It is currently 9:15am on a Wednesday in mid-March. Normally my four kids are at school, my wife is at work and I am home alone putting off whatever it is I had planned to do today. But with school closed for the foreseeable future as well as my wife’s office, everybody is here. All. The. Time.
We have taken seriously the advice of health care professionals of “social distancing” by remaining at home as much as possible. It is a lot more difficult than it sounds. My kids want to hang out with their friends. My wife is constantly finding something I forgot to get at the store when I stocked up last week. We’re all already starting to get bored.
Life, however, must go on. My kids still need to learn. My wife still needs to manage her team around the country selling food (she works for Conagra Brands which sells Slim Jim, Chef Boyardee, Healthy Choice, Birds Eye, etc). I still need to procrastinate.
Our school district moved to “e-learning” for the next two weeks. I decided to create a schedule at home for them that mimics school so they had structure to their day and were relatively quiet while my wife took conference call after conference call. The kids report to “class” at 8am and do assignments from their teachers on their school-provided Chromebooks until 11am. They have lunch and “recess” (basically, go outside) for an hour then get back to “class” until 3pm or they’re done with their work. After they have a snack, they go to “practice” much like they would any regular day except it is at home and they can do whatever they want as long as it is physical activity, preferably outside. They then take showers and have some free time.
Two days in and they are ready to rebel.
E-learning is extremely flexible by nature. They want to take advantage of this flexibility by structuring their time on their own. They are teenagers (or nearly) so they are loathe to follow Dad’s rules. However I believe to maintain a culture of learning they need to maintain a similar structure to their regular school days. Plus, I don’t want to have to spend my entire day asking them if their work is done. Or started. So, the structure is as much for me as for them.
Despite their grumbling, they are sticking to it fairly well so far. In our house we have always had a specific room dedicated as a “classroom” so they spend much of the day in their which is kind of ironic because they rarely use that space for homework on typical school days. My wife and I set up the space, complete with a couple desks and a white board, for them to use, originally as a place for them to play school or do artwork when they were younger and now to do homework. It has a door which is nice so that my wife isn’t disturbed by them and I can ignore their complaining.
As much as I am trying to make things as normal as possible, it is definitely not normal. This “social distancing” is a grand social experiment no one has any idea how it will turn out. I expect it to last for months, not a couple weeks. How will we be in a few months of being together, just the six of us? At least I like all these people, so I’m starting from a good place.
The kids miss their friends and their sports. I miss my few hours of alone time. My wife is just missing out since she is the only one doing serious stuff around here. “Why can’t I get a quasi-vacation?!” she wonders. Ah, somebody’s got to make the dough so we can eat. Thanks Honey!!!
For us, I’m not worried. We are fortunate to have saved wisely the money we have been fortunate to earn. We are all healthy and thus at low risk for serious health concern if we do get the coronavirus. But I am worried about a lot of others. So many, estimates are 40-50% of Americans, do not have enough money to afford a $400 unexpected expense. Our government has been woefully inadequate in testing so we have no idea how many are currently infected and thus have no way to realistically contain the virus’s spread. Many are going to suffer extreme financial hardship and some are going to get very sick.
The human spirit is enduring and we will find our way forward. I personally am doing my best to remember this time together is a blessing, not a curse. Far too soon our kids will be off forging their own paths. But right now, I have them here and I am trying my best to take advantage of this time together playing games, talking and laughing.
As I am finishing this post, the second e-learning school day is coming to an end. Our high school senior is making tilapia for dinner and then we are watching Frozen II on Disney+, all of us on the couch together. It’s an example of how COVID-19 is changing life for everyone and how we are getting through this together.
Originally published in 2011 on AtHomeDad.org
In nine years as an at-home dad, I have taken my kids to countless grocery stores, hardware stores, doctor’s appointments (mine and theirs), banks, playgrounds, museums and post offices all during normal working hours. I often hear, “so it’s daddy’s day! How sweet,” or “it looks like you have a few helpers with you today,” or, “WOW! They are so well-behaved,” shocked that a dad is capable of competently corralling four kids, or the worst, “looks like you’re babysitting the kids today.”
I have never asked, but I doubt many moms, working or at home ever hear these things.
