Dear Fellow Dads,
Let me guess . . . the wife has left you alone, totally in charge of the kids, and suddenly you're overwhelmed with uncertainty, right? Are those small little faces staring up at you in disbelief, wondering how the next three to four hours are going to play out (and how much they'll be able to get away with)? Have you thought about what you'll say to your friends if they call in the midst of all this to hang out? Here's my first and only warning: do NOT, under any circumstances, call it babysitting. I've heard it before and have often been guilty of saying it myself, but dads, we have to do better.
It's not babysitting when they're your own kids. You're not a 13-year-old girl getting paid $12.19 an hour (the ongoing rate for babysitting nowadays), which seems a little steep to me, so hopefully my current babysitters aren't reading this. You're every bit as responsible for dirty diapers, mealtime, and sleep schedules as mom is. And when your babysitter does come over, you should be able to do everything they can do (times 10), because you're their carer, you know, for the rest of their lives. Here are four important steps to assure you're pulling your parental weight.
- Learn to cook. Look, you might not win any culinary awards by putting water in a pot, turning on the stove, and pouring noodles in when it comes to a boil, but you have to know the basics on how to feed your kids (aside from ordering their favorite pizza). Even if your kids call it "not completely ruining it" instead of cooking, you're at least off to a good start. If it's edible, great, but don't stop there. Keep learning.
- Be able to multitask. If you're hanging with your kids while a big game or sporting event is on, don't worry — I'm not advising you to turn the game off. But you do have to be totally aware of your surroundings while checking the TV. You know when your wife or partner can be on the phone, making food, getting dressed, and listening for sibling fights upstairs all at the same time? Yeah, master that. Listen to the game while also keeping an ear out for every small sound. The last thing you want to find is them swinging from a light fixture because you turned your head for two seconds (take it from me — see above).
- Be stocked with essentials at all times. As a father of six kids, I'll go ahead and share a little secret with you: baths are out. I mean, who has 20 minutes to spare at all, let alone when a big game is going on? Time is money, or in this case, an entire half of the basketball game I desperately want to watch. But don't worry, wet wipes are your friend, and those kids will be as good as new after a couple thorough wipes up and down the body. Parenting is all about winging it, and if my wife has taught me anything, it's that you can get away with a lot more than you think you can (she shampoos her hair with cans of aerosol, aka dry shampoo, after all).
- Put the kids to bed. Never, and I mean never, keep your kids up late enough for your wife or partner to get home. The truth is, her entire reason for going out was probably to avoid the bedtime routine entirely, and she might not have done anything while she was out but sit in her car long enough for the kids to be in bed. I don't blame her, because bedtime is worse than listening to your 6-year-old practice the violin. Get it done, dads! Even it means getting out the "all natural" melatonin, using some weird lavender oils, or hiring a local hypnotist, your ONLY real duty is to make sure their butts are in bed by the time the boss comes home. Do not fail.
So, dads, there you have it. If you're lacking in any of the basic areas I mentioned above (all of which are mastered by moms without a second thought), you have some serious work to do. Get to it.
A Dad Who's Got Your Back