The quality of my day often rests on whether the toddlers beat me out of bed. Hearing little whimpers at the bedroom door before the alarm clock, while it may sound endearing, is more like getting the blankets pulled off and then being pushed out of the wrong side of bed. The perfect morning consists of getting the oldest off to the bus, on time, making a fire, saying prayers, eating breakfast with a cup of coffee and the Bible, and then sitting in silence for a few minutes. Sometimes I am even lucky enough to actually go in and wake the toddlers. If I let them sleep too long, they won’t take a nap. I am content if I can just make it through my prayers because that way I have the spiritual support necessary to get through the day- with these begging, whining, dirty little people.
Ok I jest. I love my children and while this may be my sentiments on a bad day, I feel blessed I get to spend so much time with them. See, I’m still learning how to do all this because this is the first time I have been off work while my wife has had a job, so for the last three months I have been the homemaker. I must say though, I am not doing too shabby. My cleaning routine keeps the clutter to a minimum. I have learned to ration clothes to keep the laundry pile down. I have the poopy diapers clocked to precision and work around them to keep the naps longer. I have survived several trips to the grocery store with toddlers though I haven’t had to quell a public tantrum yet. I even took the toddlers on a trip to buy new shoes; they are a really nice pair of brown leather Sketchers. Now my back aches from bending over to pick up toys and my hands are dried and cracked from doing the dishes. These are the same ailments my mother used to complain of and she did it for 20 years. She used to repeat the slogan on the Calgon commercial: “Calgon, take me away.” Does anyone know if Calgon is still around?
I have to be completely honest here. My wife often makes dinner because she enjoys doing it though I can make great spaghetti. She is also primarily the one who gets up with the children at night. She will wake up if one of the children rolls over and I will not wake up unless they have been crying for a good half hour. So I would not say I have had the full experience of a stay at home parent but I am doing alright.
I will also say I have a newly felt respect for all the mothers who have stayed home with their children while the husband was off to work- women like my mother and grandmothers. My mother was a part-time nurse but her shifts were always in the evening and her mother was a teacher but not till after the kids were out of the house. Staying at home with the children is every bit as stressful as my landscaping job; every bit as dirty as well. It can also become extremely dull and wearisome especially after the routine sets it. Routines are dull, but they are designed to make my life as the parent easier by making life easier for my children and when this falls apart, so does everyone else. This is why a break in the routine, like the interruptions in my morning schedule, can become so frustrating.
Combined with the feelings of tedium are thoughts that my life has lost its intended purpose because I am stuck home with the children now. I mean I have a teaching degree; all those skills and all that knowledge are wasted now. Not only this, but if I had a decent job I could spend more time volunteering my time or money in order to make the world better. At the very least, I could make myself a better person if I could just get out of the house without these kids once in a while. I suppose these feelings are natural, and quite common, among the stay at home parents (who more often than not are women) but these negative feelings are deceptive and even destructive.
Yesterday was a beautiful day outside so I put the shoes on the little ones and took them out. While they were playing in the flower garden I sat in a chair and read an issue of National Geographic I picked up while shopping earlier. So here I was reading about the “Journey of the Apostles” while watching, and experiencing, the personal “journey” of a child coming into contact with the world. Not only was I watching it but I was also aiding in its growth. Often we feel useless outside of the public sphere and believe our worth is only visible in the size of our paycheck but most of us know this is not true. Being there with my children and teaching them to become responsible and productive adults is the greatest service I can perform for society as a whole. Spending time to nurture our children in the home is vital to the social education of a child and a culture cannot neglect this basic obligation without consequences. This is why I have respect for all those stay at home parents out there. The mothers have been carrying this burden for several millennia and are now asking fathers for help; I have been at it for three months. Thank goodness I have all that motherly wisdom to draw from.