The Tyranny Of The To-Do List
Staying at home to rear your children isn’t traditionally considered a “real” job for men.
Yet, more and more men are choosing to stay at home while their wife or partner goes to a job outside the house and earns the majority of a family’s income. Even with this increase in dudes choosing to do what I’ve done for the last three kids, I still get asked something along the lines of:
“No, really. You don’t have a job? What do you do all day?”
It’s difficult to know how to answer a question like that. Well, it’s difficult if you don’t want to resort to cursing, expletives, or the use of weaponized carp. I’ve talked to a few younger SAHDs and they tell me they fume with this kind of condesention which assumes that only a job outside the house is worth being called a job; if you don’t bring home money, you’re not really working.
Which plays into something I faced/face and something I’ve seen these young dudes face as well. They/we start to treat rearing the kids as a job. That is, we start focusing on tasks, to-do lists and important assignments, often to the detriment of the boys or girls we’re trying to rear.
In other words, we start to job the fun out of the thing.
I know that I got so wrapped up in making sure that I had a to-do list for each day and then ticking off each of those items as the day went along. I’d start to get angry if something slowed that progress.
And by something, of course, I mean Hyper Lad and, to a lesser extent, his older brothers Zippy the Travelin’ Boy and Sarcasmo.
Which is exactly the wrong way to approach this whole thing.
Sure, the parent who’s staying at home should be the one mostly in charge of running the house because you’re the one with more time. So, of course, you need to do the grocery shopping, the laundry, the cooking and most of the cleaning. (I always drew the line at cleaning the bathroom counter of my wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Kidding Herself If She Thinks I’m Going Anywhere Near That Mess Without A Level-Four Hazmat Suit, for somewhat obvious reasons.)
But here’s the thing, while you’re getting wrapped up in making sure the obvious day-to-day jobs get done, you’re in danger of forgetting the most important job you’ve got. In fact, you’re forgetting the reason you’re staying at home in the first place.
You’ve got a kid you’re responsible for and they don’t know from errands and jobs and to-do lists.
You’ve got to make time for play. You’ve got to get down on the floor and just giggle and drool and roll around, but remember to do it when the baby’s there as well.
It’s okay to make leftovers or even grilled cheese one night if it means you get a chance to take your inquisitive toddler to a special show at the Nature Center.
The most important lesson you can teach your little son or daughter is that life is wonderful when you’re doing it right. That means taking the time to treat yourself to the good things. As author Robert Louis Stevenson said, “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world.”
That being said? Check back next week when I’ve got an actual to-do list for all you stay-at-home dudes.