I thought as Piper got older, things would get easier; however, nothing could be further from the truth. As much work as it was taking care of her as a baby, she would nap five times a day—at least in the beginning. I’d gladly take five breaks a day at this point. As she became a crawler and a toddler, each stage had its own needs, but I was still somehow able to get chores done and stay sane. But now that she is of pre-school age, times are tough. She seems to need much more attention than ever before. With no siblings in the house, I have to be her playmate all day every day. Which can be fun, but again, no breaks. And the fact that now she wakes up before I do only makes matters worse.
It used to be that my wife would leave for work, then Piper would sleep in until about 8 AM every morning. I would have time to compose myself and get ready for the day. That’s when I did most of my writing for Game Rant. In contrast, now the kid gets up at 5 AM or 6 AM every day, and believe me, she hits the ground running. And she doesn’t nap any more, so I’m basically with her every waking moment of the day—with no breaks.
It takes so much energy to get through the day now, and everything is more difficult than it has to be. Something that should take two or three simple steps now takes twenty steps. An easy task that should only take about ten minutes to accomplish now takes an hour and a half. Sometimes she is literally clinging to my legs as I try to put the laundry away. If I had enough hair I would be pulling it out.
For instance, we had to go to the store this morning. I noticed that Piper’s hair was tangled, so I told her I had to brush it. This turned into her taking the brush from me and brushing her hair by herself in the mirror for at least twenty minutes. This was followed by me getting kicked in the face as I tried to put her shoes on. Then we had to find her princess dolls. How silly of me—I thought we could just simply run an errand and get something done.
As I write this, now I’m thinking, “I should go look out the window and check on the car, to see if I shut the doors and locked it after I took out all the groceries, TWO HOURS AGO.”
It’s like being trapped in an endless cycle of frustration; but now it’s based on more than just a selfish need to have time to myself. I know that Piper has evolved beyond a point where I can give her the attention that she needs. Sure, I can simply “pay more attention” to her, but it’s more complicated than that. There is an urgency to get her into school now. She needs structure, organized projects, recess and playtime. She needs a teacher to be another role model for her, and a class of kids to be her friends and playmates. Even if we started going out to more parents groups and playdates, it wouldn’t be the same as starting a dedicated pre-school program. We’re so close, but we’re still working on potty training and working out the details. It’s like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but you can’t move a muscle—as if in a dream when everything slows down to a crawl.
I also fear that the more I stay at home, the more I will have to stay at home. Though for financial reasons I will have to find work soon, I’m afraid of being “mommy-tracked.” Hey, I know business is business, but I still don’t think I should be discriminated against. When I disclose that I have been a stay-at-home parent all this time, I know that every single man (and most of the women) who are doing the interviewing will nod their head and look pleased, but silently think to themselves, “Oh great, you haven’t been doing anything for almost four years. And even if I did hire you, your kid will just get in the way of your work.” From a business standpoint, American society doesn’t really respect stay-at-home parenting, not from what I’ve experienced. Even worse, though it’s accepted that women can stay at home when the baby arrives, men who stay at home are simply perceived as “not working.” All in all, this doesn’t bode well for the job search looming on my horizon. Although I feel the pressure, I can’t let myself get too distracted from taking care of my girl. She’s too important. I’ll just have to cross that bridge when I find it. It would be a lot simpler if more people could understand how much work the job of being a stay-at-home parent really is.
So yes, parenting is tough, and kids won’t let you get an edge if they can help it, and society is not always on your side. So if things are that bad, how can we survive this parenting game? All I can say is: get up early every day, work super hard, and hit the ground running.
