A day in the life of a stay-at-home dad.
Abstract: I gave up punching the clock in a proper context with the birth of our son. That was 5 years ago. Now, with 2 kids we've progressed from controlled chaos to a schedule that works for us (most of the time).
Purpose: I'm of a pretty firm belief that kids need a good balance of structure, as well as time for free-thinking. Sometimes the lines blur, but regardless, I think putting yourself on a schedule with your kids is a good place to begin. This is anecdotal, mind you, but I notice that if my time (and consequently my kids' time) is structured, stress is reduced and the kids tend to listen better. What's more, if I know what I'm supposed to be doing, it keeps me focused; making me less likely to lose it when things are crazy. Here's a snapshot of a typical day for our household. Approximately.
Observation: 7:00 am – Wife Leaves for work; I wake up & get ready.
7:30 am – Kids start waking up. Help them get dressed & presentable.
8:00 am – Breakfast begins. After getting the kids to the table, I finish morning caffeine, take a quick peek at the email, and do breakfast dishes.
9:00 am – Time to let tummies rest. Depending on how long breakfast takes, we have time for one or two shows DVR'd from PBS Kids. Current favs: Dinosaur Train and Curious George.
10:00 am – Activity time. Sometimes, this is at home, sometimes it's the library, or an activity at the local rec. center. Weather permitting, we might head to a city park, or load up the wagon & walk the outdoor fitness trail. As far as I'm concerned, this is the most important time of the morning schedule. If you ask the kids what they did today, this is the first thing they're gonna mention. When we're at home, it could be coloring, cutting & pasting, play-dough, or my personal fave, cooking.
11:30 am – Time to start lunch. This time is kind of tough with respect to keeping kids occupied. Optimally, I try to bring the kids to the kitchen so that they can choose from a selection of items for lunch, making sure that they understand that they need a variety of foods from each of the different groups. Just as often, there's a lot of hell-raising. I'm of the opinion of 'No harm, no foul' when it comes to roughhousing (assuming it's your own kids). So, running around the dining room table like a bunch of goons is ok, as long as they stay out of the kitchen, don't hurt each other, and quit when it's time to eat. Sometimes this works, sometimes it ends in disaster. Steam-letting is unavoidable; I just hope to contain it.
12:00 pm – Lunch. We are fortunate that my wife works 3 minutes from home (yes, that's minutes, city slickers). Yeah she could walk or bike, but she's only got a half-hour for lunch and she would rather spend time with family. It breaks up everyone's day a bit, and it gives the kids something to look forward to.
1:00 pm – Story time / Wind-down. We read to our kids twice a day; 15-20 minutes each session. I feel pretty strongly about this; and I bet we make good on this 90 percent of the time. We end afternoon story time with the kids picking out a sticker & putting it in a sticker book. Remember how much you loved stickers? Kids still do. After stories, the boy gets a choice as to whether or not he wants to nap (he's almost 5). The girl is 3. She does not do well without a nap. So, the boy rests as the girl get tucked in.
2:00 pm – I still keep one foot in my former occupation as a consultant, and afternoons are prime-time for me. I am blessed in that my boy can keep himself entertained and prefers to. I give him a few choices for quiet play while his sister naps. Choices usually include video games on the Wii or Leapster, learning sites on the computer that I've selected (that's probably another post, but pbskids.org is a great start), reading to himself, puzzles, or toys (legos, cars & trucks). Best case: I get 2 hours. Worst case: 45 minutes; it all kind of depends on when the girl wakes up. The hard part here is putting the work down when the kids 'tell' you it's time.
3:00 or 4:00 pm – This is probably my worst bit of organization. If one was to label it in a context of school, this would be recess. The kids do what they want until Mom gets home, between 4:30 & 5pm. Sometimes that's a movie, sometimes it's toys, sometimes it's more video games (hey, sometimes dad wants to play too). The nap thing is a big variable and it's stressful to plan after it, so I don't. Better for all parties concerned.
5:00pm – Mix me a cocktail & cook dinner. Mom is home; I now have a little help (and a new distraction for the kids. I really couldn't tell you what they're doing now. I'm too busy in the kitchen.
6:30pm – Dinner. We almost always eat together. With the TV & radio off, folks. I can only hope we can keep it up as the kids enter school. Taste & smell invokes pretty strong memories. If you're talking about your day while enjoying dinner, you're probably more likely to remember what everyone's doing.
7:30 pm – Clean-up. Usually involves kids and dishes. On a good day. We might to sit & unwind as a family a bit too. This is unusual.
8:30 pm – Story time. Everyone in bed. Wife reads to the girl, I read to the boy. On a good day, the kids will be zonked by 9:00.
9:00 pm – (We're calling it a good day) Grown-up time. Anything left that didn't get addressed throughout the day, we can tackle now; bills, family scheduling, and anything else we missed that day.
10:00 pm – Me time. Everyone's in bed. If I have to finish up work, I do it now. If not, I'll read a book, catch up on things on the Web. If I'm ready to quit thinking, I watch a bit of anime. There's something about reading subtitles tends to disengage my brain from everything else.
Results: So that's our day. The best reason I can think of for documenting things thusly is that it gives me a baseline to work back to if things get out of hand, as life often does. When you actually write down what you're doing, it makes you take stock in your activities and makes for a great opportunity for improvement. Future me: I hope this helps.
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