Prior to having Smalls I frequently came across articles or television reports stating that ‘normal’ life can continue after having a Small. The gist of each was that with careful planning and time management you can have it all.
My personal experience shows that to be bollocks. You cannot have it all. Something will have to give, somewhere.
Closer analysis of the aforesaid articles shows that they were all about very highly paid business people and celebrities. Once you dug into the reports and read between the lines they were people that had sufficient funds to pay for a lot of support. Many had full time nannies and basically came home from their 12 hour shift to say good night to Small before they set off in pursuit of their personal interest. Others had varying degrees of similar support. Most had cleaners and gardeners to look after the household tasks. So, for them, the thing that had to give was money.
Our reality was that we couldn’t afford to pay for support. Our household income had gone down and the household expenditure had gone up. If we couldn’t afford a cleaner before Small, we certainly couldn’t now. So, if we couldn’t pay for the extra work to be done by somebody else then we would have to do it ourselves, which meant there was much less time for us.
Were personal interests out the window then? Not necessarily. The trick was for my wife and I to provide each other with some time to pursue our own interests. We did not have anything like the time we used to but we did get some. It was important. An hour off did a world of good. Liken it to a computer that had been left switched on for too long: sluggish, non-responsive, lagging and generally irritating. Shutting it down for half an hour gives it time to cool down and clear its temporary memory so that when it is switched back on it is ready for action again (for a little while).
Is it possible to pursue personal interests without a partner around to look after Small? Maybe. I still have a clear image of my first day in the new job as house husband. Small was 3 months old, so past the really intensive care stage, and I thought I could use some careful planning and time management to get 110% out of my day by pursuing my personal interests. My passion is road cycling. Now, I knew I obviously couldn’t go out on my bike and leave Small behind, as tempting as it was. No. Bad daddy. But I could set up my indoor trainer and cycle in the house. Clever daddy.
Making sure Small was clean, fed and unlikely to explode, I dragged the dining table and chairs across the floor and pushed them against the wall, making just enough room to squeeze in the static trainer and my bike.
I chucked a play mat (one of those mats with things dangling down to provide visual stimuli and interaction, if Small is coordinated enough to reach out and touch stuff) on the floor at the far end of the table and placed Small on it. Ensuring he was comfortable and not in imminent danger of being sat on by a doiden, I scurried to the garden shed and grabbed the indoor trainer. Returning to the house I set it up.
Checking Small was still in a state of joy, or at least indifference, I returned to the shed for my bike, which I manhandled across the garden and in through the patio doors. It was a struggle to fit the bike to the trainer in the confined space but eventually the job was done.
Making sure Small was still safe and happy I sprinted upstairs to change into some shorts and get my cycling shoes. On my return Small was still staring at the dangly things so I mounted to bike and started pedalling.
Within a minute Small decided he’d had enough of staring at dangly things and started to bawl. I unclipped from my pedals, dismounted and squeezed between the bike and the table to get to Small. I rattled the gym supports turning the dangly things into jiggling things. Instant silence.
By the time I had manoeuvred my way back to the bike, re-mounted and clipped back in, Small started up again, so I reversed the process. Digging through a kitchen drawer I found a length of string. Tying one end to the support holding up the dangly things I took the other end with me back to the bike. Clipping in, I hit those pedals hard, not knowing how long I would get. All the while I spasmodically jerked on the string, making the dangly thing jiggly.
The jiggly things kept Small entertained almost long enough for me to build up a sweat. In my state of sleep deprivation and lack of exercise for three months, about three minutes. No amount of jiggling would keep Small quiet for long so I was force to call a halt to personal interests.
The next treasured golden nugget of time, when Small was quiet and happy to be alone, was spent putting the bike and the trainer back in the shed and hauling the dining table back into position before mum returned from her money earning duties.
It was a lot of effort for three minutes of riding. I don’t enjoy riding on the trainer anyway. Needless to say, it never happened again.
Not so much a parenting guide full of advice, more the reality of parenting kids and being a house husband and father, written by a stay at home dad to three children.
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