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What Mums Deal With – a Dad’s Perspective
My life has always been good. at least since I met the beautiful woman I am proud to call my wife. Work came easily to me and I’m lucky enough to be paid well for what I love. It was like this for many years until; recently, I joined the ranks of the unemployed. It was a bitter shock and a realization that life is not always as easy as I had come to believe, but as life would have it, instead of being the worst moments of my life, it was one of the best – a real shock to the system – no doubt, but still one of the best. I would like to share some of these experiences with you, you see, I have 4 children under the age of 5 (no twins here!) and being able to see my family without work getting in the way has changed my whole outlook on life.
I became unemployed about 4 weeks ago. Earning a decent income meant my wife could stay at home (which is fortunate, as she told me she’d never work again when we got married!), but it also meant that, like most people, we lived a little higher our media. This is great while the income lasts, but once it dries up, you start to realize how much money you need on a monthly basis just to pay the bills! That’s when reality hits home and you get more than a little nervous.
Nevertheless, I got a good payment and we estimated that, with our savings, we would be fine for 6-8 weeks. As luck would have it, I was soon offered a job starting in just over a week, so I got to do something I’ve always wanted to do. I was able to really enjoy my family.
Those first days were difficult for me. Our oldest boy (age 4.5) had just started school and that meant the next boy (age 2.5) had just lost his favorite teammate. It’s weird, but on the weekends, I never really understood how great of a babysitter an older sibling can be. It sure didn’t take me long to figure it out though!
The little 2.5 and his sister (1.5 years old) suddenly needed a new teammate. Someone who could tell them what to do, teach them how to play and generally entertain them. Wait…I didn’t know it would be like this? I think my wife was making the most of the situation to have an extra pair of hands around, so I was diapered – 5 dirty diapers right through school? And the youngest (4 months), seems to have the ability to pull more “stuff” out of his diaper and lift his back than the laws of physics seem to allow! This is just not right??? Is? Every day? My wife looked at me with amused sympathy. He confirmed that yes it was every day, but he thought it would improve next week.
So the first week was spent worrying about when the cash would start flowing again AND trying to remember how to play dominoes or teaching an enthusiastic little girl how to play with Matchbox cars while the 2.5 boy served tea from the little girl’s tea set. Was it just me or did people get confused somewhere along the line?
Oh, and how could I forget to mention that little 2.5 was getting his final teeth (molars), little 1.5 was getting eye teeth, molars and more, and little 4 month old was just starting his ‘journey to the teeth”; You can’t imagine the noise of 3 kids all screaming at the same time from the pain of teeth cutting!!! Give me a busy subway or mall – PLEASE!
Somehow I survived. I couldn’t wait for school to end when my “babysitter” came home and kept a lot of other kids busy but still they were changed, fed, showered, read books and games played by all 3 kids with the 4 month old watching. I was really exhausted every night.
I look back as I write these words and wonder, why was that? My wife was there too. Did nothing; Then I remember, that’s right – she was nursing, washing, ironing, cleaning, shopping, running the kids and the usual things a mom does! But if we were both fully occupied… how does that work? She usually does all this by herself! Is not;
Wow. Talk about a whole new respect for the role of mother.
Not only has she made it on her own over the years, but she has raised children who are simply wonderful. They are curious, kind, well behaved and have excellent manners. You might think I’m just biased, but we get this kind of feedback a lot.
My wife has done a really amazing job. I know I’m helping, but it’s nothing compared to what he achieves every day.
By the end of the week, my previous lifestyle forgotten, I began to relax a bit. My phone very rarely rang and I had progressed job opportunities when they presented themselves. At the beginning of the week I felt like my phone wasn’t ringing enough, but by the end of the week I didn’t notice it anymore.
Okay, although I was pretty much immune to the stench of a very full diaper up until now, I was really looking forward to the second week when my wife happily told me that the frequency of dirty diapers would drop. At the time I never thought about how this would work, I just took her word for it. I keep forgetting how stupid I can be.
