Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Thin Walls Between Working At Home And Insanity

If you've never been to triplethedad before, or you don't know me IRL, let me introduce myself: I'm a work-at-home Dad (WAHD) of 20-month-old triplets.  I'm sure you've already reacted in one (or maybe both) of two ways:

1) Triplets? Oh god.  
2) I'd love to work at home and take care of my kids!

I base the first on personal experience with people I meet.  The second I base on a mix of experience and the amount of advertisements I see offering Moms home-based jobs (most of those aren't real, FYI).  From those ads it appears working from home is a parents' dream.  

You probably paint a great picture in your head of what it is like: Working from home, doting on your little ones, able to check in on them at a minute's notice.  At the first sign of a whimper you can rush to their rescue.  It must be great, right?  You could finally earn a much needed paycheck while also showering your child with all the time and attention you want.  

It isn't all bad; but I'm here to tell you it isn't what you imagine.

First of all, I never leave the house.  As in: I. Never. Leave. The. House.  My day starts when the kids rise.  My wife hops in the shower.  I change all three.  Downstairs we go for breakfast.  Feed all three. Our childcare arrives.  I make my wife's lunch.  Out the door she goes. Hey, did we get in a goodbye kiss?  I can't remember.  Off to my office, 15 feet away.  Work. Work. Work.  What's that?  The childcare is leaving?  Already?  Downstairs I head for two or three hours of Daddy and triplets time.  Sometimes it is Daddy, triplets and work time.  This mostly involves me attempting to work while they tug at my legs.

My wife comes home, we eat, the kids eat, and we run those last couple hours before bed.  Then we launch ourselves, exhausted, onto the couch.  Could I leave?  Sure.  But where, realistically, would I go at 9 p.m. when I have wake at 7 a.m.?  Nowhere, that is where.

I realize that doesn't make me much different than the typical stay-at-home parent.  Still, its not exactly a selling point.

But still, you ask, it must be great to see my kids whenever I want during the day, to be able to go down and care for their every need?  To see all the fun little things they do, every new expression and learned skill for the first time.  Well, again, not really.  Because my every appearance, while it meets with uplifting shouts of glee, ends with crying tantrums just as heart wrenching.  So I mainly stay away.  And forget trying to work within eyesight of my kids.  Working in a space they can access merely results in leg pulling and crying and devolves into three-way pushing matches to catch what little scraps of attention I can send their way.  Even working on the other side of a gate doesn't work: that merely results in three toddlers crying at the gate like repentant prisoners.  So I mostly stay away during the work day.

That isn't to say its all bad.  I have no commute.  As a result I take my time and relish the morning with them.  I enjoy changing and feeding them and often, if I can stretch it out, miss out on cleaning them up.  If time it just right I can sneak down and catch them while they are distracted by lunch, allowing me to sneak away again without many tears.

And from my upstairs office I can sometimes hear the pitter-patter of little feet, a random toy dinging off a wall or a delighted squeal.

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