People ask me all the time how it feels to be a stay at home dad. Great I tell them. Then I add some comment about seeing your kids grow up but having my hair turn grey/patience tested/ looking for a new job/ version of trouble. Mostly people smile and say things like that's great or good for you. Behind their eyes though, I think I see more. Thoughts like, that must be nice/ ESPN whenever I wanted/ I should do that too. When I first started this gig I thought those same things. I didn't really consider my kids from age 2-13, instead choosing to think how wonderful babies are and then how cool teenagers might be. This isn't exactly how it works.
My wife loves to ask what we did each day and the girls share and narrate with the excitement of someone who's just back from the moon. Even the most mundane (chores!) are presented like a badge of honor. Now I'll open the doors, peel back the curtain, and show what really happens to the man behind the curtain.
What does a stay at home dad do all day?
June 3rd, 2013
600. I get up to take the dog out, make coffee, and do whatever writing or reading I hope to get done during the day. Now that the school year is over I don't have any grading to do so I get to write on this blog. This usually lasts until 730.
730-800. I make my wife's breakfast and lunch if she needs one. I also tidy up the kitchen somewhat and eat breakfast if I'm hungry. (Just assume in each item there was 'tidying up'.)
800-1000. In the summer this is the window when the kids wake. On this day they woke closer to 10 and almost always want food right away. Breakfast was homemade parfaits of yogurt, Kashii cereal, and sliced strawberries. I'll continue to write, read, pickup the house, pay bills, submit Amazon.com orders and other miscellaneous things until they rise.
1000-1030. I send them down to their rooms to get dressed for the day and brush their teeth. For a five and three year old I think they do well with this, by 1030 at least one of them is mostly dressed and one may even be brushing her teeth. Mostly I think they go and plot in someone's room. I clean the kitchen. (I noticed while taking notes on the day that I do a lot of cleaning and tidying which in reflection seem like separate things. Assume in each entry there was cleaning and tidying going on).
1030-1100. We read on the couch. I think we read 7 books, all from the public library. I really like our library and that it saves us oodles of money. I don't count the children's books in that figure but we go about once a week and get 10-20 books each trip.
1100-1145. We play outside on our swing set and make plans for the day. They want to have a picnic somewhere and I want to go to the library to pick up some books. I also use this time to talk about our day and think of the things I need to do like make phone calls or pay bills. The hardest part is finding the time. I've noticed since having kids that I work really well when not being interrupted but the only time that really happens is in that 600-730 time slot. The phone calls and bills will be sneaked in later.
1145-1215. We go to the library, return our books, get new ones and find Mary Poppins on DVD. This is a great find because we want to begin watching more live action movies instead of animated princess ones. Normally we'd be at the library twice as long but there were no other kids there and the idea of a picnic at the park was calling.
1215-215. Picnic in the park. We ate in a shelter house and played on everything the park had to offer. While we were there a few different groups of kids came and went and we played with all of them. I love seeing our kids play well with others except - which they did this day - when they hide from the boys. I've become overly sensitive to gender roles since having kids and nothing gets me on a soapbox in front of them like when they say things like blue is a boy color. No, forget that bullshit, you get to pick whatever color you want. In my mind there is more profanity, in my speech less.
215- 300. We run. Using a double jogging stroller I run 4 miles while they listen to Disney Princess audiobooks and songs.
300- 515. We drive home and play more outside. I sneak in my phone calls to a sawmill, the insurance company, and pay a bill online from my phone. I don't play with the kids the entire time they are outside. I pull weeds and clean out the garage. I move the ladder around the house and clean the gutters or take this down or put that up. I fix things that are broken so that our weekends aren't consumed with housework. During this time I also fix a simple dinner of rice and beans with broccoli. I have a can of tuna over salad.
515-600. We begin to play inside. I've noticed that since we started playing outside more, the kids play nicer inside. I don't know if it's the novelty or being tired from time outdoors but they've been especially nice to each other. I clean the things from dinner.
600-730. I play with the girls, read some new library books, and take turns spotting them on our swing set bar. I also watch as they do gymnastics on my bed. These gymnastics mostly consist of sliding off the bed like a blob. Even though it's the same damn thing over and over I'm learning to enjoy watching them. I could have kids who weren't this fun. My kids could be sick or worse. My kids could be making trouble or watching the FreeVee. I practice negative visualization and enjoy the moment.
730-800. My in-laws bring over a dresser my wife wanted. They look at the previous dresser and convince me they can fix it. I feel bad that I didn't do this. I often feel like this but I don't know when I would do it with the kids. Broken dresser parts are significantly lower (along with clean floors, sparkling bathrooms, and other small, broken things) on my priority list.
800- 830. My wife gets home from work and my in-laws leave.
830-915. We turn on Swiss Family Robinson but the kids tire of it and want to go back outside - I happily oblige. My wife and I play with the kids while we talk about our day. I do wish there was more time to talk to my wife and I think there will be once the kids are older but now it seems like they both want us. As problems go, it's a good one to have.
915-1015. The kids convince us to let them finish watching Snow White. We watch the last 45 minutes, brush our teeth, and go to bed.
1015- 1130. My wife and I eat any snacks we were hoping not to share, laugh at Arrested Development and talk some more.
That's a random day. There is no ESPN or video games and any time for myself, I make in the mornings by rising early. I'm amazed by those people that work from home and do real jobs that pay real money. How? Aside from the time they're asleep I'm lucky to stitch together 18 minutes to call and battle the insurance company or add a few ingredients to a pot for dinner. I've thought about this many times and just don't see it without using the FreeVee as a babysitter. I don't dislike our TV - we use it all the time for movies at night - but I know there are a lot of much better options. Like picnics in the park, swings in the backyard, and playing with the kids. The floors though, I'll clean the floors tomorrow.