Father Knows Best: Mr. Moming It

I’ve been playing the role of Mr. Mom for the past six months. Without a job, we can’t justify paying to send the kids to daycare, so when Philosofette goes to work, I stay home. Holy. Buckets. It is a lot of work.

I think the hardest part isn’t the work itself, it’s the self-sacrifice that goes with it. I cannot both be an attentive parent and try to accomplish my own agenda. This makes applying for jobs very difficult. It makes cleaning difficult. It makes preparing dinner challenging. The kids require attention. Part of this has to do with the demographics. We’re at 5 (he’s easy!), 3 (she’s potty training!), and 9 months (he’s eating everything on the floor and getting into places he shouldn’t be and pulling things off of shelves and crying and pooping and etc.!). Without the baby, the other two are pretty simple. Without the other two, the baby is easy too. But throw all three of them together… wow.

So these past six months for me have really hammered in the respect I have for stay-at-home parents. They do a lot of work. But even more essentially, they give up themselves. And that’s impressive.
A couple of other quick hits, parenting-related ideas that have been bouncing around my head recently…

My daughter was born with a tethered spinal cord. She had surgery at 3 months, and basically we’ll have to watch her for the rest of her life to make sure it doesn’t re-tether. We recently thought we were picking up some signs that it maybe had, including potty-training problems. We were feeling terribly guilty for not scheduling her to see a specialist a long time ago, since these signs were there for a while. When we took her into the specialist though, he couldn’t have been more reassuring. It’s a strange thing though, having to keep a constant vigil against a specific condition. If we miss it, if we delay, we could fail to prevent some pretty awful effects. It really ramps up the possible parenting guilt.

I recently taught my 5-year-old how to play war. He pretty much plays it constantly now. But even he’s gotten bored, because he’s started to introduce “powers” where cards freeze other cards or blow them up, etc. The thing is, all of the powers are similar to things he sees in games I play on the iPad… which clearly means I need to play less when the kids are awake (I gave up iPad games for Lent).

Alright, I’ve rambled for a while. Time for others to chime in.

36 thoughts on “Father Knows Best: Mr. Moming It”

  1. Quality stuff.

    I will never forget the first time my wife left my Home Alone with The Boy. The little spiteful punk started crying as she walked out the door for an R&R afternoon. He. Did. Not. Stop. Screaming. the entire time she was gone (maybe 2 hours, but seemed like weeks).

    It was then when I really understood the joke about the pregnant woman who, mid-labor, screamed at her husband "YOU DID THIS TO ME!!!!!!"

  2. I was unemployed for four months when Runner daughter was not quite 1 year old. Mrs. Runner took a part-time typing job that she could do from home, which made it flexible enough for me to do interviewing, etc. I remember that we had something like this at the time, which humorously Mrs. Runner put around herself so that she could get work done. When I was finally back at work, Mrs. Runner realized it was time for her to give up her job when Runner daughter ate a crayon.

    I don't know how you can juggle more than one; more power to you!

    1. We have one of those... it was effective for a little while with one of the kids. Might be so again with the baby. Now I just have to remember where we stored it.

      1. I use one in the basement to keep them in the area we put play mats so they don't wander over to the bare concrete. Its also useful to prevent my son from falling down the deck stairs. He's not graceful.

  3. Philo, I'm curious if you feel like the dynamics between you and your kids have changed as you've shifted into this new role.

    The reason I ask is because I was the jalapeño's favorite for the first 2.5+ years of his life. Things didn't change until I was pregnant with the peperoncino and suddenly wanted to spend a lot of time on weekends napping rather than going out and about with him. I didn't mind him shifting to want Mr. NaCl to do more things--it was actually a relief not to always be the parent he requested to sit with him in the bathroom while he spent an eternity pooping!

    1. They've definitely shifted, but it's hard to tell what is a product of me being at home more, me being more stressed, and the third kiddo (he was born just a few months before I ended up at home). I feel like I do fewer exciting, fun things with the kids now, and handle a lot more routine things. I think in some ways it means they're more comfortable with me, but with that comfort comes less excitement.

    2. Since I saw this question I have been thinking about how things have shifted in the last couple of years when the single parenthood phase of life began.

      When there were two grown people in the house, each of us had a distinct role when it came to parenting. We could divide and conquer and we could relieve each other when necessary. The boys knew which of us to go to for different issues. Obviously that changed, and taking on everything (albeit only half of the time) was a stretching experience for me and the kids, particularly when we were feeling our way through it at the beginning.

      I can say after two years the new normal is more, well, normal. In fact, I don't believe the youngest even remembers life before. Being forced to take on roles that I previously was able to allow their mother to take has made me a better father. I've learned to carve time out for myself in the middle of long stretches alone with kids, and to communicate to them when I need that time (them being older has helped a great deal).

