Thursday, August 9, 2012

I Can't Get Used To This

"My brain is like oatmeal. I yelled at Kenny today for coloring outside the lines. Megan and I are starting to watch the same TV shows, and I'm liking them. I'm losing it." -Jack Butler, Mr. Mom

I don't know why stay-at-home dads complain so much. Complain about their kids not eating. Complain about them not listening. Complain about all of the housework. If you ask me, stay-at-home dads have it pretty darn good.

Or so I thought after I took two days off just for myself in mid-July. My Director was at work. Peanut was at daycare. I had the house to myself. I went for a run, I got errands done, I completed some projects around the house. And those were just the mornings. In the afternoon, I made Starbucks my hangout and I got a lot of writing done. "This is the life," I thought to myself.

My Director thought the same thing, even though she was working. As I dropped her off at the train station for a second straight morning, she said, "I can get used to this."

"Don't," I replied.

I bet she can. But in reality, we both need to work. We both want to work. And even if I were a stay-at-home dad, Peanut wouldn't be in full-time daycare. Half day? Sure. I look back on those two days fondly. I was busy. I got a lot done. And I still cooked fresh meals both days. And it was relaxing.

That was not the case two other days later in the month. When it was just me and Peanut. We try to keep her out of daycare enough to save a month's worth of tuition during summer. And if we're not on vacation, I take off from work to be with her.

On the first day, we were leaving for a quick family vacation as soon as My Director got home from work. I remember looking at the clock at one point in the morning. It read just 8:30am. I was knee deep in laundry. (I needed it for the trip). Peanut hadn't eaten anything. (She "wasn't hungry.") Hell the dog hadn't even peed. (She's high maintenance.)

Some enjoy laundry. I don't
Serenity now.

I quickly tweeted my angst and almost immediately, John, stay-at-home dad extraordinaire from Daddy's in Charge? answered. "Run errands," he suggested. Oh, I've got errands. We're going to IKEA. Big mistake. The whole IKEA experience with Peanut got its own blog post.

Two things I learned in my two days as a stay-at-home dad: First, there's a lot of watching the clock. Stay-at-home dads are like football coaches running a two-minute offense at the end of the half. Budgeting their time and their time outs. Second, you need a game plan. You need activities for pretty much every minute of the day. We did this when she was a baby. How come we don't do this anymore? When did we lose control?

On my second stay-at-home day, I did have a plan. We ate breakfast and went to the playground. I followed Peanut on each piece of equipment. I noticed a little boy who couldn't have been more than eighteen months old was all by himself on one of the slides. I said out loud, "I bet your parents are paying someone a lot of money not to watch you on the playground." Then I noticed another little boy knock over a girl whose mother was busy talking on her cell phone. Mortified, the boy's mother quickly apologized. I said, "That may not have happened if she wasn't talking on the phone."

I realized then I would make very few friends at the playground if I were a stay-at-home dad. But I would discover her doing new and exciting things I'd never seen her do before. Like this:

You can see annoying, unattended little boy
invading Peanut's personal space
We came back for lunch, and I was going to take the Peanut to see the Jets at training camp. (She is a Giants fan, much to my chagrin. I'm doing what I can to subtly influence her opinion.) But they moved practice inside because of thunderstorms. Crap.

I had no backup plan. So we played princesses. We made a train out of her little chairs and I was the conductor. We watched Cinderella. We watched the same freakin' episode of Strawberry Shortcake on Netflix three times. I was going a little insane.

The train thing is kind of my specialty
At 4pm I called My Director at work. "Any chance you're coming home early?" Nope.

She then told me if I didn't let her off the phone she wouldn't get her work done in time to leave.

"Well, is your assistant there? Does she want to talk to me?" (Often when I call, My Director's assistant will pick up and we will strike up a conversation. She's very friendly.)

"No, she's not at her desk," my wife told me. "You're really struggling for some adult conversation, aren't you?"

Yes. Yes I am.

"You'd never make it as a stay-at-home dad."

No... I wouldn't. This is why I think my friend John is himself slowly going insane. And why I enjoy reading his blog.

This is also why I couldn't wait to go back to my high-pressure, deadline-filled, demanding job in television news. So I can relax.

This post originally appeared on Daddy's in Charge? last summer. Thanks to John for posting it on his site. Please check out his blog. He does awesome videos starring Legos and even did one featuring me and the Peanut right here on DKL. You can also follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

And if you want to know what happened when me and Peanut went to IKEA, click here.


  1. Great post, I'm really glad I found you- you seem to really get it!

    1. I don't know what it is you think I get... but thank you. ;-)

  2. I always crack up when I read your posts :) Love it! I'm a SAHM and yes I follow my 21 mth old everywhere on the playground, I often wonder why I don't make friends their though LOL!!

    1. Maybe like me, you're judging everyone else. Hahaha. I'm glad I can make you laugh.

  3. Very funny one! I agree, I would crack after a long weekend alone with them.

    1. Sometimes I can mentally prepare myself... I don;t think I was mentally prepared this time around.

  4. Very funny... but I still think you could do it and learn to love it! I know I could.

    1. It's possible... especially now that Peanut is starting Kindergarten next month. But I'm not itching to find out anytime soon. ;-)

  5. I have to say, as a SAHD it's actually not bad at all. Eventually you fall into a routine.

    Today, however, Isaac was...shall we say...a handful in the evening. That's why I'm cracking open a beer in 3...2..1...aaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

    1. I hear ya. And I will gladly crack one open for you.

  6. It took me a little while to get into a routine, and then it felt like we were on "cruise control" for about a year. Now that we're not napping and starting to potty train, I feel like I'm off my game. But I know it's not me, it's her. She's changing, and I just have to adapt to my new reality. It takes a lot of patience, but it is SO worth it. I hope you guys get to the place where one of you is able to stay home and enjoy it in all it's glory, but for now, just enjoy the days that you do get to do it to their fullest.

    1. Like I said, we both have to and want to work. But we are there for our daughter as much as we need to be.

  7. I was a SAHM when Oldest was born until Youngest was 11 months old. (So, around 2 years) Holy Hell, never again. Of course, by that time, the Husband was MIA and it was really just me...

    I love my time off with them. On Wednesday I pulled them both from camp and took them to Martha's Vineyard to ride bikes all over the island... but at home... full time... um no. And to be honest, now that they are in school and pretty self sufficient, I find that my days off are usually busier than when I work.

    1. Time off with Peanut is 1000x different than "staying at home." I honestly think some people aren't cut out for it. We're not. And that's ok.

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