From carefree lad to stressed Dad: two different Friday nights

I didn’t realise how easy life used to be until I had kids. Now I’m a Stressed Dad – an official condition recognised by half of the medical community – I can see that the pressures of life as I used to know it are things I now deal with in between the real stresses of being a modern Dad. Take a typical Friday night from then and now…

Diary of a carefree lad, one Friday about 4 years ago

16.00: As the chief instigator of Pub Club, I switch off my computer, round up the office troops and head to the Cross Keys in south Leeds.
16:10: We’ve got the best seats in the place, the life-giving elixirs have been poured and in about an hour we’ll stop moaning about work.
18:30: I check my phone and, happily, there’s no message from the Duchess-in-waiting. Where have the last few hours gone, I wonder as I nod at whoever is heading towards the bar? Still, I’ve got time for at least another two or three pints of Roosters.
19:50: The last pint of the night for me always costs around £25 in emergency expense. The Duchess calls to ask where I am and I realise I shouldn’t have accepted the most recent offering. I reassure her I’m on my way, which means gulping my drink, getting a taxi rather than a bus and hitting the local shops for a few peace offerings.
20:15: The Duchess sees the fish n’ chips and bottle of white wine, smiles and tells me to remember the vinegar.
02:30: The Duchess switches off the TV, puts a blanket over me and moves by half-full glass.

Diary of a stressed Dad, earlier this Friday evening

16:00: I switch off my computer and head to the bus stop to catch the number 2 to the nursery.
16:55: I open the buggy left by the Duchess that morning and head upstairs to collect Boy Wonder.
17:05: We grab his bag and go back downstairs to the baby room to find Little Buddha sat sleepily on the carer’s lap. She smiles when she sees BW, whimpers when she spies me stood behind him.
17:15: LB doesn’t want her winter coat on, nor to be strapped into the buggy. While I struggle with her, all the time pretending to the nursery manager in the adjacent office that I’ve got everything under control, BW decides to head upstairs to see his friends once more.
17:25: LB is calm in the buggy but looks cold despite the blanket and hat. BW wants to walk beside us, then get on the buggy board, then walk, then sit on the board. We’ve moved about 10 yards in 10 minutes. I pack away the board for good, pass him a gingerbread man and tell him he’s walking to the bus stop.
17:40: Thankfully, the bus arrives fairly soon. I tell BW not to run down the bus or else he’ll fall. While I get the buggy on and pay my fare, BW runs off, stumbles, looks back at me like it’s my fault. I sit him down near to the buggy section and spend the journey stopping him from standing up, pressing the button or dropping his treat.
17:55: I carry BW into the house, switch off the alarm. Get the buggy in, shut the door, take off BW’s shoes and coat, get LB out of the buggy. Put LB down while I sort her bottle, warm BW’s cow’s milk, park him in front of the latest episode of Mike the Knight.
18:05: I catch my runaway daughter, take off her three layers of clothing, hold her while I wrestle BW to the ground and strip off his clothes. It’s funny but I’ve forgotten how to laugh.
18:10: The moment they both sit in the warm bath water, they smile, laugh and squeal with delight. BW guffaws at his sister as I wash her hair. Then wails when I wash his blonde locks, admonishing his little sister for daring to smile.
18:20: I pull the plug, get LB out and dry her on the bathroom floor. I lift out BW and wrap him in a big towel. Get LB into her vest and sleepsuit, give her a toy in BW’s room while I then argue about which pyjmaas he can and can’t wear. In the end we compromise: warm trousers chosen by me; a thin, short-sleeved cotton top chosen by him.
18:25: I put on another episode of Mike the Knight, take LB up to my room and give her the milk. I get her into a gro-bag, kiss her, switch off the light and leave her with some gentle lullabies.
18:35: I let BW have ‘one more’ episode, cuddle him on the sofa, ask him properly about his day at nursery.
19:00: I brush his teeth, read him a story, cuddle him, do some alphabet letters from his wall poster, cuddle him some more, put on his Paddington audio book, blow him a kiss, switch off the light and close the door.
19:15: I get some beers from the garage, open one, put my dinner in the oven and stare at the ever-busy washing basket.

So, Friday nights are a bit different now…

  • Am I being a bit of a martyr? Absolutely! My few hours tonight would be bread and butter to the Duchess. She’s had the kids all week and still cleaned the house before her night shift on the one day they’re both in nursery. But I’m a man.
  • Do I miss the carefree Friday nights? Of course. Which tired, hassled parent doesn’t hanker for the days of a bit of selfish relaxation?
  • Do I feel sorry for myself? Not at all. Parenting is full of tiny, fleeting joys: expressions, words, movements, gestures. I got pissed for 20 years and more. My kids are growing up fast. One day I’ll look back and see these were the best days of my life.
  • Am I glad the Duchess isn’t working next Friday? Fuck yes!
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