House Husbandry

I have been a stay-at-home Dad for six months now and it’s official: my IQ has dropped 10 points, at least.*

When I accepted this role, I understood that going forward, my team and I would have to ‘up our game’ to match the targets achieved by the outgoing team leader. My strategy is to work closely with my team to highlight brand ‘Shev’ and take it to the next level; this is evolution, not revolution.

Although new to the role, I have always operated an open door policy and believe that we can share the decision making process and for the final quarters – through ongoing assessments and review – set a new benchmark for communication and self motivation.

Although my team is young and inexperienced and the targets set are challenging, I believe I can attain them and stay on brand and within budget.

When I discovered that this was going to be my new job I felt a mixture of trepidation and excitement. Trepidation because MrsShev always made it look so easy; attacking each day with so much enthusiasm that I worried that I would never match up; and her laissez-faire attitude to tidiness made her the perfect painting buddy for our budding Michelangelos (okay, Pollocks). The excitement was because I would be spending a lot of time with them (something most fathers do not get) and experience seeing them grow up.

There are – obviously – upsides and downsides to this job:

Upsides

  1. The Food I share quite a few mealtimes with the kids and so I get to eat loads of sausages, fishfingers, pizza and cupcakes. If I didn’t run 15k a week I’d end up as the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man. But, you know, it’s great – who wouldn’t want to eat like a 17 year old (but made with no salt, organic produce and hidden vegetables)?
  2. Playing I really like playing with toys. Lego is ace and the other day I made a princess castle out of it and it was awesome, then we destroyed it with plastic dinosaurs and Playmobil knights and that was awesome too. I like doing jigsaws and puzzles and I love playing with toy cars. I like lining the soldiers up with Darling Son and then Darling Daughter shoots them with a Nerf gun (I feel bad about giving a 2 year old a Nerf gun as she is like a drunk midget with a Kalashnikov – but it gives her immense satisfaction to shoot wee plastic men with sponge bullets). I like wrestling with them at the end of the day, playing hide’n’seek (I am a badass hide and seeker – I should be in the Taliban) and jumping up and down on trampolines. I like climbing and scooting and dressing up in silly outfits and chasing them like a monster. I love all that stuff.
  3. TV & Movies I tried watching The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford the other night, but by twenty minutes in I thought: life is too bloody short to watch a film who’s ending is given away within the title, forcrisakes. I got sick of Brad Pitt mumbling his way through badly written dialogue on the side of some muddy hillside in Nebraska – like he was on an outward bounds course in Wales – and realised that I have been ruined by kids films who’s prime directive is to get cracking from the first frame until the end credits (and even those are made entertaining). I think kids get the best deal as every film follows the same basic formula: main characters battle through adversity to get from A to B – with the final push being a homily about how great friends / believing in yourself / being true to yourself / loyalty is rewarded with achieving whatever it is you want. It’s predictable (but kids like predictable) and every film is a rollercoaster ride, full of jokes and zany characters. What do we get? The Assassination of Jesse James. Not fair.

Downsides

  1. Graft Looking after kids is, basically, graft. Cleaning, washing, cooking, hefting stuff to the car, hefting stuff from the car – I sometimes picture myself as one of those mules you see in spaghetti westerns, dragging chests full of pointless trinkets and frilly clothes of some city slicker, up a hill in the unrelenting sun as they search the Seirra Madre for their grandfather’s gold mine. Or maybe I have spent too much time in the sun.
  2. TV & Movies This is my concern with regards to my IQ. The majority of my televisual entertainment is comprised of a mixture of Spongbob Squarepants, Peppa Pig and the collected works of Pixar. I try to fob myself off with the notion that because I am an animator I can somehow justify my interest by labelling it research. This is utter codswallop as I tend to lead the kids to watch what I like. Spongebob is funny, Peppa Pig is great and everything Pixar has made is awesome. But, you know, it ain’t exactly BBC4 is it?
  3. Loneliness Sounds wierd, when I have two conversational dynamos with me through all hours of daylight: like insane, talking imps. But one is a two year old girl who’s style of conversation is kind of military (i.e. Daddy do it! You take it! I want an ‘nana!) and a 4 year old boy obsessed with what you could do with poo if it were a modelling material and utterly insane questions that defy classification or logic (Daddy? If I had no bones in my body would I die, or could you use sticks instead….Daddy? If you were completely blue, would you still be able to swim?…Daddy? Do cars have hearts?…Daddy? Did dinosaurs die because they ate their own poo? – these are all real questions, two of them today). But despite these two raconteurs accompanying me everywhere (and I mean everywhere) there is a distinct feeling of aloneness when you have young children. They’re not old enough to have grown up conversations and so I organise as many playdates and activities as I can, lest I go insane – not for them, for me.
  4. Boredom I know I said I like playing with toys, but after you have done the same jigsaw 10 times I feel like a US Ranger assembling an assault rifle blindfold. It’s not as if these are 500 pieces ones either, but 40 piece Peppa Pig ones. Going to the same playgrounds, the same pools and playing with the same toys – it all gets a bit Groundhog Day and my mind starts to drift and then I end up blogging about it. Which must be hard for everyone.
  5. Preconceptions I am possibly imagining it, but there is a subtle vibe from the other mothers (you know what I mean) of: shouldn’t you be out earning the salary? No one hasn’t come right out and said it – I mean, they wouldn’t, would they? – but I certainly think it’s there. Or maybe it’s just me, and I’m the one with the preconceptions.