My wonderful wife had decided that since I was home and able to help, she would like to take the opportunity to start the toilet train on the little 2.5. It was about this time that I began to see the potential problem here! We had delayed toilet training him as we had just moved into a new house, had another baby, gone away for Christmas and had his big brother start school. Now seemed like an obvious time to start (to my wife anyway!).
Day 1 was pretty good. He already had a good idea of when he needed to use the toilet and the day was pretty successful. Only one accident where he fell asleep on the floor before we could put a diaper on him for his nap, but overall we were very pleased. I was doubly pleased as all my worries seemed completely unfounded.
Day 2, I was really excited about this as I had only changed 4 dirty nappies the day before, and any reduction in that number was a relief. The only problem was that now the little 1.5 decided to start taking her diapers off too as she was a big girl and didn’t need them either. Unfortunately, she’s a little girl and the toilet, even with a child seat, is too big…but her brother didn’t use a potty, so why should he?
What a disaster.
Accidents everywhere. In my office(!), in the lounge suite, in the kitchen, in my lap. OK, it was only No. 1, but it’s just not pleasant to discover walking barefoot to the fridge! I swear he would do it on purpose too. It was like a small jug of water at the feet, but it never ran out. I think I clocked 4 in an hour at one stage. There’s nothing you have to deal with like that in the office. My biggest problem was whether the cleaner had swept my desk under my paper or just around it! I understand that for many of you, this was probably quite normal, but for me it was completely foreign.
Then, just before tea, came the first ‘bombshell’ – literally. That’s when my brother-in-law’s words hit home. Once they start eating what we eat, when they go to the toilet it’s just as bad as if we just did it on the floor. GROSS!
Day 3 we tried to keep her diapered but by day 4 we had given up. These disposable diapers are a great idea, but the only downside is that kids can work on them too. So Day 4 was similar, but on Day 5, she started using the potty herself and was very proud of making deposits.
You know, there’s a sense of accomplishment when you see the light come on in those little eyes when they know they’ve done well. She proudly displayed her accomplishments and received significant praise for a job well done. Her older brother was also doing very well and was equally ecstatic on the first day when he proudly announced that “there were no accidents”.
My life was changing, distracting me from these strange and unknown events that I couldn’t even notice. I first realized this when, at the end of that second week, I looked at my children and saw, for the first time, that there were 4 perfect and wonderful young people in front of me. Everyone thirsts for knowledge and excitement, everyone with their own thoughts and perspectives on things. This was my family. It was an amazing revelation and it hit me hard.
Week 3 and accidents were down. Playtime was easier and meeting their every personal need came naturally. When my phone rang, it was now a nuisance, even though I hadn’t secured any work yet. The kids and I were still working into a routine. I started looking for opportunities to help my wife around the house and she (while doing some things I’d done wrong again) told me she really appreciated it. I was used to executives and senior management congratulating me on a great presentation or the successful delivery of a project, but this was different. I realized that although we had a wonderful relationship, these weeks had brought us closer. I had a greater understanding of what she was doing and a greater appreciation for the effort it takes to be a good mom – and she was the best.
As Week 4 comes to a close, I have successfully found a job and am starting in just over a week. While it took a weight off my shoulders, it also made me feel a pang of regret. I would go back to that life again, always busy, always stressful, and I found that now I’m very attracted to it. While I have to work so we can afford it, it really pushed me to start thinking about ways to make it possible so I have more time off to spend with my kids.
By now, my kids run around me and we love being around each other. I know I will miss them more than anything and I will miss my wife more than ever when I am not home. I am really happy to have spent this time with them. It was one of the most precious moments of my life and I will always cherish those memories.
As a result of these few weeks, I had two main revelations:
1. I realized that if I didn’t have to go to an office, I would love to help my wife with her work. With our children growing up together, this is a job where the challenges will be constant and ever-changing.
2. I could have been rich if I had invented disposable diapers or bonjela (to relieve gum pain, it’s really a wonderful thing).
I’ve also made some changes that I know I need to stick to and my daily list will now include:
– I always thank my wife for doing what she does and being what she is
– Always find time to talk to each child individually and learn about their day
…and the most important…
– Make sure I buy a lotto ticket every week
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