Sometimes I think people treat us like we’re from a different planet. By ‘us’ I mean Stay At Home Dads (or an SAHD as some would have it). You wouldn’t believe the stupid questions I get asked as soon as the fact I provide day time care to my son comes up:
1: Do you change nappies?
Yes. Yes I do. It would be a little cruel not to. Don’t you think?
2: Do you just watch TV all day?
No. Have you ever met a toddler? That wouldn’t be easy – they’re quite demanding.
3: Did you decide you didn’t want to work anymore so went for the easy option?
‘Easy Option’? Once again – clearly you’ve not met a toddler. There is nothing even remotely ‘easy’ about supervising them. Trust me.
Yet there is one question I was asked recently that seemed more sensible than the rest:
“How do you stop yourself from going stark-raving mad?”
I didn’t have an immediate answer. You see, I’ll admit it, looking after a toddler can seem a lot like Groundhog Day.
For those of you not familiar with the classic comedy – Bill Murray’s character finds himself trapped in an endless loop reliving the same day over and over (and over) again. The parallels with life as an SAHD are obvious.
Parenting, for me, is all about routine. It’s the only thing that stops life with a little one descending into chaos. But routine does leave you with the distinct feeling you’ve done everything many times before.
I often suffer with an issue that I’ve heard some actors get midway through the run of a play – they suddenly can’t remember if they’ve said their next line already – or was that yesterday’s performance. Similarly I find myself wondering have I change Sam’s post sleep nappy or was that yesterday? Or have we had lunch yet or am I remembering another day? You get the idea.
So how do I go about keeping things fresh? It’s not easy – I mean who has the spare brain capacity to come up with new and interesting things to do?
SAHD – keeping the days fresh
Here’s my guide to avoiding Groundhog day:
- Surprise yourself. If you go on a familiar walk every day then mix it up every now and then. Turn left where you’d usually go right. Pop into a shop you’ve never visited – sit on a bench and see your locality from a whole new perspective.
- Sing. I’m serious. I got into singing with Nursery Rhymes just after Sam was born. I’ve now lost any inhibitions about singing in public. I often sing to Sam and myself as we go about our day. It keeps things interesting – and annoys the hell out of the neighbours.
- Embrace Picnics. Eating outside is a great way of mixing things up. I was a picnic skeptic before Sam was born, but I’ve been won around. Eat any food outdoors and it instantly becomes more interesting!
- Play dates. Nothing beats the monotony of the average day more than meeting up with other parents. Yes, you just spend your time talking about your kids – but learning all about other people’s problems and quirks will take your mind off yours.
- Listen to the Radio. The radio – via headphones – is an ideal way of keeping your mind active as you get on with those dull tasks (dishes, cleaning) etc as your kid sleeps. Talk radio is the best, as it will feature news stories that engage the brain. Before you know it you’ll be really well informed about world politics – with nobody but a baby to hear your opinions.
- Treat yourself. Give yourself little treats – things to work towards. They don’t need to be expensive or cost anything. It could be anything from an early night to a night out with the lads. Whatever it is make sure you know what the next one is and work towards it.
- Talk to the baby. Obvious I know. But really talk to your kid. More than just “goo-goo gah-gah!” Chat to them as if they’re a person who can chat back. This will help their language skills and keep you feeling mentally engaged. Trust me – it works.
- Laugh. The combination of a baby and a tired person will make funny things happen – guaranteed. Make sure you take the time to laugh at the surreal events life as a SAHD throws at you. These are the anecdotes of the future – perfect for embarrassing your kid when they become a teen!
If you follow my tips I’ve no doubt you will have fewer Groundhog days – or perhaps you’ll still have them, but feel better about it.
Some of you may feel my advice is a little familiar. That’s because you’ve read this piece before.
Yesterday – remember?
Or did you?