“Hey I’m slammed here at work I was hoping you could <call, email, text> <someone> about <something> for me?”
This was often a conversation I’d have with my stay-at-home wife when I was in my cushy office, alone, wrapped in a peaceful silence that was periodically marred by the smooth hum of my laptop’s cooling fan. While true, occasionally I was busy enough to need help with some time-sensitive, non-work related issue, like setting up an appointment or calling insurance or finding a babysitter for something, it took many years for me to realize the difference between my work environment and Charity’s.
After such request she would often give me a big sigh, like I just asked her to reshingle our roof before lunch, and tell me that she will try to get to it but probably won’t be able to. I would hang up, internally rolling my eyes, frustrated that she couldn’t take five minutes from Pinterest binging to help me out. I know kids can be a handful, I know her job is hard, but geez, all I need was a couple minutes of her downtime.
Then I would put my headphones back on, lean back in my chair, and click away at my computer in complete, ignorant solitude.
The last year has changed my attitude about this. Some of it had to do with me letting foolish comments about her being unhelpful fly out of my mouth—I know, like I said, foolish. Some of it had to do with the new perspective I got coming off of Minus Charity Week, which celebrates it’s anniversary today—so that’s why my eye has been twitching all morning (relive all eight posts of glorious failing here). Some of it had to do with me moving into a home office a year ago and all being under the same roof, every moment of the day.
The past two weeks have tweaked my attitude even further. Our job situations have changed considerably. Charity has joined the workforce. I started my very own video production company. We’re taking a step towards doing the things that we love. And in the process I’ve transitioned into watching the things I love.
We’re both part-time, stay-at-homes now. With Charity at an office for half the week, I have the kids half the week. Now I’m really getting the picture.
My assumptions that Charity was Pinterest binging, or even having downtime whatsoever, have been challenged. I’ve learned quickly that there is no room to do anything else but take care of our giant pile of children. I’ve tried to simultaneously do other things like, work. Four children tugging at my shirt with their overlapping needs only causes me to slam my laptop closed and vehemently ask them why they think “eating lunch” is more important than the email I was writing.
I’ve apologized. A lot. And have subsequently made lunches.
Now when I have the kids I don’t even try to work or do anything anymore. When I got honest with myself, I realized that there is no time for it. Four children, ages 7, 5, 2, and 8 months, require every single second. Well, they require most of the seconds. The free seconds are spent trying to keep the house looking like we don’t have four children, ages 7, 5, 2, and 8 months. Or they are at least spent keeping the house teetering between clean, and having our children taken by Child Protective Services due to hazardous living conditions.
I have a hard time simply emailing and calling too. I take back every internal eye roll I gave toward my wife’s “unhelpfullness”—I’m keeping some of my other eye rolls. You think it would be easy to take ten seconds and return a text, but it is surprisingly difficult when you have a baby in one arm, loading the dishwasher with the other, yelling at your two year old to stop wasting the precious Nutella to exfoliate his face, and fielding a litany of questions about how far away TV-time is.
I get it now Charity. I get it.
So for the foreseeable future I’m a part-time stay-at-home dad, with stay-at-home kids. I’m learning. I’m getting better at it. I’m also waiting for my wife to call me and ask me to email someone for her while she’s at work. I’ve got the perfect response queued up. Though I doubt she’ll ever do it. After all she’s been in these trenches. She’s seen things.