Not sure if your daughter is ready for this, but I think it might be worth a try and could be really beneficial for the both of you. Instill a “quiet time” for her in which you give her a solid block of time, maybe an hour. Play it up real big like it’s a game. Give her some ownership of it–whatever she likes to do: reading (looking at books), playing with her princess dolls, what-have-you. Tell her this is “Piper Time” and set a timer that she can watch count down. Put her in her room or a room different from the one you’d like to be in, and set about having your own time. When the timer goes off, make a big deal out of it. Praise her for it and then give her a solid 15 minutes of yourself doing something that she loves. If you lay it out clearly for her and make it sound fun, I think you may find that she’ll respond very well. It will help her gain some independence, control of her own “hour,” and you give a much needed hour to yourself. Now, if she has a hard time making it through the whole hour the first couple of times, don’t make a big deal out of it. Just tell her, “Piper time isn’t over. Play until the timer goes off.” Then, do it every day at the same time. It will quickly become a part of her routine. She’ll get used to it in a couple of days. And, as far as potty-training goes, just be sure to put her on the potty right before you start the timer. 😉
I remember this age so well, and I am daily thankful that I decided to birth my daughter a playmate. I feel the pressure to put her in preschool, too. I know how good it would be for her.
In the meantime, give the quiet time a try. You may be surprised.
Good ideas, thanks.
Li’l D’s just recently shifted from two naps to one, and that’s left me feeling a little more frazzled. That extra downtime really helped me power through the run-around time between naps.
Still, I know it’s going to get harder as he becomes more cognizant and has a greater set of needs. Reading this reminds me of that, and makes me wonder how I’ll cope when the time comes. I suppose I’ll have to, eh? (I wonder if Ba.D. will still be doing the show biz thing, with all the correlated schedule craziness?)
I’ve had several friends who’ve re-entered the workforce after extended absences. The friends have been women, and I’m loathe to think it would be different for men. I’m also wise enough now to understand that the mere fact I don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s not true. My hope is you’ll find the right office that not only understands your past and your capabilities, but–like my office!–is supportive of the time that’s needed to attend to the future . . . our children.
And I was looking forward to the future too :-(. I know that society doesn’t look approvingly on stay at home parents. It’s like we are supposed to create the next generation, but we’re supposed to outsource the parenting. If sahp got paid for everything we did, it will be a 6 figure salary.
That’s true. I want my six figure salary! 😉
This is definitely a trying time, and I completely understand the fear of not being able to return to work when you want to. I was a SAHD for about 5 years, and I do think the time off was a huge turn-off to employers. But I was somehow able to get back into the workforce about a year and a half ago. I’m making the same as when I left my old job, which I suppose is lucky considering I was making quite a bit less when I took the job. But my boss had me in mind for a promotion when she hired me. I don’t love my job, and I’m sure I’d be making more by now had I never left my old one behind. But that was my choice.
It can be hard at times not to let your kids feel like an intrusion on your time. Give your utmost attention in consolidated bursts so she knows you’re there. Expect everything to take 10 times longer than you think they should. When in doubt, a chest-to-chest (heart-to-heart) squeeze/hug can do wonders. Thank her for being your daughter.
Your concerns are valid, but it sounds like you’re a great dad, and you’re certainly a thoughtful individual. You’ll be fine. 🙂
I remember those early days where 5 sleeps though the day meant 5 breaks. Nevertheless, I think I was just as exhausted.
Waking up early and working hard to keep on top is about all we can do. I find that I also have to remember to keep reinventing myself as a parent.
Despite what people would tell me, I don’t think it gets easier…just different.
Hang in there 🙂
Oh boy, you sure nailed it on the nose on this one. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I am also a parent of a single child and this age (he’s 4) is the toughest so far when it comes to him needing my attention. And not just my attention my way, it has to be his way, on my knees, playing with what he wants me to play with, how he thinks I should be playing with it. It is exhausting! I truly think that that having an only child is harder than having more than one. They don’t have another playmate, besides you, to play with. It is so hard…and hence I have started putting my resume out there just so I can get a break. Does that make me a bad parent? NO. But what do I do with the guilt? I just keep telling myself the same thing you said: my kid needs structure, my kid needs socialization with other kids – regularly – without mom in the background, my kid needs to learn that he is going to have to not be so dependant on me so much. While I know these things are all true and I need a break too, it doesn’t make it any easier to let go. It is so wonderful to hear it from someone else. It is consoling for those of us going through the same thing. Thanks for the insight.