The Perks of the Job

It’s so easy to get caught up in the negativity of it all as a SAH Parent. After all, it’s a repetitive, mundane and entirely thankless job at times. Throw in a bit of sleep deprivation, a toddler tantrum at your local supermarket, and Dora the Explorer on repeat, and you’ve got yourself a perfect storm of negativity, ready to take you down.

These burning embers of negativity are relentlessly fanned by social media. Ranging from the deadly serious articles about parents coping with some horrific situations, all the way through to the true comic genius of the Instagram phenomenon #assholeparent. For the record – Best. Site. Ever.

There is some great camaraderie and solidarity that develops through this shared suffering on social media. However there’s also a very real scenario where we start to think that our lives as SAH Parents really are as miserable as social media would have us believe. We start to believe our own bullshit. I know this because I’ve found myself getting dragged into that mental space a few times recently, and quite frankly, I don’t like it.

Motivational author Joyce Meyer once wrote: “you cannot have a positive life and a negative mind.”

With this in mind, I thought I’d take a moment to give myself a slap in the face, raise my arm out in front of me, and extend my middle finger to all of these negative notions.  After all, I reckon being a SAH Parent is the best job in the world, and here’s why:

I get to wear activewear. Everywhere. You’ve all seen the activewear song parody on Youtube. It’s funny because it’s true, and there’s no greater ambassador for the many uses of activewear than the SAH Parent. School drop off? Activewear. Drinking coffee with the hipsters at the local hangout? Activewear. Grocery shopping? Activewear. Drinking wine in the schoolyard with the other SAH Parents on a Friday afternoon while you wait for school to finish? You know it. #activewear. It’s not just the mums in their pink leopardprint tights and tank top complete with cheesy motivational slogan emblazoned across the chest. Although perhaps not as flamboyant with my activewear wardrobe, I too am a disciple. In fact, on the odd occasion that I roll up to school drop off in anything tidier than my usual shorts, sneakers and t-shirt ensemble, people tend to put on a sad face and politely enquire whose funeral I’m going to.

No more peak hour commuting. While our significant others are crawling along in their cars on the congested freeways; or sharing coughs; body odours and phone conversations with fellow commuters on the packed trains and buses, I’m at home, drinking my coffee (in my activewear of course). Once I’m done, I get to walk the little fockers to school, with the only congestion occurring on our arrival at the bike / scooter racks. On the odd occasion where I am called upon to drive somewhere during peak hours, it is a brutal, but timely reminder of the benefits of staying at home.

I’m the boss. I am in charge of the domestic portfolio. I may only be the boss of a couple of little people who can’t even wipe their own bums, but I’m the boss nonetheless. As the boss I have sole responsibility for making all of the important decisions each day. Which tasks and activities we tackle, which Wiggles DVD we watch, what to cook for dinner, which brand of toilet paper to buy (Kleenex. Always Kleenex. In case you were wondering). I’ve never had the opportunity to be my own boss through my career, and it’s a refreshing change to have this freedom now.

Coffee dates. I try and fit in one or two each week. Sometimes with a friend. Sometimes with one of my wife’s SAHM friends – which is a bit weird now that I think about it. Sometimes just me and the cutest date in town. Focker #2. Mind you, there aren’t many coffee dates with Focker #2 that don’t end up with me apologising to the hipster behind the counter for the spilt babyccino and the crumbled quinoa chocolate muffin that has been ground into the floor. While I probably do fewer coffee catch-ups now than I ever did while I was working, these ones are generally far more enjoyable. It’s less about the “networking opportunity” and more about the coffee. And the company of course. But mainly the coffee.

Celebrating the every-day victories. Being present every day has enabled me to celebrate every little success with our kids. There’s probably no better example of this than Focker #2 and her scooter. Since the beginning of the school year she has wanted to ride her scooter to school. The problem is, at the tender age of two, she didn’t know how. I’d inevitably end up carrying her and her scooter to and from school twice a day instead. Not always a pleasant journey through the heat of a Perth summer, although my activewear really came into its own on these occasions. We persisted though, and every week she’d be a little more adventurous, travelling a little bit further on her own. In the last few weeks she’s gone up a few gears. She can now not only scoot herself to and from school, but also does a reasonable job of keeping up with her older brother and his mates. It’s been a real privilege to be a part of this journey (the metaphorical journey that is – not necessarily the physical one), and it’s something I would never have  experienced if I wasn’t a SAH Parent.

So there you have it. Five perks of the job. And I’m sure there’s many, many more if you’re willing to stop and think about it for a moment or two. Personally, I know that next time I’m feeling down on myself about being the harassed, unappreciated stuck-at-home parent, I won’t be turning to social media for solace. Instead, I’m going to pull on my pink leopardprint yoga pants, tuck myself into the lotus position and contemplate the perks of having the best job in the world over a nice macchiato and a quinoa cupcake.




