This is not my first go-round as a stay-at-home parent. For much of 2009 and 2010, I stayed at home with Nora. And when I say “at home”, I mean AT HOME. A 28-week preemie, Nora was too susceptible to the various germs that everyone else takes for granted. The lungs of a preemie are delicate things. Bugs that would lead to a sniffle or cough for a full-term infant are potentially fatal to a 28-weeker. So there were no visits to playgroup. No trips to the library or museum. No playdates. It was Nora and Dad, at home, day after day.
It’s different this time, in many ways. Most obviously, in the number of children under my watch. Basic math dictates that watching Josh and Lia (joined by Nora in the afternoons) be more challenging than watching Nora alone. Another difference: when caring for Nora, I knew I was in it for the long haul, and I was. For 14 months, Nora and I spent our days together. For much of that time, I was not even looking for employment, because taking Nora to daycare was simply not an option. Those places, as any parent knows, are germ factories, and as such, were not an option for Nora in her first year or so of life.
This time around, I am attempting to conduct a full-scale job search while also fulfilling my parental obligations. To that end, television has become my friend. Sesame Street provides me with nearly an hour to peruse job listings. Curious George gives me another 23 minutes to make necessary alterations to the cover letter and fill out online applications (Seriously? I need to attach a resume AND manually type in my entire f***ing job history for you people??? Can you not just read the resume? Is this level of pointless busy work indicative of the job I’m applying for? Because if so, y’all can kiss my arse).
This brings me to perhaps the greatest difference between then and now: age. Josh and Lia are full-blown two-year olds now. They are today some six months older than Nora was was when I retired from my first career as a stay-at-home Dad.
Pardon my French, but Holy Shit, this is an entirely new world I stumbled into.
Should the job application process take longer than anticipated, or should a monkey and a man in yellow fail to hold children’s attention, I will invariably find myself with one child in my lap, dead-set on clicking “submit” mere seconds after entering my last employer as “adfvn.lkj fnkj/,;fraq”.
(FACT: two-year olds cannot type, but they have an innate gift for mashing the keyboard and somehow clicking the “submit” button every single time.)
Meanwhile, child #2 will usually take advantage of the distraction to turn on the washing machine (not so bad, really), overturn every bin full of toys in the house (frustrating, but still not so bad), or the new favorite, climb the Christmas Tree (venturing into dangerous territory now…)
I used to say of my time as a SAHD with Nora that it was the best job I ever had: the pay was terrible, but the benefits were outstanding. Much the same is true this time around. The time I’m getting with Josh and Lia — and Nora in the afternoons — is (generally speaking) fantastic. I’m witness to moments, little signs of day-to-day growth, that I wouldn’t see otherwise, and that I wouldn’t trade for the world. The three of them have three very distinct personalities, and bets are open as to which one will be our next visit to the ER. Lia, in her early climbing phase, was the early favorite. But Josh, with his potent cocktail of fearlessness and recklessness, might be the smart money bet.
Meanwhile, the applications continue to go out. Two or three a week, some more promising than others. Some more interesting than others. I suspect it’s not a great time of year for a job search, holidays and all that. But it is a good time to watch the kids. I’m enjoying it immensely.
(Someone get me the hell out of here.)