I am asked many different questions by people when they find out that I take care of the home and family while my wife works. But one that almost always comes up is some variant of “What do you do all day?” Come to think of it, my wife frequently asks that question, but that is another blog post for another day.
My first thought when asked that question is that each day is different with completely new challenges. My second thought is that is not entirely true. Though circumstances can change, there is some sort of rough pattern to my days and weeks. Let’s take a walk through a day in the life of my family.
2:18 AM: Eli is standing beside Margey’s side of the bed requesting permission to come aboard. She asks him if he is wet like she is asking for a password. He gives the correct response. “No.” He is granted permission and we find that he is a dirty little liar.
2:22 AM: It occurs to us that good parenting requires that we actually change the baby. Margey goes for diapers. I fall asleep and fail to have him prepared for the change when she comes back. She accuses, I play stupid.
4:10 AM: Eli wakes us up with his plaintive wail, “Molk.” That is Eli speak for milk. We exaggeratedly snore, hoping he will give up and go to sleep.
4:13 AM: “Molk”. Snores.
4:17 AM: I get the sensation that I am being watched. I open my eyes. Eli is peering down at me. “Daddy E awake” he says. OMG, I have to get the kid some molk. While I am downstairs I ponder a few things. Why does Eli speak in the third person? Why do I call milk “molk” when it is reference to Eli? Why does he call himself E?
4:19 AM: Give Eli his molk and breathe a sigh of relief that he has actually gone back to sleep.
6:00 AM: The alarm on my phone goes off. I have had a cell phone with an alarm for 10 years, but I still groggily look for an alarm clock. I remember I live in the 21st century and rip my phone off the charger and paw at the screen trying to make it quit shrieking at me. It doesn’t really shriek. Actually it plays “Ain’t Even Done With Tonight” by John Mellencamp. I’d like to say that I was completely aware of the humor behind having “Ain’t Even Done With Tonight,” as the song that rips me from peaceful slumber, but the truth is that I chose music on the alarm menu and it defaulted to that song because it is alphabetically the first on my list.
Simultaneous to John not being done with tonight on my side, Will I. Am starts singing about “One Tribe” from Margey’s night stand. Whereas I am brutal and clumsy with my attempts to turn off the alarm Margey is all commando and efficient. Will is snuffed out quickly.
6:03 AM: Finally reteach myself how to turn off the alarm on the phone. Readjust my position. Go back to sleep.
6:09 AM: Realize while I am again being rudely awakened by John Mellencamp that I only hit the snooze. Wonder how the good people at Apple decided to set the default snoozed time to 9 minutes.
6:18 AM: DAMMIT OK, FINE JOHN MELLENCAMP I’M AWAKE. Find my phone and actually turn off the alarm. Stop sobbing. Place my phone on the night stand and look around me. It is at this point I take inventory of what has happened in the night. Eli is usually wedged between us forming some abstract H shape.
Below him is the little dog, Abbey. Sometimes Charlie is on the floor in a pile of blankets and stuffed animals, but that has been happening less and less. Bella our German Shepherd/Rottweiler/Chow mix is in the recliner.
6:20 AM: The coffee maker starts up downstairs, reminding me that I am sitting on the edge of the bed staring blankly. My wife stirs. She reaches over and grabs her phone. That is her way of plugging into the world. Mostly she is seeing what kind of catastrophes have befallen her clients in the night.
6:23 AM: Take the dogs downstairs and let them out. Pour coffee and wait for the dogs to come back. Upstairs I hear Margey moving around. Put a slice of bread in the toaster. Let the dogs in. About this time Eli shouts for “Toaf!” from the top of the stairs. Smile and take the toaf, I mean toast out of the toaster.
6:26 AM: Take coffee and toaf upstairs to our bedroom. Eli is watching television while Margey changes his clothes. I take a deep breath and go into the boys room to get Charlie. I stare down at the lump of blankets, pillows and stuffed animals that contains my son. I listen for breathing to determine where the screaming part and kicking part will be.This kid sleeps hard. He doesn’t just go to sleep. He chases sleep, knocks it down, kicks its ass and takes its lunch money. The first step to making this kids bed is finding all the pieces. I turn on the light and get a fix on his position. I pick him and his clothes up and head for our bedroom.
6:40 AM: Charlie and Eli are dressed. Margey asks when I last showered. I ask when she would have liked me to fit that in. Margey heads to the shower while I take the kids to their bathroom for hair combing and teeth brushing.
6:50 AM I herd kids and dogs downstairs for breakfast. Eli has had toaf but stands in the pantry and begs for gummy bears. Charlie asks for cinnamon rolls but ends up getting cereal and juice. An argument about what we watch on television breaks out. Usually we watch “Bubbleguppies” because that is what Eli wants. If Eli doesn’t get his way he screams. If Charlie doesn’t get his way he sulks silently. I can do silence.