Twilight Terrorism

It’s the ‘Witching Hour’ again. That dinner – bath – bed period from around 5pm onwards when your beautiful little treasures, who’ve been perfectly angelic all day, suddenly grow cloven hooves and little pointy horns, and unleash hell on tired parents.

Traditionally associated with newborns and infants, but also extending to toddlers and beyond, the witching hour is a well documented nightmare. Almost every SAH parent gets to experience it at some point. And it can bring even the most even-tempered parent to their knees.

Frankly, I don’t think that the term witching hour is a fair description. Firstly, this period always lasts a lot longer than one hour. Whoever came up with the term ‘witching hour’ was bloody lucky if they could get away with only one hour of unpleasantness. Also, I don’t think witching and witches are scary enough in this modern age to accurately depict how horrible this time of day actually is. And that’s why, at the risk of finding my blog on some sort of Federal Police watch list, I’ve renamed the witching hour to ‘Twilight Terrorism’.

Of course I was aware of Twilight Terrorism before becoming a SAHD. As a working dad, I regularly used to arrive home from work and walk right in the middle of a full blown shit storm. Within seconds of me walking in the door, the tears, screaming and full blown tantrums would start. And that was just me. The kids would also lose their shit. Seemingly the instant I arrived home a massive meltdown would commence. Usually it was over broccoli, refusal to wear pyjamas, or whose turn it was to watch the iPad, but pretty much anything could set it off.

It was unpleasant, and there were times when I would deliberately dawdle home from work in the hope that the worst of it would be over by the time I got home. Not my proudest husbanding or dadding moment.

Now of course, the boot is on the other foot and I’m the one at home, watching the clock and waiting for Mrs D-E-D to walk in the door and help me to weather the storm.

This new perspective has taught me a thing or two about this time of day that I hadn’t fully appreciated previously. Mainly that Twilight Terrorism is completely f*cked, but there’s some more subtle nuances too, and here’s a few of them.

  • Those beautiful little people that make our hearts sing during the day have packed up and gone. Left in their places are the whining, crying, fighting little terrors that parenting nightmares are made of. We see the absolute worst of our children during this period. This is one instance where SAH parents get an advantage over the working parent. They get to see all of the best of their kids through the course of the day, as well as the worst in the evening. For the working parent who leaves first thing in the morning and arrives home in the middle of the Twilight Terrors, this is all that he / she sees of their children some days. It’s no wonder that the working parents aren’t busting their hump to get home from work and spend time with their family, when this is the reception that greets them on arrival every evening.
  • Twilight Terrorism feels like Groundhog Day. The exact same routines. Every. Single. Day. The same arguments with the terrorists over refusal to eat spinach. The same floating turd in the bath. The same dispute over which pyjamas to wear. It is mind numbing to the extreme.
  • Unlike Groundhog Day however, I seem to have almost no ability to change the events that are about to occur, even though I know what’s coming. Like a storm out in the ocean, I can see it rolling in from miles away. Although I know I’m helpless to avoid it, I think that I’m prepared to weather it. Yet its ferocity and sheer horror always catches me by surprise when it actually hits.
  • You will stand on lego during the Twilight Terror period. Guaranteed. They are the IEDs  (Improvised Explosive Devices) of the toddler world – strategically placed by the terrorists to destabilise and maim. Even if your kids don’t own any lego, somehow it will magically appear underfoot just as you’re starting to think that you might survive another twilight tour of duty. Then bang. You find yourself on the floor with searing pain shooting through the sole of your foot. I used to love lego as a kid. Not any more. F*ck you lego.

These points aside, my biggest realisation about Twilight Terrorism is how important it is to have some help from your significant other during this period. I never used to understand how important this is to the SAH parent, and couldn’t understand why Mrs D-E-D was always so anxious to have me home as early as possible in the evenings. After all, the parenting tasks during this time are not that hard. Now I understand. It’s not about needing physical help. It’s about solidarity and emotional support during this monotonous and draining period. It’s about presenting a united front to these little Twilight Terrorists, standing defiant, and saying “Not today. You can spread as much lego as you like. You can throw your dinner on the floor. You can poo in the bath, but you’re just not breaking us today.”

Obviously, for some families getting your significant other to come home at a reasonable hour simply isn’t a reliable option. In these instances I always try to obey rule number one in any terrorist encounter, which is, don’t negotiate with the terrorists. Ever. I also try to start the dinner / bath / bed routine a bit earlier and catch the terrorists by surprise. Usually by the time they’ve gathered their senses and rallied the troops they’re already fed, bathed and good to go to bed.

Failing that, I like to turn Twilight Terrorism into Twilight Tanqueray and simply drink gin & tonics until everything else seems far less relevant and I can no longer feel the lego stabbing into my foot.

Now if you’ll excuse me, Groundhog Day is here again and I can see the storm clouds rolling in……