Having spent a year at home looking after my children*, I’d like to pass on the top ten lessons I’ve learnt to date:
1 Sleep like a soldier
Any good combat troop knows you should sleep whenever you can, as you never know when you’ll get the chance again. The same goes for SAHDs of young children. The rule is quite simple: sleep when they sleep. One of life’s pleasures is to fall asleep on a couch with your baby asleep on your chest. This also looks very cute, which is needed if your partner comes home and finds out the house is a mess and there is no food on the table.
2 Teach your kids to like what you like
In our house it’s cricket, but it could be football, baseball, rugby or basketball. My two-year old knows the names of the best English cricket players as well as the signals for a four, six and when a batsman is out. This is the sign of good parenting, learning skills that will prove useful for years to come.
3 Playing games is part of the job
You remember that toy you really wanted as a kid but never had. Maybe money was tight, or you didn’t hint clearly enough. Well never fear, now is your chance. You can not only buy the toy you’ve always wanted (a tip most Dads learn very quickly) but as a stay at home Dad, you are obliged to play with them too. Whoever thought that a toddler could learn to shot a Nerf Gun so accurately?
4 Never read books / blogs on perfect parenting
You will only get upset. Really upset, so stop it. Now.
5 Always read blogs of fellow SAHDs failing to cope
Come on, admit it. You may have started to read the blog with the intention of offering words of advice or support, but it does feel good to know you’re not the only one having a day where the house is falling apart, the dinner isn’t getting cooked, and the kids are running around trying to reenact the last few chapters of Lord of the Flies.
6 Teach your children how to count and read as early as possible
Why? Because this is a competition and we can’t have those Mums beating us, or even worse, confirming their prejudices at how useless men are at raising children.
7 Never say a word in front of your kids that you wouldn’t be happy for them to repeat to your partner
All good parents know not to swear in front of the children. These aren’t the things you should worry about. It’s the non-sweary phrases that will bite you. In the past our oldest son came out with the phrases: “Oh my God!”; “For Christ’s sake” and “This pen is knackered.” My favourite, though, came when my wife was explaining the name of the birds feeding on the bird feeders she’d just filled. There were Sparrows, Blue Tits, Robins and Goldfinches, which she carefully pointed out to our youngest. He listened intently, then ran around the house shouting “tits” at the top of his voice for the next few hours. It made me giggle.
8 Children like to help
It’s true, and the earlier you teach them, the better it is. Sorting out the washing or pairing socks are good places to start, and tidying the toys away can be great fun if the box you tip them in makes a lot of noise, but the real pinnacle is when your child hands you a cold beer from the fridge and the bottle opener; prompted to do so from a nod of the head in the direction of the refrigerator. That’s when you know you’ve cracked it.
9 Enrol in as many toddler groups as you can
Yes, you’ll maybe need some earplugs for the screaming and be ready to smile as you sing nursery rhymes whilst sitting in a circle with twenty mothers, plus there can be the odd misunderstanding, but it’s the chance to have a break, even for a few minutes and chat to some adults for a change. Whatever you do, always choose a group that supplies tea / coffee plus biscuits.
10 Bite the bullet and change the nappy right away
You may be in the middle of level 236 of Candy Crush, but if that waft of evil hits your nose, stop everything and change the nappy. There are a number of reasons for this: it will stop the house from smelling worse than Jabba the Hut’s armpit; it will prevent the child from getting nappy rash and screaming the whole night; but the number one reason is that poo travels. You might think that because your child is smiling, it’s OK to leave the nappy for a few minutes. Don’t be fooled. Your child is smiling because it the one thing it likes more than any other is to have a bath, and a guaranteed way of having a bath is to keep moving, ensuring the poo spreads from the nappy, up to the neck and down the ankles. You have been warned.
* This is an exaggeration