It is nice to just park my butt in a chair and not move for a while. Sure, part of it is because I have trouble moving right now (get to that in a second). But part of it is that I am just dog tired. As all five of you who read this regularly know, our family recently made a major change. My wife Heather, who has been the primary caregiver and stay-at-home parent, is now attending FSU Med School to become a doctor. As we have quickly discovered, that is definitely a full time job. She leaves at 7:15 or 8:00am and gets home at 5:45pm. And even that doesn't really give her enough time, so she studies for several hours at night. I have now moved into the at-home role.
Now, I am certainly not that guy who thinks that his wife doesn't do anything. I have been home off and on due to my schedule for years now. So I know how tough it is being at home all day with the kids. Or I thought I understood. I guess I really didn't understand at all. I have come up with several misconceptions that I had that have already been dispelled this week.
MISCONCEPTION #1: You Have Plenty of Time to Do Everything
You're home all day. You have three or four things on your list. How hard is it to get things done? Well, on a regular day where nothing happens out of the ordinary, that would be fine. However... HOWEVER... (The moms are already laughing.) There is ALWAYS something that happens. One day, the laundry room flooded. The washer wasn't hooked up right. So when it drained, it ran all over the floor. That took over an hour to clean, plus the time to get behind the washer to tighten everything. Gabe was trying to get into the laundry room and mess with everything. The kids took the opportunity to tear all over the place. I wasn't planning for that. Next, my glasses broke. Nothing happened to them. Took them off my face and they just fell apart. Now three different days had time that had to reallocated to getting new glasses. Today we spent two hours at Sam's Club with an eye appointment, picking glasses, fighting with the kids. Needless to say, I didn't get dinner made.
MISCONCEPTION #2: Taking the Kids Out is a Good Way to Pass the Time
I actually told my wife this. I told her to take the kids to the mall or whatever to help kill time. Yeah right. Going out is ridiculous. At home, you can yell and scream and hit -- uh, I mean discipline -- without worrying. Out in the big bad world, you never know what people are going to think. If your kids are screaming, they wish you would shut them up. If your kids are walking around, they wish you would get them in line. If you are smacking your kids, they are judging you for hitting. If you flip out in a store and start screaming at your insane offspring for spitting on each other or pushing Gabe out of the cart or wrestling over a chair, they think you have no self-control. Taking the kids out is stupid. It is reckless. It is a last resort.
MISCONCEPTION #3: Making Phone Calls is Easy - Just Call Them
I remember numerous times telling Heather, "Call Soand Sew today. Will that work?" And then I'd get home and wonder why it didn't happen. Or I would call that person in the car and get it done. I never quite understand the problem. Now I understand. The second the phone hits your ear, the kids see that as a signal to act like a bunch of over-caffeinated monkeys. They scream. They come ask you questions. They beg for food and water, as if they have been held prisoner deep in the bowels of the dungeon for weeks and only now have seen the light. They fight about everything - the tv, toys they haven't used in years, the weather, politics. And you sound like an absolute idiot to the person on the other end. "Yes, I under...STOP IT...stand sir. What? No, I was just saying ...GOOD LORD, STOP TACKLING HIM...this problem is not going away...UNLESS YOU QUIT I AM GOING TO STRING YOU UP...no, I wasn't threatening you."
MISCONCEPTION #4: Preparing Food Is Fun and Easy - Like a Hobby
I love cooking. I love watching food shows. I make lasagna and pizza and cookies and all kind of fun stuff. However, I no longer love it. It is now a chore, and an annoying one at that. Why? Well, there are several things. One, the kids want to help. Only they don't know how. And they ask about the worst stuff. You are cooking Italian sausage. It is popping and steaming. You are burning yourself every time you take the lid off. "Can I help? I want to help. Why can't I help? You don't like me!" The other thing is that these children change their tastes all the time. Natalie, for the longest time would eat eggs for breakfast, hot dogs for lunch, mac and cheese for dinner. Every day. It wouldn't bother her at all. This week, she has decided that she doesn't like eggs or hot dogs. What? My go-to meals are gone. Eggs were the one thing that all three kids would scarf without griping. No more.
MISCONCEPTION #5: Falling Down on the Job Isn't So Bad
If you mess up once in a while, it is okay. I used to tell Heather, "So you had a bad day. Tomorrow is better. Don't worry." We all fall down on the job. Well, the other day I took that literally and literally fell down on the job. Well, I actually fell down on Gabe. It was raining and the Walmart lot was wet. My stupid Crocs slipped out from under me and I fell forward onto the asphalt. Actually, like I said, Gabe was in between me and the asphalt. Somehow, he was fine. I braced him and only landed on his legs, which weren't even scratched. I was beat up. My elbows, wrist, knees all were sore. Today, the next day, my whole rib cage is aching. That is part of the reason that dinner didn't get made and that I am sitting like a lump. I'm thinking, "Man, Heather watched these kids for over seven years and never fell on one of them. Sure, they rolled out of the bed, but that's different. She never fell with them in their arms. I FELL ON GABE!" He didn't like it either. Wailed and wailed. I guess he didn't like being whaled. (Couldn't resist.) Falling is humiliating and painful. And it ruins your whole day. It makes you doubt yourself. (And, yes, I'm referring to both physical and metaphorical falling down.)
So my first week has been interesting and eye-opening. It is a little scary, that this is just the first week of an eight year journey. But I hope that once we get used to this process, it will all change. I'll be more comfortable. The kids will be used to the new way of doing things. Heather will be in a routine at the school. And I will be wearing shoes with better traction.