It Takes Two (To Kick My Ass)

by doodaddy on February 18, 2009

So I’ve only had two weeks as a stay-at-home dad to siblings but already I’m worried I’m losing Boobaby, by degrees, to the rigors of the new job. My relationship with my older daughter becomes more strained with every baby-feeding and laundry load.

Boo in facepaint as a rabbit.

Woebegone Wabbit

Taking care of two kids (and a house and a wife) is kicking my ass, no question.

The practical side of the work is manageable, more or less — every chore fits into a day, at least according to my spreadsheet. (When in doubt, I make a spreadsheet. I had a girlfriend spreadsheet once upon a time: I’m just that geeky.)

Here’s the 8 a.m. -10 a.m. cell:

Wake up, pull laundry together, change baby, feed baby, empty dishwasher, convince Boo to wear more than an infant’s T-shirt against today’s freezing rain. Feed Boo, feed self (coffee, at least), straighten kitchen …

Nice time budget, huh?

But budgets have a way of squeezing out the little intangibles that make life just a little glorious: an hour spent sitting at a café over coffee (for me) and a cup of whipped cream (for Boo), scribbling together on pages torn off my notepad. Wandering up a muddy mountain trail looking for newts. Looking at old pictures and drawing mustaches on long-forgotten relatives.

No, these days I’m more likely to exploit plop-and-go activities that can keep Boo occupied while I change a diaper or warm a bottle: if I set down some paints, I get ten minutes. Give her my phone and I get fifteen.

I’m running nearly constantly during the day, scooping up clutter from one spot and dumping it elsewhere and doing just about the same with the baby. I haven’t taken pictures in weeks; ditto for writing.

But my system works, on balance, with a lot of rough edges. Boo’s had weepy periods these couple of days, and though bad weather and a cold contribute to her melancholy moments, our change of life wears on her, too, I’m sure.

I just don’t know how to honor her emotional life when I’m hard-pressed to satisfy everyone’s practical needs right now.

Y’all out there with two or more are going to laugh at me when I say this because, well, duh, but I’m going to say it anyway:

This is a lot more work than I expected.

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in exhaustion,illness,what's it like to be a stay-at-home dad,whining ·

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Lynnie February 18, 2009 at 5:34 am

I feel your pain. Or, I guess I should say, I remember your pain! My two are now 3 and 5. I would say when my youngest was about 6 months I finally felt like I had “gotten the hang of things”. Now I feel nostalgic for that first year with two kids. The messes I let happen just to get through the day! The time I took both sledding when the baby was 3 months so my 2 year old wouldn’t miss out on the snow. The time I taped paper to the lower cabinet and let them lay on their backs and paint with their feet b/c that’s all the baby could do! The way the living room was cluttered with a swing next to a potty seat next to a baby gym next to the infant carseat. You’ll feel nostalgic for all this soon, though it seems impossible to believe now!

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busy-dad-e February 18, 2009 at 9:58 am

I’m a father of two boys, age 4 and 15 months. Our experience is that two children *exponentially* outnumber two parents. When it’s one parent with two young children, if you make it through the day without any bleeding, you’re doing well. Ah, the joyful chaos. I hear that having three children requires you to play “zone defense”. And yet nature gives us this amazing amnesia for how challenging it is from day-to-day (sometimes minute-to-minute)–just when it starts to get easier, you’ll think, “if we survived two, we could handle three.”

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twinbabiesdad February 18, 2009 at 10:00 am

I’ve been reading you long enough to appreciate the genuine loss you are feeling, the sense of not knowing if you are paying attention to the right things, and all that. I also recognize a moment when a hearty “CHILL!” is in order. It’s been a week brother! Did you have it all figured out a week into flying solo with Boo, hmmmmmm? Thought not. Her emotional life is fine, she has a totally engaged Doodaddy caring for her and Blue.

I look forward to reading the posts about the two of them discovering some crazy bug in the yard, your excellent playground adventure where they . . . .
Deep breath!
-Brian

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Annie February 18, 2009 at 11:23 am

It kicks my ass too – and I really only think I’m starting to get myself together now – my youngest is two!

Things are way more unpredictable with two – and that feeling of losing control is very difficult for me to handle at times.

Being an at home parent of two small kids is the most physically and emotionally exhausting work I’ve ever done. Many days I ask myself what the hell I was thinking when I thought I could do this – and this question is accompanied by heaps of guilt that I’m not doing as good a job as they deserve.

We keep on winging it though and so far all of us are still managing to thrive despite the challenges.

Things will get better – my only advice in the meantime is to try and enjoy the ride, because in a heartbeat they won’t be this little any more and we’ll want that time back.

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doodaddy February 18, 2009 at 1:54 pm

@Lynnie – Wait, what? I’m curious about the painting thing… you put paint on their feet and let ’em slide around?

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doodaddy February 18, 2009 at 1:55 pm

@twinbabiesdad – Yeah, I’m looking forward to that, too… I worry, though, that the 3-year age difference means they won’t really be friends until, I dunno, 2026? If then…

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doodaddy February 18, 2009 at 1:56 pm

@Annie – Once upon a time, everyone told me that the first one was the hardest. Now everyone is saying that it’s hardest going from one to two. I expect if we were to have a third that that would suddenly become the hardest, too…

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doodaddy February 18, 2009 at 1:58 pm

@busy-dad-e – At this point, getting to 6 months seems unlikely. 15 months? That’ll be brilliant…

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Veronica February 18, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Um, yes.

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Nan February 18, 2009 at 6:16 pm

It gets easier. Imagine me with a three year old, a two year old AND a newborn. I had a roster too! (Half-days, I tell ya!)

I think that having a sibling take the attention away is good in many ways for child #1. Boobaby is learning that sometimes, smaller weaker people need care FIRST. And it will probably do her good if you say “Gee wiz, all that baby stuff is nice but it’s hard work! Would you give me a massage while Blueberry sleeps?” Being needed by YOU, not just by the small usurper, might make her day.

You will be surprised how quickly this time passes. Soon they will both be at school and you will be encouraging them to play hooky just because it’s a sunny day…

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Super Mega Dad February 18, 2009 at 10:29 pm

My kids are 3 years apart and we went through some of the same issues when the new baby came into the house. I work from home half the week, so it was a challenge to juggle kids and work. Now that they are 3 and 6, they are best buds and really entertain each other and keep each other out of my hair. That’s not to say that they drive each other crazy sometimes. 🙂

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doodaddy February 20, 2009 at 12:32 am

@Nan – Is this one of those “long days, short years” kinds of things, then? Because at the moment, the days are feeling reeeeeeeally long!

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doodaddy February 20, 2009 at 12:34 am

@Super Mega Dad – Wait, you *worked* while you had the kids at home? Man, now I feel even more useless…

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Super Mega Dad February 20, 2009 at 9:33 am

@doodaddy – It was really a huge challenge at first, but once we got the hang of things, it all worked out. I was a basket case the first couple of months, but then we got into a routine and I REALLY looked forward to nap time to get some serious work done.

The key is to figure out a routine and stick to it.

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