6:55 AM: While the kids are eating I make Margey’s breakfast. That’s right, you read correctly, I make my wife’s breakfast. Usually scrambled eggs with mushrooms and spinach and an english muffin.
7:25 AM: Margey comes down. Breakfast is in her bag, coffee is in the to-go cup. Kisses all around and she is off to do her bread-winning lawyer thing. Everybody transfers upstairs to finish watching “Bubbleguppies” while Daddy showers and gets dressed.
8:00 AM: Back downstairs. A load of wash is put in, dishes placed in the dishwasher. I pretend to be a dinosaur and chase the kids around the house. They counterattack. Dinosaur is subdued.
8:25 AM: Kids are piled into the car and it is off to school. You don’t have to be a stay at home parent to know that the previous sentence is a gross simplification. Putting two kids and associated gear into a car to go anywhere is akin to planning an amphibious landing.
8:45 AM: Drop Charlie off at school with hugs, kisses and waves.
9:00 AM: Go to the grocery store. Try to get everything on my list without taking Eli through the bakery or the candy section. Impulse buy tapioca pudding because I am the only person in the house that likes it. Feel guilty about buying something nobody else likes then get over it.
9:40 AM: Try to pay for groceries while keeping Eli from pushing the buttons on the credit card scanner. Eli screams. Clerk looks at my tapioca pudding and judges me.
9:55 AM: Drop off dry Margey’s dry cleaning. Dry cleaner guy asks why I never bring any of my clothes any more. I tell him, again, that I don’t generate dry cleaning because I don’t work any more. He asks what I do all day.
10:15 AM: Take Eli to a local gymnastics school for open play. Watch children “socialize’. Hope they aren’t choosing up sides for a “Lord of the Flies,” preschool party. Eli does his best to avoid “cheek pinchers.” Unfortunately the kid has some of the most pinchable cheeks ever and they are irresistible.
11:3o AM: Watch in the rear view mirror as Eli falls asleep in the car on the way home. Hit the brakes a little harder than necessary at stop lights to wake him up.
11:50 AM: Get home. Wake Eli up. Make him walk up the stairs on his own to make sure he’s awake. Put away groceries and start lunch.
12:15 PM: Pick lunch up off the floor.
12:30 PM: Take Eli and blanket upstairs for nap. Nap time is a highly formal ritual that can’t be adequately described in detail here. Suffice it to say that wailing, begging and crying are involved. There are also songs. Whenever Eli goes to bed he asks for songs. pecific songs. In no particular order they are: “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, “You are My Sunshine”, “The ABC Song” and “Hound Dog,” a la Elvis Presley.
12:40 PM: Sit on the couch and eat lunch.
1:00 PM: Wake up. Finish eating and try to ignore that the rugs need to be vacuumed and there is laundry to fold. Start in the kitchen. Wonder why I am the only person that has to replace paper towel rolls. Wonder further why people put items on top of the trash can when they won’t fit in the trash can. Continue on with chores depending on what day it is.
2:30 PM: Wake Eli from his nap. He is just as unhappy about waking up as he was about going to sleep. Remove his diaper and take him to the potty. Sit him down and tell him to go like a big boy. (He goes on the potty several times during the day, I just thought it would get monotonous to mention it every time)
2:33 PM: While wiping the bathroom floor realize that it is just as tough for little boys to go potty right after waking up as it is for big boys.
2:40 PM With chores done, give Eli some juice and a snack. Watch Eli cry because it isn’t gummy bears.
3:30 PM: Pick Charlie up at school. Listen to his fascinating day.
3:45 PM: Get home and get everybody inside. Watch in horror as the house you worked on all day is completely destroyed in moments.
5:30 PM: Give up trying to clean up behind the boys and start dinner. Listen to Charlie ask why we have to have brussel sprouts again.
6:00 PM: Mommy is home. Feel inadequate as the boys make a point to be very happy about having somebody else besides me here. Dinner time.
6:45 PM: Try to talk to Margey about her day. Be unsuccessful as freshly fed children run around the house making noise at precisely the time you want to talk.
7:00 PM: Bath time. I seriously don’t have space right now to go into detail about bath time. If you are a parent you know it is akin to trying to stop a prison riot except no shotguns and tear gas.
8:00 PM: Bed time. Kind of like bath time except dryer and more crying. By this time however they are wearing down. Stories, drinks of milk and a rousing chorus of “Hound Dog” and it’s all good.
8:30 PM: I find myself talking in full sentences again and not referring to myself in the third person as “Daddy”. Maybe a glass of wine.
10:00 PM: Head upstairs at the end of a long day. 2:18 comes really early.
This is just an overview of an average day. Usually they are a bit more hectic. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon on This Side of the Diaper.