I recently changed jobs and had around 10 days before starting at Koru Kids.

“Oh, well at least you’ve got some time off before you start,” said everyone who asked.

“Yeah,” I replied, “and I’ve got the kids for a week too.”

It turns out having the kids for a week isn’t “time off” at all. In fact, I worked harder in that week than most of the last three years (and bear in mind my previous company was a hyper-growth startup, so hardly a 9-to-5 kinda place).

To give you some context, we’ve got two gorgeous little boys: our eldest is two (and a half, he’ll remind you), and our youngest is a little over 10 months.

My wife is a secondary school English teacher, and has just returned to work after maternity leave. She was going back part-time, but her first week back included teacher training days, so it was more like full-time.

So, what with my temporary unemployment, we thought it made sense to push childcare back by a week and for me to take the kids instead, thereby also saving a few quid on childcare. 

I don’t normally write blog posts, but I’ve found this experience so insightful I thought it would be worthwhile sharing. Especially for the Dads out there.

Here are the top 5 things I learned:

1. My kids rock

The rest of this post talks about some of the challenges I faced. And I hear a lot of dads (and mums too, albeit less frequently) thinking they sound cool by badmouthing their kids. But I wanted to start by saying how awesome my kids are.

They are fun, smart, cute, and at times utterly hilarious.

It’s sometimes frightening to think that they see me as their fountain of knowledge, given how little I actually know about the world. But at the same time it’s pretty rewarding to hear my eldest singing himself to sleep to the lyrics of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Yeah, I taught him that. All 5 minutes and 55 seconds.

By the way, it’s not like I never spend time with them and I’ve only just realised I like my kids. I spend a lot of time with them, and regularly have sole care of both of them together. Just not for full days and for an entire week where I get to see all the little things going on.

2. It really is a proper job

I now understand better why my wife tells me that looking after the kids continuously is a full-time job.

Firstly, it’s really hard work. Looking after the kids all day, every day is physically exhausting. Once they are up, they are up. It’s very different to an office environment, which is much more mentally tiring. I found at the end of each day my back and arms in particular were pretty strained from all the bending and picking up.

Secondly, there’s just so much to do. For example, feeding them. Sounds easy right? Sure, for one day. But 5 days in a row? Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don’t forget snacks twice a day. Especially when you’ve been a smug git for the past two and half years espousing how your kids only eat proper, healthy, home-cooked food. Which your wife made for them…

Feeling slightly overwhelmed, I enlisted my wife to help me plan out all of the meals for the week. I set myself diary reminders each day to remember what to take out of the freezer (prior batch cooking, a godsend) or what ingredients I needed to pick up. Then I had to actually cook their food during their lunchtime sleep time, my supposed downtime during the day. And that’s before I even considered feeding myself or cooking dinner for us.

3. There’s so much cleaning to do

We decided a while back to be hipsters and do baby-led weaning (read about it here in case you’re not familiar).

It’s pretty fun, has worked a treat in making our kids good eaters, plus I’m convinced it helps the kids developmentally, for example with their fine motor skills (you should see my 10 month old eating peas).

But it’s so messy. Five times a day. On my hands and knees wiping down their high chairs and clearing food from the floor.

Plus there’s everything else:

  • cleaning the kids after meals (we just wash them in the sink, it’s just easier and cuts down on using wet wipes)
  • cleaning their bibs
  • loading and emptying the dishwasher, endlessly (I’m now a stacker Pro), including bottles, bottles, bottles
  • changing nappies (a lot of food consumed = a lot of nappies to change)
  • washing and drying clothes
  • Etc etc etc

There were times when I wanted to play with the kids, but I had to tell them to wait as I was clearing up. I’d then suddenly find it was 20 minutes later as there was so much to do.

4. Keeping busy is key

In addition to planning meals, I also planned our activities. A playgroup here, a soft play there, meet a friend (aka my mum), go to museum etc etc.

Basically, avoid at all costs being stuck in the house on my own with the kids. Time just seems to go a whole lot slower when the only activity you’ve got to do is play with your two year old’s train set. Or rather, that’s fine as a filler for 15–20 minutes, but not for three hours in the morning.

So dads, if ever you look after multiple kids for a few days in a row, do yourself a favour and get out and get active.

Which takes me to my final learning…

5. It can be lonely being a full-time parent.

As per point 4, I took the kids out a lot.

But I found it really hard to talk to other stay-at-home parents who had clearly been doing this a while.

Several times I found myself sitting on the outside of groups of parents chatting, wishing I could ask them how on earth you keep a 10-month old on his changing table. Or what to do when your two year old starts throwing food at you. Or why my kids always seem to sleep in when I need to get up early, but wake up early when I don’t need to get up.

I’m sure I could have plucked up more courage to introduce myself and start a conversation, but I do wish a few would have welcomed me into discussions.

So for any more experienced stay-at-home parents reading this, if you see a parent on their own (whether it’s a mum or dad), please say “hi” – it might mean a lot to them.

Conclusion

I had a really fun but tiring week. I respect my wife, and all other stay at home parents out there, even more than I did before.

I highly recommend all Dads do this. Think of it as a “day in the life” project, which you’ve probably done for your customers at work, but maybe not for your own partner.

Josh Sasto is Operations Lead at Koru Kids

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