I have a 3.5 and a 1.5 year old. Since they were 3 months old I have spent no more than four days in a row with them. I’m neither ashamed of this or bragging. It’s my choice. I love my job. And I’m not cut out to be a stay-at-home parent.
But my husband’s been working a lot more lately, so I’ve had to take on some of the “duties.”
This is what I discovered about all the stay-at-home parents in the 2 weeks I tried it.
1. You are humble warriors
No one gives a shit about you if your job is being a parent. As a theatre-maker I’m used to getting clapped for a living, and more importantly when I enter a creation room- people know who I am (probably because I’m paying them to be there.) But as a mom, I’m nobody. I’m here amidst sixty people and no one asks me how my work day is going? No one gives a flying fuck. To them, I’m a squirrel.
2. Constant interruption rules.
Let’s say you have one goddamned achievable goal in the day to make yourself feel more like an adult. One tiny thing, like to write for 30 min…Oh fuck he’s up.
Okay thank Jesus; I got him back down…where was I?
The day is broken into increments. There is no “wow, I was just so in the zone I lost track of time.” You know every goddamned 15 minutes that goes by because you are pushing towards the big events in the day that will keep you sane- like naptime, TV time…actually, that’s it.
3. You are a multi-tasking hero.
I did thirty minutes of P90X while teaching my kid the names of farm animals. ‘nough said.
Okay he’s up for real. Back after bedtime.
4. You celebrate things that others might not recognize as incredible.
When my kid took a shit in the field and he wasn’t wearing a diaper I was ecstatic. I instagrammed that shit. Because that was my time I spent potty training and I wanted everyone else to know about it. EVERYONE!
5. Facebook is your portal into insanity
“Did you hear about this kid who sniffed cinnamon and died?” I know you think I’m being dramatic but I read it on face…. I read an article about it…and this kid sniffed some cinnamon up his nose and he died! So I threw out all the cinnamon in the kitchen. I don’t care if you think I’m paranoid. I’m trying to keep our kids alive asshole.”
6. You become friends with the weirdo’s.
“Anyone, want to hang out. Anyone?
Lady at the park with tattooed on eyebrows, platform running shoes and a wrap-around skirt, you look kind…”Cats can see in the dark? Wow. That’s incredible…I don’t have a cat no, but getting one sounds like a great idea. I’ll go on Craigslist when I get home…oh you have them in your trunk right now. Ok. That sounds exactly like we need. A fresh perspective! A tiny kitty….Yes. Yes. Everything you say. Yes…by the way, is that Bud Light ball cap something I can buy around here?”
7. Your cool meter becomes non-existent.
8. You’ve learned a new language
“ubby, fwa, my bwassters, no hemit, HEMIT!”
“Pick me up. I’d like to bring my fuzzy bear and my glasses with me, and my helmet, NO MY HELMET!”
9. You stop recognizing your child as annoying.
“Oops sorry, He’s in the “wacking-kids-in-the–head-for-no-reason-phase.” “Oh? That’s not a phase?
10. Terrorizing boredom which gives way to existential angst which gives way to dwelling on your marriage, which gives into wondering why you don’t have any female friends anymore, which gives into a dull anxiety, which gives into a writhing inside your guts which gives into making the kids watch Curious George for 3 hours while you cruise Facebook and panic.
11. Conversations with adults stop.
“Oh you wouldn’t believe what happened today, I was like “I think you want to poo in the potty and he was like “no, no I don’t” and I was like “you haven’t pooped yet today so you must need to go, let’s have a seat and see what happens…watch mama’s face, urrrrg. Urrrg, I’m pushing, can you push? Why don’t you sit down and…
look at mama’s face? Watch me puuuuussssshhhh….I’m pushld359002322 (oh shit the kid;vsne03rewerr ISnK( TAKING A42Q4 OVER THE COMApuw56q434543ter, hanf#Q%2 31`13243on…G>E5.3.) Kay, he’s gone now.
“…I’m pushing out the poo. Look at Mama; she loves to pushhhhh outttttt pooooop. You try now.
Pushhhhhh. It Ouuuuuutttttt.
“So today was a good…day…ya…” (trail off into silence as friend (who just finished her PhD on the lost Dene language) says that her phone’s about to die and disconnects.)
Maybe it’s due to pure exhaustion, but there is a change in the alpha and beta waves of the brain when you hang with kids all the time. You can’t scream or hit or smoke or get shit-faced drunk or even take a small break at 4pm when you have nothing left. You have to dig into places of your heart you never knew existed and go further until you reach this state called Complete Presence. This is a terrifying place because it’s just you and the child. You are not an artist or a friend or a daughter or an engineer or a gardener or a teacher or a homeowner- you are this child’s parent. That’s it. And no one else cares, especially not your kid. And for me, that’s the toughest practice of them all. To be just one thing, right now, again and again and again, day in and day out, forever until I die- and no one’s clapping for that shit. NO ONE.
These stay-at-homers still find it inside to be there amidst all the chaos.
This equanimity is the secret we’re all looking for and you guys manage to dredge it up every single day, and you don’t even try to make a webinar about it. It’s as close to enlightenment that I’ve seen so far…
So for all of you raising your kids on your own, I bow down to you. I salute. I offer my sincere open-mouthed awe. You are on the front lines, getting gunned down by water pistols and hateful cashiers and 28–year-old hotties who look through you and you shift your tits and continue on.
I couldn’t hack it.
I can’t wait to get back to work.
Ps. It took me 6 days to write this.
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