A day in the life of a stay at home dad
Working from home has its perks. You get to spend all your day lounging around the house in your PJ’s. And you get work done too.
Or so I thought.
The thing with day-dreaming especially that of a 9–5 cubicle bound guy is that it has no patience for depicting the real-life of working from home. Ok, that’s not quite true, working from home with a kid.
So, without further ado, here’s the nitty gritty:
Sleep is a luxury, savor it
I usually get up around 10AM. By the time I have coffee on the stove, Ammu is up and has defacto control of the living room.
I will not be watching any TV until 5, when Mommy returns.
I take Ammu to the washroom for the morning peepee, then heat her milk. We both have our drink on the sofa in the living room. She watches the Arab cartoons and I check my phone.
Multi-task like a pro
After finishing her milk, Ammu does one of the following:
i). Play with her blocks
iii). Eat Candy (we started with one, but have gone up to two)
iv). Sometimes she does all three
During this time, I am still trying to wake up. I normally don’t feel that hungry immediately after waking up. I take the dishes to the sink. I pick up Ammu and sit her on the side of the sink. I pour a little water from the tap in the cap of my deodorant and give it to Ammu to gargle and rinse her mouth. After she spits it out, I brush her teeth. She has a bad habit of swallowing the toothpaste.
We’re working on it.
After toothbrush, I wash her face. Every second day I give her a bath. I have been training her into taking a shower herself. Today I closed the shower door and told her to get wet herself. This is a huge improvement. Previously I had to run after her with the shower spray in my hand as she kept dodging the water jet.
Sometimes I both apply olive oil to her hair fifteen minutes before a shower. I have realized it is much harder getting oil out of long hair than it is for shorter hair like mine.
An active imagination goes a long way
Once we’re done with the bath, I put the cover down on the toilet and stand her on it. I dry her off, vigorously (on her insistence, sometimes I incorporate a bit of a rapid twist regime which leaves her in fits of giggles and begging for encores). I try to brush her hair as best as I can.
The trick is to keep her interested in whatever you’re getting her to do. So I keep coming up with new imaginative things. These days I wrap the towel around her and for a couple of minutes she pretends that she is Princess Elsa and the toilet is her throne.
That is, until the towel starts unraveling. Then I hoist her over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes (mutant potatoes that try to bite my neck and shriek), and plonk her on the bed. The harder I throw her the happier she is.
The next stage involves lengthy negotiations and threats and bluffs. More and more Ammu is starting to learn the importance of dressing. Being the confident ‘mommy’, she considers herself to be, the only respectable dress fit for her is a frock. Sadly at ‘Mommy & Daddy Inc.’ the only frocks we have are for fancy functions. They are under explicit lockdown orders and cannot be put on without the consent of mommy.
But Ammu has a secret key. Me.
She knows that I’m a softie and a pushover. Long story short, by the time I have powdered and lotioned her, Ammu has got me convinced that letting her wear the frock is my idea. As a compromise we promise that we’ll change into normal baby clothes before mommy comes back.
A healthy breakfast goes a long way
I now have a fifteen-minute window where I won’t be disturbed. By now I am ready for breakfast. Mommy marinates chunks of chicken for me that I can fry easily. If I am feeling good, I treat myself to a brunch- toasted buns with mayo and ketchup topped of by fried chicken chunks, a fried egg thrown on top and some fries. That normally lasts me through the day. Other times, I have egg and toast or butter and marmalade on toast.
Multi-task like a pro
While the pan is heating up, I wear my orange plastic gloves and do the dishes. Mommy Ammu drops in sometimes to say hello.
Adapt or die
I apply peanut butter to a toast and tell her to finish it, she pretends not to listen. I start up the laptop while I’m wolfing down my breakfast. I start my work. I would prefer to work in a quiet place but the trade-off is not worth it. Ammu is going through a phase where she is still undecided about whether she is an architect, an interior decorator, a princess, a mommy, a ballerina or a drummer. Telling her to be quiet disrupts those plans.
We don’t want that.
Going to the bedroom does not work too because Princess-Mommy-Rocker-Ammu prefers to keep her audience in her sights.
I plant myself on the dining table and practice the power of concentration. I have to break character from time to time for any of the following:
i) Remind Ammu to take a bite
ii) Open the imaginary door to my imaginary house as my next-door neighbor Mommy Ammu drops in to say hello with her designer bag, purse, tiara, makeup kit and camera/mobile.
iii) Peepee time.
iv) One of the building blocks won’t fit in the way that the architect wants it to and I am needed to coax/force the blocks to obey and handle my architect-whiz daughter’s famous temper.
v) Ammu has decided that she is a crawling ‘goo-goo gaa-gaa’ baby.
vi) Ammu has decided that she is a crawling cat/dog/sheep
We power through the afternoon. On a good day, she has finished her sandwich, which means she has earned the right to a second bottle of milk. Sometimes she pretends not to understand how the point system works and she doesn’t give in until I give her three bottles of milk.
Exercise is good for you
While the milk is being heated in the microwave, Ammu and I compete in back-to-back-to-back races from the kitchen wall to the couch and back. We both cheat, her long hair is easy to grab and push her back. She tolerates it, as long as I let her win.
She has to win.
It’s natural, she has strong legs.
I shrug and make a sad pouty face while Ammu pretends to be Mojo Jojo.
Sometimes I am able to get quite a lot of work done. Other times it’s just one of those days, Spongebob Square Pants is not being a good friend, Diago and Dora are not interesting enough, Kungfu Panda is no fun in Arabic, it could be anything. Bottom line is that Ammu needs attention and she needs it right now. I try the mommy tick. I play bad cop. I try tough love.
Kapeesh. Not on my watch, says Ammu.
I cave. I have to be the customer at her fancy restaurant. Where I just have to buy her fancy food which consists of coffee, pizza and sometimes if the chef is in a good mood, noodles. Always, the bill is three dollars.
Creativity is a muscle , use it regularly
On really bad days, I play the psychiatrist and Ammu my patient as we go over the things she would like for her next birthday, which in her universe comes once every week. So far, the items we have been able to shortlist are:
ix) Beauty Kit
xi) Pink Shoes
And then somehow, time flies and Mommy arrives. My shift is over. Mommy Ammu is a kid again. I am no longer her neighbor/ partner-in-crime/racing opponent. I’m just boring old daddy.
But that’s ok. We’re both fine with it.
Tomorrow is another day.
And I wouldn’t change it one bit. Not for all the Gobstoppers in the world.