Stay-at-home dad: I came into the lockdown as a relatively spry 35-year-old. I am now 72
Being cooped up with the kids is almost comically difficult but it will make us better parents
Darragh Geraghty with his son.
Let’s look at the positives. My position as a stay-at-home dad is no longer even remotely unique. Nearly all of us became stay-at-home parents recently. People finally understand what I’ve been banging on about. We all experienced the same joys and frustrations.
Everyone gets it now.
So that’s me out of a job, then.
For most people, it was a baptism of fire. They were forced into this situation, with no choice or negotiation. Many continue to be stay-at-home parents three months after the Covid-19 pandemic hit Ireland.
How do we deal with it?
What’s the best way to get through it?
Our new life is the bowl of asparagus Kevin Spacey flings across the room in American Beauty. See? Everything has changed so much. Even my 90s pop-culture references are missing the mark. And honestly, that’s all I ever had going for me.
I won’t give up. I will nail this analogy. Our life is George Clooney, cast adrift in Gravity. No, that won’t do, either. Too obvious.
Our life is Donnie Darko: confusing.
Our life is Speed 2: utterly pointless.
Our life is the pie in American Pie: completely f**ked.
My God. I’ve lost it.
Anyway, back to the positives.
Empathy is a powerful thing. This pandemic has been extraordinarily disruptive. Life as we knew it is on pause. Lives lost, jobs lost, freedom to do what we always took for granted lost. Those of us lucky enough to remain healthy have nonetheless been hobbled. These are painful and obvious consequences of the virus, but there are other, more ethereal disruptions. A small, persistent nugget of fear and doubt now resides in all of us. The imagined future we looked forward to no longer exists. Ahead lies only uncertainty.
But think about this: we are all experiencing the pandemic together. That sounds obvious; of course we are all experiencing it together. But really, it is an extraordinary thing. Never before has the world been so united in common understanding. It is the most unexpected gift, if we choose to accept it.
It’s hard now, but in the long run this experience will make us better parents. I’m sure it already has.
This pandemic has afforded us the incredibly unique opportunity to reassess the natural order of things; to think about what’s really important
Now that we’ve been cooped up with the kids for so long, there are a few things we can all agree on.
Firstly, this is difficult. Almost comically difficult. Playing intensely with a three-year-old for an hour before breakfast is just plain exhausting. I came into the lockdown as a relatively spry 35-year-old. I am now 72.
Secondly, as a direct consequence of the first point, we can now admit the role teachers and childcare workers play in our lives has been grossly undervalued. We ask them to do the exceedingly demanding job of looking after our children, then complain about their holidays? Get the hell out of here.
Give them all a raise.
Dedicate a national holiday to them.
Finally, let us take a moment to show our appreciation and gratitude for the glory of television. There’s plenty to feel guilty about in this life; plopping the kids in front of the TV so you can enjoy your coffee in peace shouldn’t be one of them. All hail Duggee.
This pandemic has afforded us the incredibly unique opportunity to reassess the natural order of things; to think about what’s really important. We can break the habits that have conditioned us for so long, starting with how we behave as parents.
Trying to work from home and look after children is almost impossible, but we’re all doing our best. Hopefully, you have a job to go back to. Maybe you can continue working from home. Whatever happens we will emerge from this strange time as better, more empathetic parents. If your partner stays behind while you go back to work, you’ll understand what they’re going through, because now you’ve gone through it, too.
Consider all the time you’ve spent over the last two months with your children. Although it didn’t always feel like it, that time really was a gift. I’m not saying it has always been a barrel of laughs. At some point or another we’ve all felt like we’re not up to the task. We worry and fret about what this time might do to our kids in the long run. But think of all the ways you’ve kept them entertained and engaged. All the ways you’ve played and seen them grow. You got to know your kids better. You understand what they like and don’t like a little more. You can see what they see more clearly. You might not have noticed it happening, but you can be sure your children did. A small sliver of positivity on the back of the Covid nightmare.
That’s how we become better parents. Keep playing. Keep looking for the positives. More often than not they are right in front of you. And when you find them, hold onto them.
Hold on to them like Kate Winslet holds onto the piece of driftwood at the end of Titanic.
Finally, a 90s reference I can be proud of.