Earlier this week, though, I heard one person’s assumptions about the reasons I would have 4 kids with me at 3:30 on a cold Tuesday afternoon. The words this clerk at a local grocery store said to me topped all other assumptions anyone else had ever made about me.
After picking up our two older ones from school, I headed over to the grocery store to pick up a few things for dinner and flowers for my wife. She had been having a challenging time at work and I thought the flowers would help. Yes, I’ll accept the “Husband of the Year” award now.
Anyway, we picked out a dozen roses and brought the bunch to the florist’s counter to pay for them. The lady behind the counter wondered if it was my wife’s birthday.
“No,” Miles our 7 year old said, “she’s traveling.” (My wife actually was in town that day but because of her travel schedule they never remember when she’s in town and when she isn’t).
“Oh, so she’s in sales,” the woman said.
“Yes,” Miles replied, “She works at ConAgra.”
“Well, it’s sure great that your dad gets to stay home with you,” the florist said.
I was floored.
For the first time in 9 years, a stranger seeing me, a dad, with 4 kids in the middle of the workday assumed I was an at-home dad!
Those of you who are not at-home dads are probably thinking, “who cares?”
It’s validation for one thing. Hearing a stranger correctly understand who you are gives you a sense of belonging to the larger community. When people assume you’re only babysitting the kids, you feel like you’re doing something wrong; something that a man is not supposed to do. By identifying me as an at-home dad, this cashier made me feel like being an at-home dad was the most normal thing in the world. While I already feel that way about myself, it is reassuring when someone else gets it too.
It also confirms society is changing its views of parenthood. Trends have been changing. Fathers are becoming more actively involved with their children according to many studies including the latest Census report showing an increase in fathers as primary caregivers. Despite these facts, many people have held on to “traditional” views on parenting. Assuming I am an at-home dad proves that perceptions of fathers are inching closer to reality.
Finally, it is such a relief to not have to explain myself. It is tiring, even irritating at times, to continually feel like you have to explain, “yes, I am really taking care of all these kids and I chose to do this.” If you’ve ever done something outside of the norm, you understand what I mean. Having a conversation with someone without them being utterly confused about who I am is awesome!
I am sure I will still run into people who can’t imagine a father can be more than a babysitter for a few hours but I now know there are people who don’t think that way. I now know there are people who assume a dad in the grocery store with 4 kids on a workday afternoon is an at-home parent and that it is the most normal thing in the world.
If you believe, as I do, that Dads Don't Babysit, wear that statement with pride and help support stay-at-home dads by purchasing the Dads Don't Babyst t-shirt in the above graphic.
For the fourth year in a row my son Miles is shaving his head.
This is one brave kid.
Every year, it makes me cringe. He’s going to look very different. People are going to stare. His head is going to get cold. These are the worries of an overprotective parent.
Despite my worries, I am extremely proud of him. It takes guts to stand up for something you believe and to help others by sacrificing something of yourself. But he does it, every year. I am humbled. I couldn’t do it.
He shaves his head to raise awareness and money for childhood cancer research. It is astonishing that only a mere 4% of the National Cancer Institute’s budget is dedicated towards treating and finding a cure for cancer in kids. How on earth does this make sense?! Cancer treatment for kids are very different than for adults and yet little is being done about it.
When Miles learned of this four years ago, he was saddened. He had never met a kid with cancer but he couldn’t understand how so little is done for these kids. When he learned there was something he could about it, he jumped at the chance.
His mom and I weren’t so excited about it at first but our then 11 year-old was quite determined. He always has been that way. Once he makes up his mind, he is determined to move forward. While he was asking for permission, we realized he was really just letting us know what he was going to do.
The experience was transformative for all of us. He was so excited to do it and we were so proud to watch him do something he felt passionate about. He raised several thousand dollars that year and has raised a couple thousand each year after that, nearly $10,000 in total. It’s a pretty good chunk of change for a little hair.
This Saturday, March 14, he will be shaving his hair. He would be grateful if you can donate here. If you can’t donate, leave a message of encouragement or support in the comments. He loves to hear it!
As always, other kids will look at him funny or tease him for his bald head after this weekend. He doesn’t mind. It gives him a chance to tell them about the lack of research funds for kids with cancer.
Like I said, this is one brave kid.