Since tomorrow marks the 2-month anniversary of my layoff I figured there’s no better time to dive into my post-employment adventures taking care of the kids most of the week.
Yes, you read that right. I got laid off at the end of February when my job took a fatal plunge off the edge of the Fiscal Cliff. Damn you Fiscal Cliff, damn you all to hell. After sending out more resumes and cover letters in 2 months than I have in my entire career I can vouch for the cold, hard fact that it’s a brutal job market out there. All kidding aside, I’m a little jealous of the 40-hour-a-week job opportunities available to Lloyd and Harry in “Dumb & Dumber.”
But an amazing thing has emerged from the ashes of a steady paycheck that went up in smoke: Daddy Days. The ability to pay for full-time day care for our rugrats vanished as soon as I got my pink slip which meant I suddenly had to take care of our 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter all day, all by myself for the first time ever.
Since my wife and I have sold our kids on the idea that weekdays at day care are School Days and weekends when we’re all together are Adventure Days I decide to call my post-employment time with them Daddy Days. The name stuck and at this point my son yells, “Daddy Day’s the best!” when I tell him around bedtime that the next day is going to be a Daddy Day. At times like that, unemployment doesn’t seem half bad. Of course, when the mortgage is due unemployment truly sucks.
It’s been a daunting, exhausting, exhilarating experience learning to fly solo with two energetic kids and here’s a quick rundown on some random observations:
- YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY SNACKS: I learned this the hard way the first day I had the kids all to myself and they were starving by the end of our little trip to the Lawrence Hall of Science. It’s not that I didn’t bring some snacks for them, I just didn’t bring anywhere near enough for their voracious, unpredictable appetites. After that I started filling one section of my backpack with a wide variety of munchies and in the wake of a couple of afternoon meltdowns at the park I finally started packing full lunches in addition to the load of snacks I was carrying around. Problem solved.
- TINY BLADDERS RULE MY WORLD: Our spare Fisher-Price stepstool potty has been an absolute lifesaver for me when I’ve been on the road with my son and daughter. I keep that sucker in the back of our Toyota Highlander and it’s bailed me out of some potential wet messes when we’ve been a long way from a restroom. There’s nothing worse than being backed up in traffic approaching the Bay Bridge when your kids start yelling that they have to go pee-pee. A quick exit onto Treasure Island and a couple of minutes later we’re parked, the potty is set up in the passenger seat, and everyone’s happy. I owe you one Fisher-Price.
- THANK GOODNESS FOR POTTY TRAINING: Fortunately, our daughter took to potty training over one weekend around her second birthday in December because I have no idea how I would have managed taking care of both my kids if I had to deal with frequent diaper changes while we’re at a busy park/zoo/etc. She may have a bladder the size of a peanut but she knows when she has to go and she’s never had an accident on my watch. Bless her cute little heart.
- THE LIBRARY ROCKS: My friend’s wife told me about the library’s free Discover & Go passes a couple of months before I got laid off and they’ve been an awesome way to entertain the kids for a big chunk of time. The passes have already gotten us into the Lawrence Hall of Science, Lindsay Wildlife Museum, Ardenwood Historic Farm, and Aquarium of the Bay. Aside from that, my kids are absolutely in love with picking out books and videos at the library. My son actually insisted on going to the library instead of the park this week. Very cool.
- BIG BIRD IS NO MATCH FOR CONAN: I’m sure some 4-year-olds and 2-year-olds are watching Sesame Street these days, but not my kids. They’re watching “Conan The Destroyer” on Netflix Instant and loving it. My son and daughter also have an amusing fascination with Jean-Claude Van Damme’s “Lionheart.” They love all the “owies” Van Damme doles out during the fight scenes. If there was ever any doubt that these are my children they’re long gone now.
“MR. MOM” DESERVES A REBOOT: Since Hollywood often seems to be bereft of new ideas they might as well inject some fresh blood into this Michael Keaton classic. I’m sure I’m just one of a rapidly growing number of suddenly unemployed, utterly unprepared dads out there who have been thrown into the deep end to fend for themselves tending to their kids during the week while picking through the wreckage of a devastated job market. I’ve already followed in the footsteps of Keaton’s character and sported an unemployment beard for a little while (my wife hated it), gained a few pounds (I hate’em), made a mess out of the house, and been totally out of place in a strange, new world full of stay-at-home moms. When you get right down to it, I’m almost ready to star in a reboot of “Mr. Mom.”
- EVERYONE LOVES ANIMALS: If there’s one thing that always brings a smile to my children’s faces its animals. So far I’ve put our Oakland Zoo and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom passes to good use and kept us out of the house all day several times. Even little Borges Ranch down the hill from our house does the trick when the kids get restless and want to get their animal fix. Fuzzy little creatures never fail to entertain.
- RAIN SUCKS … SAME GOES FOR HEAT WAVES: So far the toughest thing I’ve had to deal with is keeping the little tykes entertained when it’s rainy or roasting outside and we can’t burn off time and energy at the park in the afternoon. I’ve taken them to Studio Grow and Super Franks with varying levels of success. The one thing I know for sure is that I’ll never take them to The Jungle. If you read the Yelp reviews you can almost smell the place from where you’re sitting. No thank you.
- I HAVE NEWFOUND RESPECT FOR STAY-AT-HOME MOMS: I always knew taking care of kids all day was hard work and I always had a world of respect for friends and family who took on that gigantic challenge. Now that I’ve been dealing with it for 3 days a week for the past couple of months I have a whole new respect for parents who do it full time. Sure, it’s a blast spending a ton of time with your kids during the week but it’s also exhausting. It often makes a standard full-time job look like a vacation.
At some point Daddy Days will be a fond memory when one of the countless resumes I continue to send out eventually pays off, but until then I’ll make the most of the rare opportunity to spend as much time as possible with my two favorite people in the world.