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Guest post: What exactly do you DO all day?

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July 14, 2013 by Dadinator

Below is our first guest post on this blog, and it comes from a very special guest, The Mamantor. I stole this idea of guest posts from Dad Down Under, so I thank you for the inspiration.

For years the Mamanator has kept her own personal blog via a service called livejournal (it’s old. Very old). I did too actually, and below is an entry she recently completed, mostly for her own benefit, about what a typical day entails. It isn’t short, but if you’ve got toddlers or children on the way it might help you get an idea of what you’re in for. So without further ado, I give you: The Mamanator.

What exactly do you DO all day?

No one has said the above directly to me, but I know it’s been said to other Stay At Home Parents. I know I wondered before I had children, though I had a vague idea from babysitting. It is a question asked with either derision or genuine interest, the former by anonymous commenters on newspaper websites and blogs, the latter by friends and parents-to-be who are more than willing to believe staying home is a full time job, and are just asking what the job entails.

I decided yesterday to take note of everything I did throughout the day and document it when I had the chance. I am honestly not sure whether it will scare the childless or make them jealous of my easy life. This is one day with one child aged nearly 20 months, who lives with two very involved parents, though far away from other family support.

Woke up at about 6:30 to babbling toddler, he’d woken during the night (again) refused to be resettled in his cot (again) and ended up in our bed (again.) I got a kick to the face as he climbed over me, I snuggled into The Dadinator’s arms as I heard The Lad run to the loungeroom, climb on the couch to reach the switch, turn on the light and start playing with toys. After about 3 minutes he ran back into the bedroom with a book. The Dadinator read to him while I got up, fed the cats and got the porridge started. While it was cooking I took the nappies off the indoor line- they had dried overnight by the fire- and put them aside to fold later. We sat down to breakfast. The Lad is learning to use a spoon but today he decided he wanted to be fed. The Dadinator and I took turns feeding him and ourselves. He ate his whole bowl of porridge and cried for more, so I split what was left in my bowl with him. He finished that and was still hungry so I got him a banana. The Dadinator supervised him with the banana while I put our breakfast dishes in the dishwasher and turned it on (dishwasher is run once a day after breakfast, so it was full), then made coffee. I took The Dadinator’ coffee to him and got ingredients out to make dinner, then I took over The Lad duty and dressed him while The Dadinator got dressed himself and packed The Lad’s bag. I kissed both of them goodbye as they headed out the door to this morning’s swimming lesson, it was 8:45am.

I blitzed onion, garlic and carrot in the Thermomix and tipped it in the slow cooker, then got out a frying pan and sealed the outside of some meatballs before putting them in too. I added mushrooms, spinach, olives and dried tomatoes then poured over two cans of tomatoes and about a cup of stock. Shook some herbs over the top and set the slow cooker on low: Meatballs Cacciatore. I put rice in the Thermomix to cook, got yesterday’s washing out of the machine and hung it on the outside line after checking the weather and deciding to risk rain. Once the rice was done I put it with last night’s chilli then put some of that in a thermos container for The Dadinator’s lunch and the rest in another container which I put in the freezer for a future lunch. I dried out the Thermomix and ground some wheat to make bread later in the day. I had a quick shower, got dressed and put together a morning tea for The Lad (rice cake, muffin, two dates, water bottle) and me (muffin) which I put in my handbag, loaded the stroller into the car and headed out to pick up The Lad. It was 9:25am.

I arrived at the pool in Campbell’s Creek just after The Lad’s swimming lesson. The Lad and The Dadinator were in the Mens’ changeroom and I didn’t know if anyone else was in there so didn’t like to barge in, instead I went into the Womens’ as I know the other mums and kids in the class very well (all members of my Mums’ group) and offered a spare set of arms and hands, which was gratefully accepted. The Dadinator heard me and called out from the Mens to let me know he was on his own and asked me to take The Lad so he could finish dressing. I collected The Lad while still holding onto his friend B and went back to the Women’s so they could both play with V, the other young swimmer. When B’s mum was free I left the changeroom and helped The Lad put on his shoes. The Dadinator came out and said a quick goodbye, he had to leave for work (he was teaching periods 3-6 today, which was great as otherwise this morning would have been hectic!) The Lad cried a little when The Dadinator left, but perked up as B and V and their mums came out of the changerooms. We decided to all go to a local cafe in Castlemaine for a hot drink.

The cafe was fun but not exactly relaxing. Three toddlers who were full of beans and did not want to sit still. I ordered a cup of chai for me and a bubbachino for The Lad. I think I actually drank about a third of my chai, the rest of the time I was stopping The Lad running out the door, refereeing the cuddle-come-wrestling-match that passes for affectionate toddler play, giving The Lad his bubbachino, rice cake and dates and catching up with my friends. Both B and V started to flag so their mums decided to leave. The Lad still had plenty of energy and needed a nappy change so I loaded him into the stroller and walked over to the library. We used their change table and then I realised it was 10:40am, only 10 minutes into the Toddler Time session (rhymes, songs and books with the Children’s librarian) so we went along to that. The Lad did not sit still for the stories (he never does) but no one at the library minds a well-supervised toddler running up and down the fiction aisles, so that’s what we did. He did stop and go back to Toddler Time whenever there was singing. I was really glad we went, some of the other parents there were people I knew and one in particular was an old neighbour from our rental property last year, I hadn’t seen her in months. It was great to see her little boy, who is a few months younger than The Lad, running around the place. The Lad had a good time with the other kids and with the puzzles the librarian got out for them after the session officially ended.

