“In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.”
Since we had a childcare gap to fill recently, I decided to lumber into the breach and look after Monkey Boy for two weeks straight.
That’s nothing compared to my better half’s six-month stretch of course. But since I’m a man and therefore expected to be utterly useless at this stuff, it’s officially a big deal.
Cue fourteen exhausting and illuminating days, the likes of which I’ve never experienced. Firstborn survived, physically at least. And so did I. A qualified success then.
Here’s what I learned:
1. Stay-at-home parents, be they mums or dads (although they’re almost exclusively the former in La Suisse it seems), do a bloody amazing job.
2. As a working Dad, what you think you know about your partner’s daily child-caring life is pretty far removed from reality.
3. Between prepping baby’s next meals and running around tidying up the last session’s crap when he sleeps, it doesn’t stop. For a minute.
(And to think, you used to ask why your wife didn’t read or snooze during the breaks. The shame!)
4. Without wanting to sound preachy (although I’m going to), in my view this eye-opening project should be compulsory for new Dads.
The reasons why are numerous:
- It’s choc-full of quality bonding moments
- You’ll appreciate your other half a whole lot more (which she in turn will love you more for – hey free brownie points!)
- You’ll learn about yourself – from your patience levels and fecal tolerance to singing improvisation skills and lower back strength – whether you want to or not
- You’ll stop thinking about work.
- You’ll actually have a lot of laughs. I know, laughs… with a non-speaking, static, dribbling machine. Who knew?
5. A sedate tempo is required when looking after a child over the course of several days or weeks. You can’t simply pack each day full of exhausting ‘Waahey!‘ activity-fests. No human could survive that amount of exertion.
6. It’s the little moments. A close-up stare or wonky waltz here, an ear-tugging or dribbly hug there.
7. Poo is the least of your worries. It’s only poo. Just keep your mouth shut.
8. What Mini-Me finds ear-burstingly hilarious one day (example: lifting an old rug and holding it over your head with a dramatic “Ta-da!”… I know, I know, what?) will likely bore him to tears the next.
9. Strollers and fully laden supermarket trolleys do not a winning combination make.
10. It’s not difficult to see how such a single-focus existence can, despite being utterly joyous at times, lead to a parent feeling truly alone. When baby is asleep or screaming the house down and you’re too tired to work out why, you can easily feel like the sole surviving adult trapped in a concrete box. Parent and baby groups suddenly make a lot of sense.
11. I miss it already.