Today, my husband has to be at work related functions from 6 in the morning until 10 at night. I am alone with our 20-month-old for all of those hours.
I woke up, came downstairs, offered him 15 different options for breakfast, only to have each of them rejected after a couple of bites. Then he went into the baking cupboard and returned with a 5 lb bag of powdered sugar and threw it at my face, saying “peeeese??” As I gently explained that we would not be having powdered sugar as one of the courses in our gourmet breakfast tasting menu, he threw himself and his cereal bowl onto the floor in a fit of tears and whole milk. I walked away and called his daycare to let them know to expect him at 10 o’clock this morning. I am a stay-at-home mom.
Technically, I’m a work-at-home mom. WAHM, if you will. I write content for the internet. But since it’s something I can do in my underwear and while drinking, it doesn’t really count as a “job.” Also, it doesn’t technically pay well enough to keep us in laundry detergent, so I’m not going to start listing myself as “gainfully employed” unless I’m trying to beat someone at Potluck Wife Competition. So, in fairness to myself and the economy, I just refer to myself as a “stay-at-home mom, or SAHM.”
I have one child and have scammed the system to maximize his time being kept alive by other people. If you have children, I’m going to assume you feel similarly, and being that it’s summer, I’m going to also assume that you might already be getting tired of those looooong, hot days with your own children. I’m sure not all of you have access to the same types of baby-removal services, but surely something here will apply to your situation. Here are my “outs” :
1. He attends two half-days of daycare a week at a local preschool/childcare center. It’s a walk from our house, and he loves his teacher and friends. When he walks in, the kids all say “HI EMMETT!” and start attacking each other with dinosaurs and magnets shaped like dogs. He finger paints, eats meals of food that don’t consist only of fruit snacks, almonds, and bananas, naps on a cot, gets in fights, and then comes home happy and with shoddily assembled arts and crafts for me to guiltily store for future admiration.
Childless hours: 10 Cost: $116/week
2. Our gym, which is amazing, has an Aveda spa, a cafe, two pools, and lots of space to hang out. I have friends there, both members and staff, and I like going. They have WiFi in the cafe. Their daycare center is complete with basketball courts and computer learning centers and crayon tables and a huge climbing gym. Emmett likes it (when he’s not biting the other children), and the only caveat is that you have to stay on site, and they will call you down to deal with any misbehavior or diaper situations.
Childless hours: 2/day, about 3x a week. Cost: $6/month (No, I’m not kidding. Lifetime Fitness. Check them out)
3. My sister takes him for one morning a week where he attends story time at the library. My sister is broody and my mom is a librarian. This works out well for all three of them. After story time, he goes to the park across the street from the library and plays. Eventually, my sister returns with him for his nap, which is when I take over parenting duty again. I am an excellent parent during nap time. I rarely make noise, and I gaze lovingly at his monitor, admiring his sweaty hair and Cupid’s bow mouth.
Childless hours: 3-4 Cost: Free (…except for the panic associated with letting my sister drive my son in her car, something I’ve let her do twice now that she bought a car seat and had it installed by firefighters and is only allowed to drive within a 2 mile radius of my house).
4. About once a week, he has a playdate at a friend’s house. Usually it’s his girlfriend, Abigail, who is 3 days younger than he is and has a very maternal mommy. They play in the playroom, exchange awkward kisses, bicker over blocks and pieces of plastic food, and whip each other with those dangly cat toys. He really likes hanging out with his girlfriend, and since they’ve known each other since birth, and her mom is a registered nurse and amazing person, I’m totally comfortable leaving him there.
Childless hours: 4 Cost: Free, unless you call a traded day where I have two toddlers for 4-8 hours as payment.
5. Sunday mornings, my mom and sister take him to the Farmer’s Market and coffee shop while my husband and I go do something. Anything. Sometimes it’s gardening. Sometimes it’s errands. Sometimes it’s going and looking at leather furniture and me begging him tearfully to allow me to buy furniture that I can easily wipe banana from with a baby wipe. Sometimes it’s playing[amazon_link id="B0050SYX8W" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Halo[/amazon_link] and getting into smack-talking conversations with other 15-year-olds who are playing online. Sometimes it’s going to see The Avengers in the theater and talking about how Chris Hemsworth is my newest celebrity freebie. Sometimes it’s just staring at a wall and seeing green crayon and whispering, “How have we fallen so far?” The point is, it’s all about revitalizing your relationship with your partner, and that’s what I get to do on Sunday mornings while my baby is in the caring hands of family. When he’s old enough for Sunday School, I get to be even more self-righteous about Sunday morning free-time.
Childless hours: 3 Cost: Free monetarily, but he does end up eating a lot of sugar while he’s with them and acting like a crazed baboon afterwards.
6. Every night when my husband gets home from work, I have taught the wee one to say, “Daddy! I love you!,” and run to him for an hour of play and reading and demanding cheese and eggs at least 16 times each before bed. I also have negotiated a 4-hour block each weekend where Daddy is in charge of the baby and I leave to go play flag football or run errands or go out for drinks or do whatever I want without guilt. My philosophy is that dads are 50% of the parenting team, and it’s not my fault if he chooses to use his free time to do things like go to work or commute. AMIRITE??
Childless hours: 10 Cost: Some nagging, and I have to give him a 4-hour weekend block in return, but monetarily, this is free!
Total Childless Hours Per Week (or TCHPW): 37 hours Total Cost Per Week: About $117 dollars, plus 8 hours of double baby duty, plus 4 hours of sole weekend baby duty, plus some sacrifices, i.e: comfort level, other people driving him, other people feeding him things.
Overall, I’m basically a genius at escaping; I’m The Harry Houdini of Toddler Avoidance. Now, lest you think I’m lazy or don’t love my child, let me remind you of two things: First, I am still the sole caregiver for 30 hours a week, plus the joint caregiver for 101 hours a week. This is a lot of time with someone who routinely has menstrual-like meltdowns, poops their pants, and doesn’t speak enough English to tell me much more than “cheese,” “shoes,” and “nope!”
I know not everyone can afford daycare. I know not everyone has family in town. But for sure you have friends you can trade with, or a gym that is also willing to parent, or a dog park with a fence that your children can run around in without getting hit by cars or requiring a diaper…right?