After Toddler Time I was in two minds about whether to attend the Music Playgroup across the road in the Town Hall or just go home. The decision was settled as The Lad yawned widely just as one of the other parents mentioned Music Playgroup wasn’t on this week due to an event at the Town Hall. I caught up with people for a few more minutes, then The Lad really started to fuss so I said goodbye and we went home via the Guildford Post Office, where our PO Box contained nothing. I was starving by then and ate my muffin in the car.

We got home at 11:45am and The Lad was asleep in his cot by noon. I grabbed the laundry basket from our bedroom and pulled out the dark clothes, put them in the washing machine and set it to start washing at 2pm (we have solar panels so it’s best to do energy sucking stuff at optimal times, and by 2pm the shadow from the large gum tree on our property has cleared the roof.) I made two bread doughs and put them aside to rise. While they were rising I made a salad of various veggies, apple and yoghurt and put it in a bowl for when The Lad woke up. I then unloaded the dishwasher and cleared the bench. I picked up the toys and books on the floor of the loungeroom, swept the floor, moved the couch back and rolled out my yoga mat, then took the risen dough and put them in loaf tins and put those tins in the oven. I turned on the tv and put in a prenatal yoga dvd. While it loaded and went through the intro I folded some of the nappies I’d taken off the line that morning, then I did a half hour yoga sequence and 10 minute relaxation/meditation. I rolled up my mat and replaced it with The Lad’s play rug. I took the loaves out of the oven and put in two small sausage rolls. While these cooked I folded the rest of the nappies and just in time I remembered I hadn’t checked the laundry hamper in the loungeroom (easiest place to chuck bibs and The Lad’s clothes after a bath) so I got some stuff out of there and added it to the washing machine before it started up. I went outside and grabbed some wood for the fire for night time. Just as the sausage rolls were done The Lad woke up. I took the folded nappies to his room and chatted to him as I put them away, then lifted him out of his cot and onto the change table to change his nappy. I inwardly cursed as I realised the nappies he’d used while out were still in his bag- I’d forgotten to put them in the nappy pail at home. While changing his nappy The Lad and I counted to 10, his current favourite game. I put him down, picked up the old nappy and took it to the nappy pail along with his nappies from that morning. I washed my hands, redirected The Lad (who was throwing everything in sight into the bath) and put him in his highchair for lunch. The Lad was not at all interested in either the sausage roll or the salad. He ate a very small piece of pastry and about a half teaspoon of salad, but he was happy to sit in the highchair and chat to me while I ate. After 15 minutes I gave up trying to get him to eat anything (except a triangle of Laughing Cow cheese) lifted him down from the highchair and let him go. It was then about 2:10pm.

The Lad ran straight to the bookshelf and got down a book for me to read him, which I did with him in my lap. I was impressed, it was a pretty complex book meant for an older child and he sat through about 3/4 of it before getting up to play with something else. I cleared the table and seeing that The Lad was engrossed with “drawing” at his little table (a non-branded Magna-Doodle, I just can’t cope yet with the mess he would make of real crayons and chalk at this stage of his development) I decided to take his rejected lunch outside to feed to our semi-tame magpies. When I tried to get back inside I realised the lock had slipped down on the back door as it sometimes does, locking me out. This isn’t a problem as the front door is unlocked. I walked around the front and took the opportunity to close the gate as I knew The Lad would be out with me later and to grab one of the sawdust brickette thingies we have near the front door for the fire. I got back inside and The Lad was still happily drawing. We spent about 45 minutes singing songs, playing with his toys and then dancing to music on the ipod dock. When enough time had passed he wouldn’t associate it with his uneaten lunch I got out his uneaten muffin from the morning and he ate most of it pretty happily (they were muffins The Dadinator had made and by muffin standards pretty healthy, but still not really a meal.) Then I put shoes and jumpers on us both and took The Lad outside. I let him wander around the backyard while I got the washing off the line- unfortunately it was still damp. I put the washing basket down against the back door and then walked with The Lad to our front gate, opened it and walked out onto the road, it was now about 3pm.

We went on what I call a “The Lad-directed walk” around Guildford. I try to do these walks most days if the weather is okay and if we don’t have other plans. He used to just walk straight to the playground and play there, but nowadays he likes to look at the birds and the twigs and leaves and cars. We wandered about and had a bit of a disagreement about appropriate behaviour (he wanted to walk down the centre of the road WITHOUT holding my hand- so not happening) then we ran into some other Guildford parents walking their children home from the school and had a quick chat. I decided it was time to head home and as we passed the playground we saw one of The Lad’s playmates on it with his mum, so we stopped in for a quick play there after all.

