Turn back the clock to when I was working in the bank and I used to think my days were pretty full. My standard hours of business 9am to 6pm together with a 60 minute commute each way meant there was little time for activities especially if I wanted to see the kids, let alone try to carve-out a bit of quality time outside of weekends. Also there was the small matter of regular day-trips for business meetings in London, Paris, Frankfurt, etc. These generally involved flights at ungodly hours in the morning and returning home in the evenings close to bedtime (mine not the kids). So when I took the plunge and became a stay-at-home parent, I foolishly thought that, along with the many offspring related advantages, I might have a bit more time to myself to focus on long-term projects e.g. get that novel started / completed and /or abandoned in a fit of pique. Nine months later I can put my hand on heart and say that this has definitely not proven to be the case so I wonder to myself where does the time go.
Now I didn’t go into this new arrangement with my eyes closed, I knew all about the school runs and the after school activities, the food preparation requirements and the GAA sessions. Sure hadn’t I seen my wife undertake the full-time parent role on a number of occasions over the past 10 years. As our family has grown in size I have seen her zombie-like stare harden as I returned from work each day (and proceeded to sit down and have a cup of tea) but I thought how difficult could it be to sneak in a bit of reading time or god forbid TV time once I had eliminated the requirement to spend two hours in a car every day. However there were a number of factors that I didn’t take into account in my ignorant wage-earning state. Firstly, there is the volume of questions you get asked by inquisitive young minds in any given day. These can vary from a simple homework question such as, find five items in your house that contain more than a litre of liquid (I didn’t want to resort to the drinks’ cabinet straight away, I mean if Aaron came back to his class with 5 different alcoholic beverages on his list what message was it sending out, so this took a bit longer than expected) to the extremely repetitive, have we done enough to get our screen-time privileges back yet? To which the answer is invariably “it’s nice that you have behaved for 10 minutes but that does not outweigh the outbreak of Wrestlemania and /or scribbling on the chairs earlier on today”. I’m thinking of limiting questions (like wishes) to three a day (per child, I’m not an animal).
Another factor which I had failed to consider is that quality time with your children can actually be very time consuming so whether it’s reading fairy tales to Ella or bringing Oscar to the playground, kicking ball with Lochlan or discussing the intricacies of the offside rule with Aaron, before you know it an hour has passed and the next hard deadline of school pick-up / cooking / bringing to training is fast approaching. That doesn’t even take into account potentially playing a board game, do you know how long it takes to set one of those things up nowadays? I don’t seem to recall from my youth that a number of games (I’m looking at you Mousetrap, Hotel and Game of Life) seem to require longer to assemble than it actually takes to play the game!
By far the largest element of my miscalculation relating to timings has been housework and all that surrounds this broad and wonderful category! How can something so simple be so vast as to appear never-ending? Tidying up in itself is a task that just seems interminable, so like a modern day Sisyphus there is always at least a half an hour in my day dedicated to it. I write this in a room where unicorns, tank engines and various hard plastic toys are strewn all around me. In my mind I had believed that hoovering was a weekly task not a daily one, there are times when I look at our kitchen / dining room floor after meal times and wonder if more food has ended up on the ground than in my childrens’ collective stomachs! We have a dish washer yet I don’t understand how I seem to spend a lot of my time washing stuff in the kitchen sink, I’m thinking of binning items that aren’t dish-washer friendly, good-bye exotic butter knives (yes I know, notions). I was quickly relieved of clothes washing duty, I mean one small error with an overly delicate blouse and you’re in the laundry dog-house forever, but the folding and the subsequent sorting of clothes, particularly when you have 3 boys with very similar fashion tastes i.e. sports jerseys and track suits, seems to take an age. Why are labels always so small and hard to find?! That being said apparently my folding is excellent and I have really found my niche. It is the one area for which I consistently get praise, get in there!
So my plans for beginning that novel will have to wait until I can get the boys to start helping out with tasks around the house or maybe I’d be better off trying to invent a time machine, if only I had the time!
As I finish this blog I am also well aware that my wife is going to read this and say he doesn’t do half the amount that I did, but I also haven’t perfected the zombie-like stare. either!