Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why I can never be a "Stay at Home" Dad

Children suck. Don't take this the wrong way. Don't call Children's Services. But any parent can agree with this statement. Now they are not bad all the time. But they are not good all the time either. They have their moments when you think, "what are my single friends doing right now?" Are they experiencing that beautiful moment in time parents call "peace and quiet" and singles refer to as "a normal day"? But some might argue, "But non-parents miss out on the beautiful moments of laughter, joy, and pride parents have when they look upon the life they have created." You know who is making that argument? I will tell you, non-parents. Because any parent knows this line of thinking and can always counter it with, "But non-parents also miss out on the beautiful moments of: poopy butts, vomit shirts, tantrum screams, bloody murder cries, ear-piercing whining for food one hour after they ate a full breakfast, accidental crotch hits while wrestling (that ones for the dads), spilled milk on the couch, horseback riding the dog, slap fighting their brothers (including the 11 month old); all when they look upon the life they created."

But on to my main point: I could never be a stay at home dad. I am on vacation this week, a stay-cation if you will since we are not going anywhere. So my vacation from work means my wife's vacation from the kids and I am her substitute. That is not how it really is but today she was feeling ill and so my role as joint parent was abruptly upgraded to "single parent" so she could rest and recover. So in other words, I would be handling the parental workload for the same amount of time she does everyday while I am at work. So let us begin:

I wake up at 6:00 to Zachary opening and closing his door, opening and closing, opening and closing. When I asked later why he said he was going to the bathroom. To which I replied, "Next time open your door, exit, go to the bathroom, return to your room, and shut your door. There is no need for 15 opening and closing of your bedroom door for one bathroom visit." But this marathon of door shutting woke the 2 year old who hates to sleep in. So I take the 2 older boys downstairs so Dora the Explorer can parent them while I lay on the couch in my "just woke up" haze. Well it isn't 10 minutes when Drew is crying for food. 6:30, time to make breakfast. If McDonalds can do it this early, so can I. Apparently scrambled eggs and toast take too long for a toddler so he begins to yell at me that he is hungry. The yelling wakes up the baby. Now all three are with me, hungry, grouchy, and yelling at me and each other. My wife wakes up and immediately has to run an errand. So I am all alone with 3 screaming children, and I am loving life. So at 7:17, after the constant bickering with each other and asking for my parental wisdom and guidance in the matter of "he stole a toy from me. I had it first," I utter the phrase all parents know and love when they have had enough, "Work it out." oh yes, before 7:30 I was already at the "work it out" phase of the day. It was not going to be pretty.

Well we struggle through breakfast with me repeatedly telling them to sit back down cause I am not in the mood to do the Heimlich maneuver after they choke on their toast from jumping with food in their mouth, we finish. But being a good parent (but stupid at the time) I veto TV for the morning. But this now means I am the center for entertainment. What is it like for those children who know how to entertain themselves? I always dream of white puffy clouds and green pastures filled with children playing by themselves with no need for parental involvement while the parents carry on adult conversations about things not related to the latest Fresh Beat Band song or which Pokemon is the best or the risks vs benefits of being Mario rather than Luigi in Mario Kart. Anyway, I ask them to go to the basement but they say no. So after putting the baby down I sum up the courage and desire and wrestle with them. The thing I found out today is that I have one good wrestle session in me each day. Did you catch that: one. So in other words, I just used up my bag of tricks and it was 8:30 in the morning. Luckily, my beautiful and amazing wife had set up a play date for Zachary at 9:30, so we killed time till then.

After the playdate it was 11:15 and time to take Zachary to school. I dropped him off and ran a quick errand and returned to the most wonderful time in any 'stay at home' parents day: nap time. The other 2 were down for naps and my wife and I were able to make lunch. After which she went to take her nap to rest and I sat down to eat my lunch. But like sitcom-timing, I hear a cry upstairs. Now the younger 2 children typically take 2.5-3 hours naps in the afternoon. But not today. Today is Daddy's day so they conspired beforehand and both woke up at 1.5 hours. There is nothing more defeating in a parents life than cutting short or taking away "nap time". Many parents will go through a deep depression when there baby decides to "drop a nap." So remember, my wife is now asleep and the younger 2 are not. So I dont even get a recess today. No lunch break. I am now eating with my 2 year old begging for food at my feet. Even our dog has more self-control.

My wife takes a long nap today, lucky for her, too bad for me. My oldest son goes to another boys house after school so I have the 2 year old and baby for 4 hours this afternoon. I actually enjoy this time with them. There is a time when I see them playing together with Drew making funny noises and Baby Nate laughing uncontrollably. Its a brief but precious moment I was able to witness. But then the zero hour hits. All stay at home parents know what I am talking about. Its the time right before your spouse gets home and before dinner when Hell breaks loose. There is no scientific reason, no cause. But the planets align just right and something clicks in the child that makes them go from Dr. Jeckel to Mr. Hyde. The crying intensifies, the whining goes up 100 notches, nobody is satisfied, every child wants something but cant tell you what cause nothing will make them happy because it is: the Zero Hour. Its about at this time, you need to make dinner. So today, my wife wakes up and goes to pick up Zachary, the 2 year old is whining for milk and his blanket, and God help me if I put the baby down cause every time I try, he believes the world is ending and its my fault. So I am holding the baby, pushing away the 2 year old with one foot, balancing with the other and cooking over a hot stove. Mr. Mom I am not.

Everyone makes it through cooking dinner and eating dinner and the boys ask me to wrestle before bathtime. Now remember: one wrestling session a day. But God gives me the strength and we wrestle again. Phillipians 4:13. Bathtime and bedtime go without a hitch and everyone goes down with minimal crying. But as I sit down to write this blog, who do I hear but the baby who hates sleep and me. But the amazing woman who does the superhuman job of being a stay at home mom swoops in and takes the baby to her parents house so I can have one of those beautiful moments in time: peace and quiet. I love her so much and after today I appreciate all the more her sacrifices, her frustrations, her stress, and those little moments of joy that come from being a stay at home mom. So to all those stay at home moms out there: Thank you and you certainly don't get paid enough.

Loving my job because it is not hers,
The Joyful and Tired Dad.