We got back home about 4pm, I changed The Lad’s nappy and again The Lad asked for a book, so we sat down and read. He actually asked for a few books which was great as it gave me the opportunity to get off my feet and put them up on the footstool while we cuddled and read on the couch. The Lad got down and got his blocks out so we played a stacking and counting game until 4:30pm when I sat him on the couch with a drink of water and put Play School on the tv. Yes I was calling in the electronic babysitter 🙂 The Lad happily watched Play School while I cleaned the wood heater glass, built and lit the fire, collected the washing basket from the back door and hung the damp items on the inside line. I had just grated cheese then set water boiling for spaghetti when The Lad lost interest in the TV, but he was happy enough still playing with his toys in the loungeroom so I used the time to pick up the random toys and books on and around the dining table and wipe down his highchair from lunch (just in time for dinner!) The Dadinator got home about 5:10pm, laden down with shopping bags and his teaching gear, having had a really awful day. I relieved him of the shopping bags and put the groceries away while he cuddled The Lad and let the toddler work his magical charm. I put the spaghetti on and got The Lad’s meatball and sauce out of the slowcooker to cool down before dinner. Once the spaghetti was done I took out The Lad’s share and ran it quickly under cold water to cool it down, then added it to his now cut up meatball and sauce and mixed them together. I took The Dadinator’s and my spaghetti out of the Thermomix and put it in bowls, then rinsed it out, poured in a litre of milk and set it to cook for an hour as we were nearly out of yoghurt. I put meatballs and sauce in our bowls, topped with cheese and brought them to the table with cutlery. The Dadinator had already settled The Lad in the highchair and bibbed him. We discussed his horrible day while The Lad carefully and with precision pulled out every bit of spaghetti from his bowl to eat and removed the meatball pieces to the far side of his highchair tray. I swear this kid is going to be a vegetarian. The Dadinator tried to interest him in the meat by eating some himself which is sometimes successful, but not this time. I got up when I’d finished eating and ran The Lad’s bath. While I was running it The Dadinator got The Lad out of the highchair and they joined me. I got The Lad undressed, helped him brush his teeth then lifted him into the bath and left The Dadinator to play with him. It was now 6pm.

I went into The Lad’s room and made up his cot with his sheet, blanket and doona (so glad he is old enough for them now, he really hates the sleeping bags for younger babies for whom doonas etc. are not safe) I grabbed his pjs and a cotton t-shirt for underneath and brought them into the loungeroom. I then switched on the tv and listened to The Simpsons as I fed the cats their dry food, got The Lad’s night nappy and cream out, microwaved the wheat bag monkey The Dadinator had bought that day (yay! No more sharing my wheatbag!) and put it in the cot to warm it up. The Dadinator brought The Lad out and deposited him next to me on the couch, he then turned off the simmering milk and left it to cool, fed the cats their meat and medicated Puck (our larger, more anxious cat.) I put The Lad in his night nappy and dressed him, while he watched Night Garden. I took the chance while he was quiet and calm and clipped his nails for him, then snuggled up on the couch with him while he watched his show and I scrolled through Facebook on my tablet. At 7pm The Dadinator picked The Lad up and we told him to say “Goodnight”, which he did as well as he could. I gave The Lad a kiss and The Dadinator took him to his bedroom for a couple of sleep-themed stories, a lullaby and then sleep. This whole process generally takes an hour. I spent that hour clearing up, I put The Lad’s rejected meatball in the fridge to feed to the magpies the next day. I took the remaining cacciatore sauce out of the slowcooker, there was enough for another meal, and put it in a container in the fridge, I got out lentils and got them soaking for the next night’s dinner (I’ll combine them with the cacciatore sauce, some vegetables and mash for a vegetarianish Shepherd’s Pie.) I loaded the dishwasher and swept up the worst of the kitchen floor. I looked at the sides of the sink which urgently needs a scrub and said “Eh, stuff it” and left them for another day. I then picked up all the toys and books which were again strewn over the floor in the loungeroom and dining area, musing that they didn’t need to give Sisyphus a giant rock, a toddler would have done the job. I finished everything about 7:45pm and sat down with an orange to write out this post. I had gotten up to 4pm when The Dadinator came out of The Lad’s room at 8:10pm and we chatted in the kitchen while I did the last few steps involved in getting the yoghurt ready to sit overnight in a thermos and set. At that point I decided I was still a bit peckish so I made us lemon custard which we ate on the couch while watching an episode of Star Trek. After it finished I wrote a little more then we went to bed. It was about 10:15pm. The Dadinator took me through a guided relaxation from a hypnobirthing book and I went to sleep.

So all up a pretty good day. The Lad was happy for most of it which makes a huge difference to how much gets done. Some days I barely manage to get dressed. I am really enjoying this stage, he is really interactive and fun to play with, but he is also getting better at independent play. Hopefully over the next few months his time playing independently increases so once I give birth to his baby sister he won’t be too worried about entertaining himself while I’m breastfeeding or taking care of her. Hopefully he’ll want to help.

Someone I was talking to recently about parenting small children said something that has stuck with me, “The days are long, but the years are short.” I’m so glad both The Dadinator and I get to spend so much time with The Lad and soak up everything, even the difficult stuff, because in the scheme of things it really is fleeting.

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