For those of you that don’t know anything about me, my name is Kurtis and I have been in the construction industry as a painter and decorator for the past 11 years.
In October 2018 I took 3 months parental leave when our third child Audrey was born. A few weeks before I was due to go back to work, I sat down with Casey and we went over our finances and worked out what we needed to cover our expenses. It would be tight and we would have to stick to a fairly strict budget but we could make it work if I didn’t return to work.
We decided then and there that I would be a stay at home dad while taking on some roles here at Little Lifelong Learners.
So today I thought I would hijack the blog to write a little about my experience transitioning from full-time work to being a stay at home dad. I’m asked about it often and what I am finding different now that I am at home compared to when I was at work.
Roll the clock back a year and my Monday-Friday were pretty much always the same.
Go to bed after noticing the clock just after 1am after sitting up all night playing games and talking with mates online because “oh crap I have to work tomorrow”. Crawl out of bed at 5am after hitting snooze on my previous four alarms, put on my work pants and a shirt, get in my ute and head to the local servo for my fully balanced breakfast of iced coffee which I consume on the average 1-hour drive to the job site. For the next 8-10 hours proceed to do the “same old s#%t different day” with increasing less passion with every passing year.
Drive 1 to 1 ½ hours on average home in traffic usually physically and mentally exhausted. Generally, at this point of the day the only thing on my mind was “I need a shower”. I’d drag myself upstairs say a quick hello to Casey and the kids and head straight for the shower. At this point of the day the kids are tired and emotional and getting on each other’s nerves. We do a few small activities, play outside or in the play room whatever I can do to distract them from how tired they are, basically I’m just trying to keep the peace at this point while Casey makes dinner and starts our usual night-time routine.
To me this time with my kids at the end of the day was more routine than anything. It wasn’t until the weekends when I could spend a full day with them that I felt like I was having any real influence in their lives, creating meaningful experiences and memories with them. It was hard for me not to be jealous of Casey being able to spend all day every day with our kids just having a blast playing all day when they were at full energy and in good moods, not like how they are at the end of the day. Tired, emotional, throwing tantrums.
Ignorance is bliss
Fast forward back to the present, I am no longer painting and am home full time.
Go to bed after noticing the clock just after 1am after sitting up all night playing games and talking with mates online because “oh crap the kids will be up soon”. Now I don’t need an alarm to wake up these days, I get awoken by what I like to call the wtf roulette wheel. Possible options on the wtf roulette wheel include but are not limited to:
- A small human child jumping on my back/head/neck/groin
- “Dad!” being yelled repeatedly from somewhere in the house
- The sound of tools that I could have sworn I put out of reach when I last used them
- Rustling in the pantry searching for the things little people should not be eating at 5am
- The light being switched on and off repeatedly
- A various assortment of toys being dumped into bed with me
- A musical instrument being played poorly with great enthusiasm
- That thing small people do where they creep up on you whilst you sleep and stare at your face from 2 inches away and wait (I still don’t know how I haven’t reflexively kicked one across the room yet).
And my personal favourite – Elliot shaking a Tupperware full of potatoes in my face yelling “I WANT ONE OF THESE!!!”. Nothing anyone said or did in my life leading up to having kids prepared my brain for the utter confusion that is a hunger crazed toddler shaking a container of vegetables at my head at 5 in the morning. Nothing.
I have learned since leaving my job that it is not just how I am going to be woken up each day that is a huge variable, but also the mood that each child is going to be in that day. Some days are an absolute joy with three happy cheerful children that are easy to please and the day is a breeze. Some days I awake to find that someone has replaced my children with 3 feral animals hell bent on destroying everything in their path and the day is a series of tantrums and meltdowns.
Some days are filled with laughter, joy, play and fun. Other days it’s all I can do to distract them for long enough so they don’t hurt each other or themselves in fits of tiny human rage. Parenting is hard. When I finally feel like I am getting a good grip and understanding one of them will go through a new developmental stage and I have to start the learning process all over again.
I don’t have a background in childhood education like Casey, I haven’t done theory on child psychology and development. Unlike Casey I also don’t come from a large family with a very large age gap in siblings/cousins. My brother and I are only 13months apart, growing up we didn’t have family members or friends with babies and I have had very limited experience with small children before my own.
I appreciate Casey now more than ever before seeing just how hard some days can be. I still don’t know how she managed to attend to two toddlers during the day and still find the time to work on and grow her business. Her passion for teaching and helping others connect and grow with their children is my continual inspiration to do the best I can for our little learners. There is still so much I want to personally work on and improve as a parent but so far, the key things I have worked out are:
You need to pick your battles
You cannot argue with a toddler, you just wont win, ever. They have a one-track mind and if they are focused on getting/needing/having something they won’t be happy until they have it. So how do you deal with a toddler with a one-track mind? You put them on another track. Distraction is and, in most cases my only tool to deal with those out of control tantrums and meltdowns that only a toddler can achieve.
Kids fighting in the back seat because who knows what now? Find something to ask them a question about and get that little brain thinking about something else. “Hey look a concrete truck! I wonder where they are going and what they are going to build?”. Of course, this has also backfired on me multiple times because then they want to follow it to find out and proceed to throw another tantrum when I tell them “no”. F#$k me right?
Take photos of your partner, take photos of your kids most importantly take photos of your partner with the kids. I am guilty of not doing this a lot because I like to just enjoy the moment and I have to really force myself to stop and take photos. They don’t have to be perfect; it doesn’t matter where or when, what they are wearing or what they are even doing. Just take the damn photos.
Photos mean everything to Casey, its one of the things she is passionate about, but I don’t take them just for her. The kids love looking at photos. Not only is it a great way to stimulate their memory but it is a great opportunity to talk and have conversations with your kids with no distractions. I’m also not ashamed to admit that I cry like a baby every time I watch one of the photo compilations videos Casey made of each of the kids first year. Just take the damn photos.
You are enough
You don’t need to buy fancy toys or go on expensive holidays or constantly be taking them to different places and seeing different things. It’s ok to stay at home in your pjs all day and spend it snuggled up on the lounge watching movies and eating snacks. Go outside in the backyard and just kick a ball, play hide and go seek, search for insects and animals or just lay on the grass and pick out shapes in the clouds. It’s ok to slow down and just enjoy, appreciate and be thankful for what you have.
I found it really hard when I first left work and even when I was working to let go of all the day to day things and chores that had to be done. If I sat down to play with my kids there was a nagging voice in the back of my head telling me I should be doing that washing or the lawn needs to be mowed. I felt like I couldn’t fully focus and give my kids the attention they deserve because I would just be thinking about all the ‘stuff’ I had to do. I have only recently come to terms with the fact that it is ok to switch off and just be in the moment with my children.
It shouldn’t be a hard thing to be ‘present’ with your child but I see people asking the same questions and expressing the same concerns nearly every day. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be the perfect parent that we forget to just slow down and experience, bond and most importantly play with our children.
You should never feel guilty for wanting to and spending time with your children.