So I got a job. Yup, starts today. I’m pretty excited about it too! But I must admit there’s a significant element of terror involved. Not just because the role is going to serve as a big challenge for me—which it will—but also because I’ve spent the past year at home, watching the kids and keeping the house from burning down (albeit just barely). Needless to say, this week is going to be a monumental adjustment for this at-home dad.
But before taking the plunge, I afforded myself one final chance to look back on the past year of my life; the goods, the bads, and all the other lessons learned during my time alone with the kids. Let’s take a look, shall we?
A Toddler AND a Baby?
I was doing pretty well as an at-home dad when it was just me and Audrey. Being a toddler she was expectedly overemotional, prone to throwing tantrums, and liable to get into trouble. She was also immensely rewarding. Imaginative, creative, humorous, curious—my daughter was all these things. So while things were admittedly a roller coaster, I could still keep everything under control without ending up in the loony bin.
Then Zachary showed up. At first it was fine. My wife was home for a few months and we got through the transition of having a newborn without driving the car into a lake. But then she left, and I was suddenly outnumbered. A daunting turn of events. Not only that, each one of them had totally different needs. For a guy that had spent a great number of months slowly honing his fathering skills, this was enough to erode all that built-up confidence in a heartbeat.
Thankfully I’ve gotten better, although slowly. Still, I honestly don’t know how people stay home all day with more than one child. I give them all the kudos in the world.
Creating a Daily Plan is Like…Hard, Man
My wife would frequently ask, “So what are you going to do today with the kids?” My typical answer? “Errrr…,” “Ummm…,” or “I don’t have any f***ing idea. Do you?” The truth is, while I knew that creating a daily or weekly plan was a smart, sensible thing to do, I rarely did it. The result? Winging it, baby! Because structure is like, terrible for kids, man. I think I read that somewhere.
All kidding aside, this is a source of some guilt for me. Okay, a mild source. It’s not like we didn’t paint, build couch forts and block towers, and visit museums and farms. We did. A lot. But had I planned things out in advance everything would have gone much smoother for all of us. And perhaps we would have been able to squeeze out a bit more father/child goodness as a result.
Wintertime is Horrible
How do people watch kids at home during the winter? Seriously. You can’t go anywhere. You can’t do anything. It’s terrible and I hate it. Wintertime is horrible.
I Miss the Company of Adults
Things adults don’t do (often):
- Produce poops for me to clean
- Attempt to eat brillo pads
- Shove slimy objects in my mouth
- Fart uncontrollably
- Kick me in the face
- Demand “Old MacDonald” be sung 4,176 times a day
- Vomit on my clothes
- Eat crusty food bits off the floor
- Pee on the floor then track it all over the house before jumping on my bed
I miss the company of adults.
TV TV TV
When you’re at home, the TV is a constant temptation. Just plop the kid(s) in front of it and blissfully walk away. But that can be a pretty terrible way to parent if pushed to the extreme. No one wants a lethargic zombie for a child after all. I was pretty good about keeping Audrey away from the TV for a while. Just a little bit here and there. But when Zachary showed up it all seemed to fall apart. To illustrate this point, I ask you this:
How do you keep your precocious toddler from destroying the house or killing herself when you’re busy putting your newborn down for a nap four times a day?
Yup, the TV. Or even that damnable iPad. If you can think of a better way to keep a toddler safely occupied, please let me know because I can’t.
Thankfully my kids’ daycare doesn’t have a TV. So whatever damage I may have caused the past few months should be erased quickly. Still, I can’t blame anyone for relying on the TV when dealing with kids at home. Sometimes it’s the only way to survive.
I am So Tired of Washing Baby Bottles
Damn. I just realized this isn’t going to change with me getting a job. Let’s move on.
I Go to Bed at 9PM Now and That Makes Me Sad
I’ve said this many times and I’ll say it again here (because if I’m anything, I’m endlessly repetitive):
I’ve never been so tired after a day of work than I have after a day with these kids.
By the time my wife gets home I’m a wobbling, mumbling, flimsy cardboard box of a man. I can’t stand, I can’t think, I can’t talk. It’s not pleasant! And it gets worse as the week wears on. Every day at home totals about 15 hours of nonstop parenting for me. Compare that to your typical 8 hour work day and you begin to see why I’ve started retiring so early in the night. I just have nothing left in the tank by then. Running on empty so to speak.
It’s sad because, by my nature, I’m typically a night owl. I love the night! I love staying up well past the tooth-brushing hour, enjoying time spent with my favorite person: me. But I can’t do that anymore. Those days are over. And while things aren’t likely to improve significantly on this front with a new job, I am hopeful that I’ll have just a little bit of extra gas in the tank at the end of the day. 10 o’ clock here I come!
Peas and Carrots, Carrots and Peas
I’ve spent a lot of time here complaining. It’s what I do best! But to give the impression that the past year has been a miserable slog for me would be misleading. Sure, it’s been hard—real hard—but it’s also been immensely rewarding. Especially as it relates to my relationship with my daughter.
To steal from Forrest Gump, Audrey and I have always been peas and carrots. That is to say, real damn close. We get each other. Sure, we may drive each other nuts a bit, but what parent/child relationship hasn’t resulted in nuts behind the wheel? Still, with my daily time with her coming to an end, I can’t help but look back and realize how plump and fresh our peas and carrots have become over the past year.
Like the time she soaked herself spending 90 uninterrupted, glee-filled minutes at the children’s museum water table.
Or our first hayride, waving wildly at the passing bystanders. As well as our second, and third.
Then there were the many, many, MANY times we visited the ducks and geese in the river behind the grocery store. That was fun.
As was her amazed face when I was unexpectedly posed with an Oreo cookie stacking challenge and beat the record by a landslide.
But most of all, I remember—and will continue to remember—all the mundane, day-to-day time we spent together. For all its ups and downs, I’ll never get that time back ever again and I’m glad I was there to witness my wonderful, wild, inquisitive, outgoing, beautiful daughter develop and grow—not to mention the start of my son’s grand adventure too.
So here I go, venturing out into the world once again, putting all this daddy daycare stuff behind me. Like most transitions, it is a bittersweet one. In so many ways it will be just what I needed. But I can’t help but think about the sizable hole it will leave behind.