guide it into her mouth. As she frantically sucks down the milk like it’s holy angel blood, I briefly consider busting out my other can of Sunshine; noting the sun beginning to rise, I quickly become disgusted with myself.
Saturday, 7:20 AM
Six messy diapers-that-couldn’t-have-been-filled-by-a-human-child later, I am reprieved of my babysitting duties. Vowing that I will drink my beer with lunch, I pass out for a nap with a hopeful smile on my face.
Saturday, 1:15 PM
I pull my last remaining Sunshine can out of the fridge and begin preparing a delicious lunch of Progresso Macaroni & Bean soup. The soup can is barely open when my wife informs me that I must pick up a prescription ointment for our daughter’s persistent diaper rash. But not at our pharmacy — another twice as far away. I chug the soup cold, straight from the can. God is dead.
Saturday, 2:06 PM
The pharmacist informs me that my daughter’s insurance membership is still “processing.” We spend 45 minutes on the phone with the insurance company, only to determine that I must pay out of pocket and submit a claim in a week. I am too tired to argue.
Saturday, 3:45 PM
After applying copious amounts of ointment to my daughter’s chapped butt, I have somehow lost my thirst.
Saturday, 5:25 PM
I am once again ready to drink my beer. That is, until I realize that I’d forgotten (AGAIN) to put the can back in the fridge before leaving for the pharmacy. “Is this my life now??” I say out loud, to absolutely no one.
Saturday, 7:02 PM
I forget about my beer until my wife asks me what we’re doing for dinner. I suggest Thai (think of the pairing opportunities!), and she agrees. Delivery arrives within 40 minutes, and I sit with my wife to chow down — when my phone rings. It’s my mother, who wants to know how the baby is doing. What about HOW I’M DOING, MOM??
Saturday, 7:38 PM
Finally, the phone calls have stopped and the baby is asleep. There’s nothing keeping me from my pineapple fried rice and a hazy Vermont IPA. But when I open the fridge, I see no sign of my beer.
I walk back to our dinner table to ask my wife if she knows of its whereabouts — when I see the can in front of her. I pick it up; it is empty.
I can barely get the words out as I point to the beer in horror.
“What, this?” my wife asks innocently. “It was awesome. Just what I needed.”
Oh, I know it was, honey. I know it was.