Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Challanges of being a Stay-At-Home Dad

Let me be completely honest. I didn't think taking care of the kids would be very hard. Cooking, washing clothes, etc, it's not that difficult. My opinion hasn't changed. What has changed is my appreciation of the mental aspects. I had no idea my sanity would be taxed this much. I wanted to have kids, and found, for the most part, I enjoyed dealing with them. I helped teach taekwondo for a few years, so had some small measure of an idea what they were like.

I am still able to deal with my daughters in a way I am happy with, the problem comes when I get frustrated, angry, etc. This, I think, is when most parents act or deal with their children in a way that they are not proud of. We are all human, we all make mistakes The key is reducing those moments to the smallest number possible.

The main mental challenge I face is the isolation. Two year old conversation consists mostly of "Don't do that", or "Put that down!"interspaced with "Why are you crying?", "Tell Daddy what you want", and "Use you words".

In order to keep from going insane, you have to get out. Unfortunately, a few things conspire to make this difficult. Firstly, I am a bit of a home body. I like to stay at home, in my sanctuary. Having two the same age also makes it more difficult, as well as Jocelyn's situation.

But the last thing is the most difficult. People can claim otherwise, but the only reason any parent takes the kids anywhere is to talk to other adults and have an adult conversation. The kids don't really care. My daughter will find a cardboard box or a rock as interesting as a trip, so why go through all the trouble of getting them dressed, getting diapers, toys, wipes, food, etc together just to go somewhere when they would be just as happy at home?

It's for the parents.

That is where being a man is a problem. In this area of Alberta anyway, being a stay at home dad is still a bit of a novelty. Based on my own observations, 99.9% of all stay at home parents are women. When the Wife was pregnant, she came across a stay at home mom group advertising at the local mall. She asked if her husband could join, as he was going to stay home with the kids. They laughed. They were tripping over themselves once they saw she was serious, but, even with all the crap about equality over the past 20 years, it did not occur to them that she might be serious.

So how to join one of these groups? Although I am sure I would be outwardly welcomed, (politically correctness and all that) I feel a bit uncomfortable. It is always all women except me, and I feel like an outsider. I feel like the only guy at the slumber party and I am somehow inhibiting these people from being themselves. I understand that, as any group of guys is not the same when there are women in the group. Besides, they want to talk about women things, which I am not very interested in. The only thing we share in common is raising kids, and that is the last thing I want to talk about. The only solution is some sort of Dad group.

As you can imagine, in our area there are plenty of mom groups around. Dads, not so much. Stay at home dads are somewhat like sightings of Bigfoot or the Lock Ness Monster. When people find out I look after the kids, they often say they know a friend of a friend of a friend who stays at home with their kids. However, no one knows their names or has ever met them. So far, I have heard of two other men in our town looking after kids, and both of these had all the detail and credibility of a Bigfoot sighting.

If there are any guys in the Edmonton area wanting to prevent kid-induced insanity, drop me a line.

Monday, March 31, 2008

A Severe Lack of Posting

I haven't posted on this blog for over three months. I just haven't felt like it.

Well, that is not completely true. When the problem with my daughter came about, the focus of this blog changed. The political of differences in world view between my wife and I became less important. I hoped that this blog would be more about dealing with our situation and would provide information to other stay at home dads and those dealing with one mentally handicapped twin. A somewhat small set of people.

I hoped that this blog would provide information and support. I hoped it would provide hope.

And that is the real reason for a lack of posting. The truth is I have not been very hopeful these last few months. In fact, I have been depressed. More depressed than I have been anytime in my life.

I think I am a generally upbeat person, more about getting on with it than wallowing in mistakes or situations that I could not change. I recognize now that there have been difficult times in the past that have affected me. But never has it been this bad.

The truth is I am not interested in getting up in the morning. Each day is exactly the same. Get up, change babies, stop one of them from doing various things, encouraging others, feed them, make dinner, put them to bed. Repeat until death. In fact, I have spent more time in escapist pursuits, such as reading, to make me forget about my situation. In fact, I am like a crack addict, my life being counted out between "hits", except my hits are those times when I can forget that my life is all about menial tasks that never end, and will never end because one of my children will never be able to take care of herself in any way.

I have more respect for my stay at home mom than ever. I don't know how she did it and I have felt many times over the past few months that I cannot. I always thought I would be a good father. Staying home and looking after the children has made me question that.

In addition to constantly questioning my fitness as a parent, there is Jocelyn. I can't help but be depressed every time I think about her. With what limited mental capacity she has, I can still see a personality there. All I can think about is the lost potential of her life. And the close sister that Katherine is missing out on. The unique experience of having an identical twin, which should have been a wonderful experience for both of them, is gone.

And then, in moments of my own selfishness, I think of myself. The one thing about having kids and going through all this with them is the thought that they will eventually grow up. I can survive a few years of changing diapers and blowing runny noses if there is light at the end of the tunnel. Except there is no light. Jocelyn will never grow up. For the rest of my life or hers, I will be looking after an infant. The only release from this obligation will be death of one of us. Since if I die I won't care about getting my life back, the only way my family will ever be normal is if she does. And it is a likely occurrence. Most kids in her situation survive five or ten years. So, my salvation from a life of being responsible for every aspect of my child's life is her death. I hate thinking this. Yet I cannot imagine what life would be like without her and I would miss her terribly. So, release from this obligation means a giant hole in my life and the guilt that some part of me, however small, wished for it to happen. Or I can continue to have this obligation, with no end in sight and the feelings that go along with it.

I have heard how often some people, after many years of life, are accepting of death. Either they feel they have lived a good life or welcome death as a release from pain, physical or emotional. I never understood that. I always thought that I would want to live forever, always interested in what might happen next and in seeing everything there might be to see in this universe.

Not anymore.