Resurfacing

by doodaddy on March 4, 2009

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Bath time means I catch up on my
e-mail. I’m about four weeks behind.

My life has again undergone one of those major changes that makes you re-sort every priority. And all I can think about is the laundry.

Becoming a stay-at-home dad to Boo three years ago was major, sure, but for all that, I still spent a lot of time sipping coffee and reading the newspaper. Nap time is really nap time when there’s only one kid.

Back then, the life-shift was one part practical, nine parts emotional. I’d always hung out with kids a lot and I stay up late anyway, so my child care skills were sufficient. The hardest part of it was wrapping my head and my lips around the word “father,” as in “I am a father. This is my daughter.” The fatherhood concept, over 35 years in coming, didn’t settle into my consciousness right away.

Now, though, I’m suddenly home with a baby and a three-year old, and my life is consumed by the mundane. I can’t turn around without discovering yet another toy stash exploded over the floor like a popped-open all-natural kiln-dried organic pimple. Every cookie-decorating or glitter-gluing project I engineer means another half-hour of cleanup, longer if I try to get Boo to help.

Laundry piles up. Trash cans need emptying. And my “real” household projects? The slide grandpa got us for Christmas remains uninstalled, flat in the backyard. Accumulated junk accumulates still. I sew not. The neighbor across the street scowls at me and my neglected yard daily.

But I can handle all that. If I keep myself going for fourteen hours a day, I can cover the domestic business. That’s not the problem. Nor do I mourn the loss of real personal time, since I’m sure that it will come back. Eventually, I will again write every day, hike a couple of times a week, go out occasionally with a friend — all that stuff is just on hold.

No, what I really pine for is the essential intangibles. I simply don’t know how to work back into my life time to solidify my emotional connection with my kids when I’m buried under a sea of what-needs-to-get-done. And these aren’t even the “optionals” — we’re talking waste management, laundry, grocery shopping, and, of course, feeding and cleaning my ladies. (Well, the two of them, anyway — I don’t clean my wife anymore.)

Parenting number two is way different from parenting number one: the best parts seem to fall by the wayside.

The other activity that’s clearly fallen by the wayside is editing what I write, for which I apologize. I promise: brevity by 2010!

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in exhaustion,housework,stay-at-home guilt ·

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Super Mega Dad March 4, 2009 at 10:55 pm

You might want to get back into cleaning the wife…they kinda dig that stuff. :)

Other than that, I SO hear ya. I look around the house everyday and wonder when I’m going to get to all of my to-do list.

Reply

busy-dad-e March 5, 2009 at 8:36 am

I agree with you that parenting two is way different than parenting one. Many times, it feels more like directing traffic/accident prevention than parenting. All parents struggle with the need to balance giving individual attention to our children with all of the necessary evils to keep a household functioning (laundry, eating, cleaning, etc.)

For us, it boils down to setting priorities (aka time with the kids), and everything else has to fit in around that. We’ve taken on a modest degree of sleep deprivation to catch-up on things like laundry and kitchen clean-up, which are often done after the kids go to bed, so that we have more time to focus on our boys. It also gives my wife and I time to connect emotionally and talk about “boring adult stuff”, even if it’s over folding laundry at midnight.

With regard to that emotional connection with our children, here’s a few things that have helped me.

1. Make the most out of everyday, run-of-the-mill moments. I might share a laugh with my toddler by making silly sounds or faces at breakfast. We may pretend that we’re going on an adventure when we take out the trash. Our children constantly study our faces, and even if it’s brief, those kind of connections are important and will add up.

2. If you can, set up a periodic “date night” with one of your children. Go out and do something special with just you and Boo (of her choosing), while mommy has a date with the baby. Your children will come to really look forward to this, and the 1 on 1 time is precious. Next time, mommy goes on a date with Boo.

3. As your youngest gets a little older, there will be all kinds of new and exciting connections between the siblings. Sure, Boo won’t want to share sometimes or will get annoyed, but the baby will look up to her and want to do everything her big sister is doing. It’s important that they connect with each other, too.

4. One failsafe for us is to take both boys out for a walk in the stroller to go feed the ducks in a pond in our subdivision. As they interact with nature and each other, it’ll rekindle some of that connection you’re longing for.

Reply

doodaddy March 5, 2009 at 8:39 am

@busy-dad-e – Thanks! All great ideas and things we’ve done in the past — I’m just so buried that it’s hard to make any of them real right now!

Reply

bookish dad March 7, 2009 at 11:15 am

This is a useful heads-up, as we’re thinking about a second one. I guess it’s good to have no illusions; with 2, I’ll probably lose my nap-time reprieve of an hour or two every day to read or think or vegetate. But like you say, that will come back. I hadn’t thought about logistics might overwhelm the happy family buzz. Thanks. Will meditate thereupon.

Reply

doodaddy March 7, 2009 at 11:18 am

@bookish dad – Not to mention blogging time! That sort of goes out the window, too…

Reply

Nan March 8, 2009 at 4:54 pm

“Babies Don’t Keep”

Mother, oh Mother (father, oh father!), come shake out your cloth
empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
hang out the washing and butter the bread,
sew on a button and make up a bed.

Where is the mother(father!) whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(lullaby, rockabye, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).

The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
and out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
but I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
(lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
for children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Reply

doodaddy March 8, 2009 at 4:57 pm

@Nan – Yeah, I think that’s my wife’s strategy. Plus, that leaves me with all the cleaning!

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moodswingingmommy March 9, 2009 at 6:00 pm

A very belated congratulations to you my friend! Welcome to the club. It is a very difficult balance…I am two years in and I don’t think I’ll ever master it myself. Something has got to give at all times, and in my case it has been blogging. Since I am here commenting, it is currently folding 4 loads of laundry. Oh well!

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doodaddy March 9, 2009 at 6:03 pm

@moodswingingmommy – Many, many thanks! It’s a club I hadn’t really realized would be quite so challenging, to be honest. Someone fooled me by saying that the first one was the hardest. Right…

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