My SAHD experience so far is much like the time I ran my first marathon back in 2010. After all, at-home parenting is most definitely marathon-like. Both require total commitment, an iron will, lots of #activewear, and a healthy dose of insanity.
Like my SAHD experience, the beginning of my first marathon was intense, but also new and exhilarating. The first few kilometres seemed to just fly by as I soaked up the experience. It was during the second quarter of the race that things started to get hard, and I realised that I had a real fight on my hands. Nevertheless, I remained quietly confident of powering through. The third quarter of the run was where things started to unravel. With very little warning, I found myself in a deep, dark and lonely hole. Fighting a cold, as well as chronic leg cramps in both legs, a dodgy knee and chafed nipples. The scope of my vision had narrowed to a spot on the tarmac in front of me, and it took every ounce of my mental strength to just stay upright and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Endurance athletes call this place, this moment, The Wall. This is where I’m at on my SAHD marathon right now. Standing at the bottom of a formidable, seemingly insurmountable wall, and wondering if I’ve got what it takes to get beyond it.
I’ve been struggling with SAHD life lately. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why, but I think it’s a ‘death by one thousand cuts’ type of scenario, and something that most, if not all SAH parents surely must experience from time to time.
I think winter is the biggest contributor. Even though a Perth winter is relatively mild, it still brings cold and unpredictable weather that can spoil the best laid plans for a family outing, and at the same time, it prevents me from getting the fucking endless piles of washing dry. It also brings those nasty school / daycare germs that manifest themselves into endless green snot and hacking coughs that keep everyone awake at night. Ultimately they get passed on to me, which is very uncool.
As well as winter, there’s the post-tropical holiday comedown that I’m currently experiencing. The Balinese suntan, the hair braids, and the dodgy stomach are all gone. All that I’m now left with is the realisation that we don’t have another holiday to look forward to – nor can we afford one unless I win that damn powerball.
The novelty factor being a SAHD has also worn a bit thin, and it has become a grind. For the sake of my sanity, and in the interests of getting shit done, I’ve found that it’s essential as a SAHD to have some sort of daily / weekly routine. Ironically it is that same routine that also gnaws away at my sanity at times. The monotony of the school run; the swimming lessons; the daytime sleep; the pickle and cheese sandwich making; Peppa Pig; the two loads of laundry every single day; and the endless f*cking clashes with that two year old dictator – Focker #2.
That same two year old dictator has recently decided that she no longer needs a day sleep – even though judging by her feral behaviour later in the day, she clearly does. This two hour window in the middle of each day has been many things for me over the past few months. It’s been my writing time. My exercise time. My get shit done time. My sit on my arse and watch Netflix time. Now it’s looking like it will be unceremoniously snatched away from me, and I’ll have to find other ways to fit everything in and stay on an even keel.
There’s also the constant noise and self doubt going on inside my head. Those nagging questions that are easy to disregard when times are good, and yet threaten to do my head in when my defences are lowered. Did I make the right decision to step back from my career? What am I missing out on by choosing to be at home? Am I doing a good enough job, or am I doing irreparable damage to our kids by being the lead parent? Am I putting too much pressure on Mrs D-E-D to bring home the bacon? Am I spending too much of said bacon on coffees and yoga pants? Is it possible to have a laundry induced brain aneurysm? The volume and intensity of these questions is at an all time high at the moment.
Dealing with these elements individually is tough but manageable. At the moment it feels like they are all combining to form the SAH parent version of The Wall.
That first marathon, as tough as it was, taught me some valuable lessons. It taught me that overtraining in the lead-up to the big day can lead to a mid-race meltdown. It taught me that pre-emptive bandaids on your nipples are essential. It also taught me that I’m a stubborn bastard who refuses to quit. As much as I was hurting that day, I was able to keep moving forward. Not as quickly or as positively as I would’ve liked, but moving nonetheless. At no time did it cross my mind to quit, despite every justifiable reason to do so. That stubbornness – inherited from my father and now passed on to my little fockers (in particular, #2) – is what enabled me to eventually smash through that wall and finish that particular race. I closed out the final quarter at an almost respectable pace, and even managed a double fist pump at the finish line.
Since that first time I’ve gone on to run other marathons. Each time the wall has come out to greet me at some point, but each time it has been slightly lower and more penetrable than the time before. After a while, I began to recognise, and almost welcome the wall as it approached. Knowing that it was just another hurdle on the way to achieving something worthwhile.
This marathon experience helps to keep me moving forward as a SAHD. Even though I’m finding things to be tough going at the moment, I know that if I keep putting one foot in front of the other, over time the wall will crumble. When it does, I’ll be a free-running SAHD again. Galloping along the home straight towards summer. Loving and appreciating every minute of this very special time with my beautiful children. Laughing in my #activewear, and drying laundry with reckless abandon.