That’s all from me, ’cause I am reet busy with work and stuff. So, adieu!

* I took an IQ test once, for a job in the City working for a Barrister. They didn’t consider 4 A Levels in arts subjects or a Design degree to be an indicator of my intelligence. As I later pointed out to them after a couple of weeks I had shown myself to intelligent enough to do the job without breaking a sweat, but they could never draw a picture of a cat without seeming to be like a chimp with a box of crayolas. Hate that.

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26 thoughts on “House Husbandry

  1. I feel your pain!

    On holiday in Italy last year we tried to watch ‘The Assassination etc etc’. I got the blame
    because I put it on the Lovefilm list. But it was me who wanted to stop watching the endless snowswept landscapes…however, slightly compulsive OH insisted on carrying on (in the vain hope that it might develop a bit of action/plot/dramatic narrative I assume.) I read a book instead.

    1. It is, indeed, a pants film. The worst film I have seen – in recent memory- is The Yards. It is a film about train yards, or something. I’d rather watch a documentary about the making of the film about paint drying.

  2. Rubbish. I don’t believe for a moment your IQ has dropped ten points, else how do you explain the consistently witty and thoughtful blog posts you churn out? Eh? Eh? Can’t answer that one can you matey?

    Seriously though, I do love your blog.

    Anyway, the post. The one that struck me was loneliness. I was thinking this morning about writing about loneliness. I was thinking it’s weird that I can feel happy and lonely at the same time. You think of loneliness as being a negative thing – someone on their own in a cold falt surrounded by hungry alsatians, but actually I often can be surrounded by people (normally children) and still feel lonely, like something or someone is just missing.

    1. I can afford to lose 10 points… 😉

      Thank you for your kind words, but your image of someone alone, surrounded by alsatians made me laugh out loud. I dunno why, but it is a very resonant image, and reeks of deprivation…

  3. I don’t mean to patronise but as a professional housewife it is my job to inform you that you don’t have to watch the kiddie programs you know because your kids badger you to. Unless er you actually enjoy Spongbob Squarepants, Peppa Pig and the collected works of Pixar in which case I am worried …very worried indeed

      1. Me and 4 yr old Boy covered DNA on the Discovery Channel and got into quite an interesting discussion about Darwinism. Which will be fun if he ever goes to Sunday school. But this also had a low gag-quotient and eventually got bumped for Chowder. Which is AWESOME…!

      2. This guy is a new one to me. We don’t have cable or satellite – except Swiss cable, showing lots of German and Italian telly – so I don’t get see Discovery Channel. He sounds like Johnny Morris..

  4. I’ve been a stay at home dad for four years. I can relate to pretty much every word you have written. It’s amazing how lonely you can get in house full of children. And the songs you find yourself humming to while mating a endless pile of various sized children’s socks.

    1. Would have been comment of the year if you didn’t include the words: ‘…a endless pile of various sized children’s socks.’ 😉

      Thanks for the comment – good to know I am not alone in thinking I am alone.

  5. ‘Shouldn’t you be out earning the salary’? Don’t all main income providers know deep down that however hard they work it’s probably harder at the home coalface? At least in the office/en route to the office you get a chance for a coffee that doesn’t end up cold or poured over your clothes or the floor. It’s not much, I agree, but nor is the chance to go to the loo by yourself/make a phone call that isn’t interrupted/sleep later than 6.34am, and I’d give a lot to experience all three. But the IQ dropping by 10? Now come on, you’re surely not saying that most mothers are a bunch of dimwits compared to their nine-to-five counterparts? Though saying that, perhaps I can turn this to my advantage with the claim that an evening spent watching three (count ’em, three, I know I know…) different reality shows is all down to the kidz and the holes they’ve bored in my brain. Obviously I’d be glued to BBC4 had I not become a breeder.

