Sunday, May 12, 2013

Stay At Home Dad

I've been a Stay At Home Dad (SAHD) for the last 3 days, while my wife recovers from her LASIK operation. Believe it or not, this is really the first time I've had primary care responsibilities for the kids, because she has always been there for us. It has certainly been an interesting experience, to walk in her shoes.

Of course, she didn't just disappear. First, she pre-cooked all the meals for us (probably deciding that I should not be allowed to feed the kids instant noodles). Then she left me a few pointers on what to do for the kids every morning.

Exhibit: Daily Routine
Day 1: Thursday
The boy, E (age 3+) woke up at 6:45 to pee. He then announced that he was hungry. Well, no point putting him back to bed. I was slightly disappointed at having my work interrupted, but at least I don't have to rush his breakfast. Mummy said he eats yogurt from breakfast, but when he saw me he wanted Ham Toast. (He thinks the world of my cooking, because he thinks I cook a really gourmet ham toast.) So I set about preparing breakfast and he had a happy, leisurely meal.

Until I started dressing him in his uniform. That's when he realised it wasn't the weekend.

He was upset, but still obediently finished all his food. Meanwhile, I got his sister, changed her and fed her. We were out the door before the stipulated 8:08 am and got to school in plenty of time. I was feeling pretty good about my fathering skills already!

Back home, the girl, K (age 1+) and I gave Mummy a ride to the hospital. I tried to hang up the laundry but it was quite impossible with her constantly wanting my attention. Well, I should treasure my time alone with her right? The laundry can wait. So we did some tumbling on the mat, and I resumed her gym lessons. I just need to tell her "somersault" and she will eagerly bend over with her head between her feet, waiting for me to tip her over. Sometimes I need to clear her path first, so she does roll over a line of cars; but I'm sure in no time she will be tumbling on her own. Then I heated up their lunch, cut some fruit (while distracting her with her favourite "Monkey!" app on my phone), and we were off to pick E up from school.

The kids' favourite educational app

I only left 5 mins late, but the line of cars was long. I then parked a little too far and we took a long walk. By the time I got to school, E was the last person in his class, and looked miserable. I felt bad. The teacher informed me that he was running a temperature, which I confirmed the moment I touched him. After a tiring walk back to the car, I was supposed to ask him about his day but he just closed his eyes and announced that he was tired.

Back home, he went straight to the couch to lie down. Wash hands? No. Watch Chuck? No. What? He doesn't want to watch his favourite cartoon? I was starting to get very worried. With K on my hip, I went hunting for the ear thermometer, only to find that the battery was flat. I started ransacking the house for an oral thermometer, but eventually gave up. We were late for lunch. E E was whining and K was crying. My blood pressure was going up.
We went into a store to buy Ah Boys to Men II but E picked out a DVD too...

Put them in their chairs and set food before them. K started eating her steamed fish and rice, but E simply refused. I needed to get some food into him before medicine (Paracetamol, as well as 3 other medications for his mycoplasma and chest infection), so finally I gave him a rice cracker. Then a couple more. Soon K wanted a rice cracker too and started refusing her food. After some cajoling, I gave up. They both happily munched rice crackers while I went hunting round the house for fever medicine and a thermometer. I found the former, but not the latter.

I wished I hadn't because when I made E eat the medicine (which he hated), he threw up his lunch. Keep calm. Clean him up. Give him what was left of his meds. (Should I give him those he threw up again? Nevermind!) Put K down for a nap. Force E to drink his milk. Put him down for nap. Thankfully, because he was sick, he slept almost immediately. Then I proceeded to start cleaning up the mess, and soak all the various fabrics that were covered in vomit.

We decided to forego E's swimming lesson in the afternoon, since he was still running a temperature. Instead, the kids just played together at home. It was quite hilarious really, watching E running around like a mad animal pushing his sister's doll-sized stroller. Meanwhile, K would go clomping after him, while wearing Mummy's kitchen slippers. Then they both ganged up to tackle me and climb all over me. This was certainly the highlight of the day. And while they occupied themselves, I could also tidy up the home a little.

And of course, when I went to answer the call of nature, they both trooped along. So I got a first-hand taste of the live audience experience.
I think I'm definitely in on the Mums' joke

Watching the two kids play happily together, despite E still being sick, I was once again reminded how fortunate we are to have two lovely babies. They are for the most part really good, and they love each other, and what more could we ask for? Then we all sat on the sofa and watched Chuck together, while I sponged E with a cold towel. Partway through the cartoon, Mummy came home from her operation and went straight to bed to rest. K was rather upset, she really missed her Mummy. But after hovering around the bedroom door for a while, she came back to watch Chuck.

Dinner was better. Maybe the two were ravenous, but they both ate everything without any fuss. Once again, Mummy had prepared what she could - the chicken soup and rice were all ready for me to dish out from the thermal cooker. I can't imagine if I had to do the cooking and housework in addition to taking care of the kids.

Bathed the kids, gave E medicine and put them to bed. This was fairly routine for us, since I do it most nights anyway. Mummy joined us towards the end to tuck the kids in. They were very happy to see her, but I like to think they were quite content after a day with Daddy too.

Leaving everyone on bed, I then headed out to join a gathering of my cell group men. As the conversation flitted from the challenges of litigation in banking to which biofuel regulatory bodies in Indonesia were the most reputable (and which hotel was most likely to collapse), I couldn't help but feel that after just one day at home, I was from another world. But then it came back to our families, our sick kids (when to use Paracetamol and when to use Ibuprofen, see below), and the challenges each of us was facing in marriage and I know why I am so blessed to have this group of brothers to confide in.

The stuff men share ... fever regimes

Then at last, it was back home, to catch up on office work while the family slept.

Day 2: Friday
The novelty was starting to wear off.

Although E woke up at 5am asking for water, he slept all the way till 7:40. In the meantime, did laundry - including all the pukey clothes. I can't feed the kids nearly as fast as Mummy does, so we were slightly late for school. Back home, Mummy was feeling a bit better, so we just hung around and watched K play by herself. With both parents in the room, she was very happy and secure, and just did her own cute thing. Then I made sure to leave early to pick E up. When he threw up at lunch, this time I was ready. Then off to nap.

It's difficult being in the same house as Mummy without disturbing her rest, so in the afternoon I took the kids out to the playground. It's been more than a year since we went to the playground at Delta Sports Complex, and it has become Tickle Tickle. Unlike some other playgrounds which are more catered to older kids, I think this place is really ideal for kids from about toddler to 6 years. So the two of them really had a blast.

An afternoon at Tickle Tickle

At the end of Day 2, we laughed over the two day's events, and having to juggle the crazy antics and sudden demands of the two kids. Mummy asked me how I found her lifestyle. I thought for a moment and told her that while there was nothing very unexpected about it, because I did have a good feel for what she went through from our WhatsApp conversations throughout the day, it was quite another matter to be actually experiencing it. In particular, I hate the rigid routine because I'm much more a spontaneous type of person; this is almost like being in the Army; no wait, this is worse than being in the Army!

I can do this for a day or two, but I certainly wouldn't want this kind of life! So I definitely have a renewed respect for my Wife, and all the other SAHM's out there. Happy Mothers' Day!

Day 3: Saturday
By the third day, K has other plans for me. She sticks to me all the time, even though Mummy isn't resting behind closed door anymore. Even at the extended family's Mothers' Day Dinner, she wanted to sit on me :)

Sorry K, I'm going back to work on Monday!!!

And for anyone curious about how my amazing wife runs her household, you can read her own blog here.