She’s probably not crying because she thinks I’m a terrible father

They call it “unhappy hour,” and it’s arguably one of the toughest things about being a new dad. Knowing you won’t see as much of your kid when you go back to work is one thing, but knowing she’ll probably cry the minute you come through the door is another.

“This fussy period is believed to be the baby’s way of rebooting her nervous system,” according to Gary Greenberg, the author of Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads. Somewhere in between 5:00 PM and 8:00 PM, “a baby’s brain hits maximum capacity and goes into cry mode.” It’s an issue that affects more than 75% of babies, often making them cry for an hour or more.

“If you’re a working dad,” Greenberg writes, “unhappy hour can be particularly miserable because just as you open the door, the baby freaks out. It could start to give you a complex.”

There’s no easy solution for this issue. Sometimes, in fact, there’s no solution at all; my daughter’s had a number of evenings when she’s been utterly inconsolable. I wish I could say I’ve always handled it well and taken it in stride, but the fact is, Greenberg’s right. It does have a way of getting to you, and not just because her cries can get to be “about the same volume as a chainsaw or leaf blower.”

When I went back to work a couple of weeks ago, I left Kate to deal with the much tougher job of spending the whole day alone with a newborn. During the first few difficult days, she said she didn’t think I understood how hard she was working. But after a couple of weeks of lively days and fussy evenings, she started saying she felt sorry for me.

Thankfully, there’s no need for sympathy. For one thing, most babies grow out of the “unhappy hour” phase at twelve weeks. But more importantly, when you take a step back from the screaming, you realize what a small portion of your day it actually fills.

My daughter’s all smiles in the morning. She’s terrific on weekends. Kate takes the time to send me photos during the day, while I’m at the office. I’d love to be able to spend more time with her, but the time I do get to spend with her is great. A little crying on the side is only fair, don’t you think?

Speaking of which, does anybody know how to bookmark a reassuring blog post on your phone, so you can read it in the dark with your free hand the next time it seems like your daughter’s never going to stop screaming ever again?

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