      We still feel our way through at times. For the most part, I try to do all of my "grown up" socializing during the half time I don't have them with me, so it was interesting the response this summer when my softball league fell on a regular kid night. It didn't occur to me that my desire to do fun things that doesn't directly involve them would cause a problem. It did, and, like a lot of things, we talked it through and figured it out together.

      1. Very interesting--thanks for sharing. Mr. NaCl is not around on Monday evenings, and I've noticed that the dynamics between me and the boys are different on those night. When there are two parents around, the jalapeño (age 4) usually wants the undivided attention of one parent, but he has different expectations when it's just me. He also tends to be a bit more helpful with entertaining the 1-year-old.

        1. I think the one of the biggest adjustments the oldest had to make was not having the undivided attention of at least one parent at all times (he was 5 going on 6). This expectation didn't seem to change all that much when we first moved. I'm sure there were other factors at play there as well.

  4. It sounds like you have your hands full. I hope you have friends or relatives that can help out. It can be pretty stressful to do the juggling of childcare and job search.

    On an unrelated note, I could offer you a free cup of coffee tomorrow morning as I sit around Mankato during the regional science fair.

      1. What I can make work is an appearance with only the two oldest kids. If you're amenable, drop me an e-mail or FB message.

  5. Apparently Philosofette occasionally reads the WGOM, because she commented on this post. She was trying to figure out when I had time to write it, and then pointed out the irony of my having written it during the day, while I was watching the kids.

      1. Groan. I had originally typed a preemptive response to this in my LTE above. I should have kept it in.

  6. Philo - I'm curious if you have you run into any of this?

    I ran across a better article on the subject a few years ago, but haven't been able to track it down.

    1. The brother-in-law is going to be a stay-at-home dad. His wife spent ten or so years of education and other crap training to become a doctor; no way she's going to decide now to end it. Of course her female colleagues ask her (she's due early April) if she's going to stay home to care for the child and are aghast at the thought of the father doing that.

    2. I certainly have, but it extended to before the past 6 months. Philosofette has been pursuing her masters for a while, so I've lifted a heavier load of the parenting for some time. Taking the kids shopping is a regular event. Delivering/picking them up places is too. Taking them on fun outings, etc. My take on it though is that it's far less insulting that people expect less of dads (and are impressed when they deliver), and far more concerning that they don't hold special appreciation for mothers doing the exact same. Flip side of the same coin, I guess, but kind of like I wrote in the post, the self-sacrifice part of being a stay-at-home parent is really a remarkable, difficult thing. Doesn't matter if you're a mom or a dad, it's a pretty awesome form of giving.

  7. As a follow up, I ended up with some time this weekend where I only had the oldest two kids (or would that be "eldest two"?). It felt distinctly more like a special event, and we got to do some fun stuff. It was kind of nice to recapture that magic.

    1. I can relate to that. It doesn't matter which of the four it is, but, if one of them is not around, the whole dynamic changes--usually for the better.

      1. I had the opposite experience last week--my parents took the jalapeño on a trip with them, and I was really looking forward to how easy life would be with just one child. Turns out just one isn't so easy if said child happens to be 1 1/2 years old. While I did enjoy the break from the 4-year-old's endless bedtime routine, I don't think anything else was easier. I now have a newfound appreciation for how much entertainment the jalapeño provides for the peperoncino. And this isn't generally stuff he does for the purpose of being entertaining--it's just him being his zany 4-year-old self!

  8. Two years ago, my wife still worked outside the home. I would Mr. Mom it twice a week when she worked evenings on Wed and nights on Fri. It was madness. On top of that, I would usually try to go grocery shopping on Friday night with all the kids (4 of them at the time). Sometimes it worked well, other times they drove me crazy. It was everything I could do to get them to bed at a reasonable hour so that could spend some time playing Call of Duty (sometimes not getting downstairs until after 11-12 oclock). After I got them to bed, I tried to clean up a bit as well. And when she worked nights, I had them Saturday morning too, so I couldn't stay up and play too late.

    Different subject, my 6-year old has been one of the most stubborn people I know. When my wife would work (sometimes long shifts) she would NOT take a bottle (breastmilk or formula) AT ALL. She was hungry and frustrated, and I was frustrated trying to feed her (I threw the bottle across the room once, no one got hurt). But when mom got home she was fine. This same girl also stood outside in freezing cold weather in nothing but a leotard because she refused to walk 10 feet to come get her coat.

    Ah, the life of a parent.

    1. Ah, yep. At first you're like, "Well, they have to make mistakes so they can learn from them." And then you realize that stubbornness often overrules that and you have to save them from killing themselves out of spite.

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