    Anyway, off to bed now (it’s a crazy nearly 11pm in the UK) but one more question – DID dinosaurs die because they ate their own poo? Mine haven’t posed that particular question, but my IQ isn’t up to answering any more of their meteor questions.

    1. I don’t really think that my IQ has dropped by ten points but I think that being involved in activities more suited to 5yr olds does not a genius maketh. When I work in a studio environment I become a better creative and if you were working for a political lobbying group your intellect would be sharper – I just feel, sometimes, that my intellectual hard edges have been softened a bit…

      Dinosaurs didn’t eat their own poo. The only animals dumb enough to do that are dogs, and we all know how I feel about dogs here…but they have managed to get their own tv shows and award ceremonies.

  6. My IQ’s in the gutter, I’m lonely enough to be Facebooking more than the oddest of my ‘friends’, I tweet – a concept that would have disgusted me two years ago – and I’m bored sh*tless. Add to this a nauseous urge to self-harm which sweeps over me with every trip to the whirlygig (garden clothes dryer; I appreciate “Don’t swing on the whirlygig” may not be a universal row), and it’s not a pretty picture.
    Somehow it’s OK, though. They can be quite good crack, kids, eh?

  7. Loved this blog post and it certainly interested me given my recent blog about my lifestyle that you said you would gladly swap for a weekend

    http://worldofsheds.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/new-resolutions-brave-new-sheds/

    Reading what you guys have said is making me think really hard about whether I could actually manage having kids whilst simulatenously staying sane. I’m sure that having kids has a multitude of rewards that I could never even possibly understand until I’m a parent, but do you think us non-parents have a glossy ‘pampers-ad’ view of parenthood?

    1. The over-riding thought that I had when I had kids was that I didn’t think I had any more capacity to love another being. But when you have children, you unlock another part of your brain / heart and yet more pours out. I really surprised myself.

      Do I think that non-parents have a ‘Pampers Ad’ view of parenthood? Nah, not really. Most people understand that it is – if you take it seriously – a massive undertaking that re-wires your brain and your life. The early years are hard, and everyone gets that.

      The thing that takes a while to ‘get’ is that you don’t get any time off. You never get a weekend to reboot…or catch up on sleep…it’s everyday and it can feel relentless. But, you come to accept it and like anything it becomes normal and you cannot imagine your life before children – it’s like stepping through the wardrobe in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe…

  8. I thought dinosaurs died out cos the long-necked ones realised they could give themselves blow-jobs and so stopped breeding and then the other salivating ones had noone left to eat. Ok this theory has holes, but if someone would give me a few million quid for further research I’m sure I could plug the gaps effectively.

    My IQ rating after 4 kids? Surely you can tell there’s nothing wrong with my thought processes….

  9. Reading your post, I found myself laughing at the upsides and downsides of your being a stay-at-home dad. Don’t worry with your I.Q. What matters most is the time you spend with your kids.:-)

  10. You’re hysterical and you get it so right – I always poo pooed Pixar movies until being forced to sit through a couple of them. Consequently I have discovered two things – 1. they’re actually very clever and pretty funny and 2. I don’t mind watching the same thing over and over again (and I am talking 25 times in a month). What astounds me is that you have enough energy at the end of the day to be so funny about parenting and to describe what it is like so brilliantly. Bravo keep it up!
    I shall be reading your blogs regularly from now on….

  11. Hey, at least you have a proper career to maunder about while you amble round the house. I am a writer, and therefore what I do is not as important as the laundry. Seriously, today I have worked harder on some kid’s school story (because I’m volunteering at school) than I have on any of my work. And in the last hour of freedom before the weasels return from school, I shall be driving to register my dog with the city.

    Points to you for standing up to be counted as a Househusband. After ten years in the minority myself, I salute you!

    1. I think the problem is getting sidetracked. That seems to happen to me all the time. My kids just trash the place and wander around as if they’re at some kind of pool party; chucking clothes hither and thither, leaving drinks everywhere and randomly eating snacks that they found off the floor. So, I try and clean up but doing that is like polishing a car in the rain…but my own time is exclusively devoted to work and I end up in a mexican standoff between animation and cleaning.

      Anyway, I’m ranting. Thanks for reading!

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