Ten Things I’ve Learned While Being a Stay-at-Home Dad

I’ve been a stay-at-home dad for almost five years now. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that I’ve been doing this for so long. It’s been fun, aggravating, teeth-gnashing, illuminating, and above all, interesting. I’ve learned a lot these past few years. Here are ten things I’ve learned, sometimes easily, sometimes painfully.

10) You can never repeat yourself enough times. Children, in the immortal words of Bill Cosby, have brain damage. That’s why you have to repeat the same directions/commands over and over and over and over. In the time spent repeating yourself, the child could have done the required action a dozen times. Even explaining this irony will not make the child listen on the first, second, or thirteenth time you repeat the command on the next occasion action by them is required.

9) The Electric Company airing on the local PBS station at 5:30pm is perfect timing. This makes it possible for me to make dinner every night. The kids sit on the couch in the living room and are perfectly happy watching PBS. I can work in the kitchen to get dinner ready by 6pm.

To all you TV Puritans who say that I’m turning my kids’ brains to Jell-O: TV makes it possible for me to get housework done. Have you ever tried to fold laundry, balance the checkbook, wash dishes, clean the litter box, or sweep the kitchen floor with a child demanding to play Chutes & Ladders, draw with crayons, refill their sippy cup, or eat a snack, not to mention refereeing a dispute between two children? I rest my case. TV soothes the antic child.

8 ) To Cook. I’ve gone from using Rachel Ray’s 30-Minute Meals to baking whole chickens and trying recipes by Rick Bayless and Raghavan Iyer (Mexican Everyday and 660 Curries, respectively, have fantastic recipes if you like Mexican or Indian food). Now I can even bake fruit pies from scratch, making my own crust…Yeah, I like to bake. What’s it to yuh?

7) It is possible to grocery shop while a toddler is having a melt-down. Why is the toddler having a melt-down? It’s irrelevant. A toddler can have a melt-down over forgetting their favorite toy in the car, being out of juice or milk, or you refusing to buy them X, where X is some cheap toy or grossly unhealthy snack like Skittles. (For the record, I personally love those beautiful, teeth-rotting, rainbow-colored hits of sugar known as Skittles. I just don’t eat them very often. I downed a bag of them with a Pepsi before taking the ACT in high school. I’m sure they helped my score.) I ignore the shouting and screaming and calmly push the cart down the aisle as I gather things and check them off my grocery list. Only once in five years of grocery shopping with small children have I had to abandon my half-filled cart and physically carry a kicking and screaming child (my son) out of the store.

6) Patience. By nature I’m an impatient bastard. Children need to be herded, cajoled, nurtured, disciplined, calmed, complimented, scolded, fed, bathed, and so much much more, all the things that are necessary when loving them. None can be done without a healthy dose of patience on my part. My patience has grown with each passing year of fatherhood.

5) Where there are children there are no such things as “peace,” “quiet,” and “cleanliness.” I am told that some day, when the kids have grown and are gone, that my wife and I will miss all this ruckus. I don’t believe them.

4) Laundry is never destroyed. It is only created. A central law of Physics is that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. Laundry breaks this law. There is ALWAYS laundry. Empty hampers do not, nor will they ever, exist as long as there are children around.

3) It usually takes three or four good scrubbings to get the smell of shit out of your hands. How do I know this? The first couple of times I rinsed out my potty-training son’s underwear after he did NOT do Number Two in the toilet, I washed my hands. Moments later I went to itch my nose and received a whiff of shit. I returned to the bathroom to wash my hands again. I smelled my fingers. The smell of shit was still on them. So I washed again and again until the smell was no longer there, replaced by the disinfectant scent of the anti-bacterial soap. This repetitive washing has continued with potty-training our daughter, who pees without problems in the toilet but still only does Number Two in the toilet about a quarter of the time.

2) Dry Erase Markers and children do not mix. Dry erase markers are evil. They are not useful when it comes to small children. Any art-supply type item that can not be washed out of clothes, carpet, and furniture should not be allowed within 50 yards of children under 10. That is all.

1) Joy is contagious, children’s joy that is. It’s cliché, I know. But there are few things that fill the heart with happiness as watching your own child have a good time, like watching seahorses in a tank at an aquarium, chasing bubbles in the driveway or backyard, playing with water at a children’s museum, laughing with their grandparents, or painting with watercolors. It’s this joy that (cliché alert) does make it all worth it.

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11 thoughts on “Ten Things I’ve Learned While Being a Stay-at-Home Dad

  1. Ok, first of all, how did I not know you had a blog? Have I been under a rock?
    Secondly, this was laugh out loud funny, and very true. I shouted an “Amen” to several of your points above!

    • Well, Susan, it’s not like you’re caring for three little ones, running a photography business, and doing some legal work on the side, right?…Oh, wait! You are!…Details can get lost when you’re that busy.

      Glad you enjoyed this post. Thanks.

  2. The Electric Company! I had no idea that was on at all, let alone at prime cooking time. I wonder if Isaac would like it.

    Love the post! Maybe you could start blogging about your cooking adventures next. I’m always looking for new recipes that don’t require me to spend an entire day in the kitchen.

    • Thanks! I’m afraid my cooking adventures would be fairly boring. I like to eat well. Other than a handful of good restaurants in the area, if you want to eat well you have to make it yourself. One thing Mid-Michigan is blessed with though, is access to amazing fresh produce, quality produce we could never get in L.A. or Chicago.

  3. I think the big thing with the no-TV is that you used to send your small children and toddlers above the age of 12 months “outside” so you could do non-kid activities, like clean-cook-do laundry. As long as my children are within 20ft of me, there is no way to get them to stop wanting to interact unless there is a playdate, a rabid dog chasing them or a TV show.

    • We have a nice large backyard here, which in the warmer months makes it easy to send them outside. Actually, this winter I was able to send Meredith outside for a bit, but she’s still small enough that I or my wife have to be out there to keep an eye on her.

  4. Ahhh it’s all so true so true. I’ve grown from cooking off the Campbell’s soup can to much more interesting recipes. I read something once that said if the kids are too crabby throw them in water….so every now & then I would give my toddler a bath with a whole bunch of toys in the middle of the day just to gain 20 minutes of sanity. Glad those days are over 🙂 Being home with the kids is a gift to both them and you, good job 🙂

  5. Note to self: The “Don’t ever turn down dinner at Stephanie’s. Ever.” rule also applies to Rich…

  6. This post is pure gold.
    I had to Wikipedia what “The Electric Compamy” was, it doesn’t look like a crappy show for kids; besides, that is PBS!

  7. What, you couldn’t learn to bake when you were in LA so I could enjoy your talent? And what’s this snub about the produce out here? Ahh, maybe that’s why I garden. I enjoyed this post and glad to hear that fatherhood is still a good gig.

    • @scrapper al, LOL, I didn’t learn to bake until I got the stay-at-home dad gig. It started with cookies. Pies I didn’t realize I could bake until two years ago, which is a good story, one I intend to post on the blog some day soon.

      Regarding the produce, the first time in my life that I smelled blueberries was at the farmer’s market here. I didn’t realize blueberries COULD smell. It’s the benefit of living in a semi-rural environment: I can eat produce bred to be eaten, not shipped.

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