So, how exactly did I go with the challenge of being a stay at home dad?
Coming from a professional rugby background I love analysing and assessing to see what I did well and what I could have done to improve for next time. This can be quite frustrating to those around me, especially my partner, but I am who I am and I make no apologies for that.
Many blokes I’ve talked to say they have enjoyed their time being a stay at home dad when they take a day off a week from work to spend with the kids. Whilst this is commendable and strongly encouraged, doing this is completely different to being a fulltime stay at home parent, and really you shouldn’t be comparing this with your partner if they are doing this full time. Looking after the kids for the weekend whilst your better half has a break and goes away for the weekend, again is not really comparable. Great that you’re doing it, but don’t think it’s as easy as that, or anywhere near as easy as that.
Plain and simple… Most blokes couldn’t do it. It is the most exhausting and mentally challenging thing I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve been through some challenging times in my life.
I compare being a stay at home parent to that of water torture, and why this form of torture is so effective. 1 drop? No problem at all. 1 hour? Starting to get on your nerves. A full day, and it’s exhausting and you’ve had enough, you need a break… Day in day out. Oh wow! That can literally break you!!!
What I struggled with is that there doesn’t seem to be a real sense of achievement, you never really had a great deal to show for what you had done during the day. Wash the kids’ clothes, they’ll be dirty again. Clean the place up, it’ll me a mess again by the end of the day. Feed the kids, it’ll end up on their clothes or the floor. And it pretty much just keeps going around in circles.
Coming from the professional sporting environment, each week you have an assessment to see if you have improved and something to show for your hard work throughout the week. It doesn’t necessarily come in terms of just simply the team having a win, it might be improving your bench press in the gym, missing no tackles in the game, getting more turnovers than the previous week or doing something in the game that you hadn’t done before.
What didn’t help was the fact that I also had a job in a bar on the weekends. Being a fulltime stay at home parent is tough enough as it is. Doing that combined with working til 2-4 on Friday and Saturday nights…? Pure madness.
Suggest to your partner that you think she should go to at a pub on the weekends to bring in some cash, and expect a verbal barrage, possibly even physical barrage. Be ready to duck and weave. But living in the UK on a single minimum wage with 2 kids under 3 is near impossible, even if you are living in a former industrial town in the less expensive North of England, so it was out of financial necessity that I found a job in a bar.
Going through this huge transition of beginning my life after the rugby career was tough for me, not necessarily mentally because I was going through that, but because I was so busy and invested so much mentally in researching and investigating what I would do should nothing come up on the coaching scene. This also combined with planning for our 2 month trip through Scotland, Ireland, France and finally onto Poland meant I was a busy man.
I was also recording and producing podcasts episodes for ‘a yarn with Beau Robbo’ https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/a-yarn-with-beau-robbo/id1274248900?mt=2 and writing blogs. Although these were very exhausting and added to my work load, they gave me a sense of achievement that being a stay at home parent didn’t. When I put up a podcast or a blog, I had something to show for what I had been doing with my time. I could see with my own eyes what I had produced.
A lot of other blokes who I spoke to if they had a period of being a stay at home dad had done it between jobs, or just needed a break. Whilst this was also the reason for me, I think going from a career that was no longer available to me, and what I had been pursuing since the day I left school, and was unbelievably passionate about, meant there was a lot of uncertainty ahead of me and I needed clarity and spending a great deal of time doing research and investigating what exactly it was I would do should I move back to Australia.
I was not in a position where I had just been paid a redundancy and thought it’d be a good time to take a break before finding something else, or someone working in a mine who’s contract has finished and doesn’t want to jump into something else straight away, or someone who has had enough of their current career or job and wants a break before they pursue another interest. I was starting from scratch, like someone who was in their final year of school or first year out, I had a business degree behind me, but no runs on the board as such.
I felt I was unbelievably productive, and that came with structure and routine to my day. I generally had the kids bathed and clothed by the time Ewelina got home, and dinner was ready to go straight away or in the final stages of being cooked. Washing was done and hung out, brought back in and folded (disclaimer, not ironed). Nappies obviously were always changed, although there were some episodes with that, as is always the case with kids. Kids weren’t always walking around in Doncaster with clean clothes on though, as I was a big believer in letting them enjoy themselves and getting dirty, at times they looked like grubby little country kids from Dubbo.
One area I think I probably could have improved in was I found myself on the phone a bit too much, most of the time sending emails or researching, but it wasn’t uncommon to suddenly find myself aimlessly scrolling social media. Staying off the phone was tough when you are sitting there with your kids whilst they are watching cartoons, in saying that I do love Masha and the Bear but even that can get a bit much when you’ve seen it at least a dozen times before… But I did try to counter this by being more conscious of how much time I did spend on the phone with my kids around, and avoiding the temptation by leaving the phone in the kitchen if there wasn’t anything in particular that I wanted to do on the mobile.
Now that I find myself in Poland, with Ewelina and her parents around, which enables me to spend more time on the computer and be productive with getting things done, I spend a lot more time engaging and interacting with the kids with blocks and toys, where as in Doncaster I was more inclined to just let them go play with the toys as opposed to playing with them. If I had my time again I definitely would change this and do this more often, and making the most of the time where I wasn’t doing anything such as cooking or washing and not just wasting it away on the mobile.
So over all, I did a pretty good job. As mentioned above, I could have spent more time engaging and interacting, which I definitely will do in the future. My aim in the future is to make sure that when I am at home, I’m ‘at home’. This will help by not trying to work from home. That simply doesn’t work for me. I’d rather be away from home for longer, but make sure the time at home is a lot better quality and my family has my sole focus. That work will be left in the office.
I was very productive, when I look back I’m still proud of what I was able to do with podcasts, blogs, researching future career options, planning the trip and working on the weekends, this combined without any compromise to the domestic duties or chores, although it took its toll and I don’t think I could have maintained this in the long term.
I definitely did enjoy the experience, although not as much as I could or should have due to the workload and pressure I enforced on myself, but I won’t be rushing back to get into it. I don’t think I’d want to do it again with small kids. When they are older and at school, maybe. At least you get a break when they are at school. I think one day a week, not a day on the weekend either, as there are many more distractions, would be ideal for those fathers who want to spend quality time with their kids and give their partners a break or allow them to go to work or pursue their own passions.
For me though, I’m too ambitious, I need to be productive and feel as though I’m achieving. I enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with them, seeing and watching them closely, watching them grow and develop was very rewarding…