On EFM SAHDiness*, or Being A Diplodad

I never thought that I would be a Stay At Home Diplodad (SAHD). I never thought about the possibility, never considered it, nor wanted it as a career option. Even when wife joined the FS and became diplowife, I naïvely thought that I would have an easy time finding a job and, in fact, Eligible Family Member (EFM) employment possibilities is one of our top criteria when looking for future posts.

But then we had an election in 2016. A hiring freeze was implemented and EFM employment ground to a standstill, leaving important embassy functions unperformed. Embassy desks lay empty and my fellow FS spouses and myself are left twiddling our thumbs and waiting for an extremely scarce job posting for which to apply. I’ve discussed EFM hiring at some length already (here) so I won’t continue to beat that drum. So…what do I do now?

We have 2 little diplokids, so I’ve made the transition to Stay At Home Diplodad. This is the most difficult career transition I’ve ever made. A big reason for that is because, except for a few short periods, I’ve always been super busy with multiple jobs: in college I consistently worked 2 or 3 jobs while going to school full time, then I worked full time through grad school, then after Peace Corps I worked 2 jobs while diplowife went to grad school (and also worked full time–because she is awesome!). Between and after that, we had dogs and kids and packed and unpacked and moved multiple times until we transitioned into FS life, where we packed and unpacked again, albeit now with 2 children and 2 dogs. So we are accustomed to being pretty busy. SAHD life is way different from going to an office every day. I’m busy, but it’s a different kind of busy. Instead of “I need to respond to Peter’s urgent email about budget appropriations” busy, it’s “OMG my toddler just pooped himself and the baby is crying and where is the toddler’s school bag and the dog just ran out of the house and we have to leave in 2 minutes to get to school with the carpool and I haven’t had my coffee yet WHERE IS MY COFFEE!!!???” type of busy. While taking care of an infant who sometimes can’t seem to go 5 seconds without being held and with a toddler in preschool, I have a lot more “free time”, but not free hands.

So what do I do all day?

I wake up at the same time as diplowife so I can take the dogs out to do their business before the kids are up, then I feed them, start the coffee pot, and pack diplowife’s work bag and pour our coffees. If the kids are still asleep, I get to enjoy a cup or two and catch up on news or write this fantastic blog, depending on today’s internet connection. Once they wake up, I’m changing diapers/dressing kids/feeding kids/chasing a toddler/making breakfast for the next hour or so. If S is in school, I usually drive him and a neighbor to school, which is an hour round trip so I get to listen to a news podcast on the on the way if there isn’t too much screaming in the car. If he’s not in school, then he will begin making messes/scream/cry/laugh/eat/drink/snort/scream for the next 18 hours. D is relatively easy by comparison, but he needs to be held for about 90% of the day, so that’s usually what I’m doing while I’m trying to do other things. I get him on his activity mat and do tummy time a few times per day or let him play in his bouncy chair if I need a break to eat or just sit for a minute. I’ve tried out a baby carrier but he hasn’t taken to it yet. For the rest of the day I’m trying to research vacation things (raise your hand if you’re always planning your next vacation), look for jobs, prep for job interviews, run errands, etc. Our housekeeper comes between 9 and 10 and stays until 3 or 4 so thankfully I don’t have to worry about cleaning, laundry, or cooking, because those things couldn’t possibly get done. Wife comes home at noon for lunch, which is usually just long enough for me to take the dogs out again. S comes home from school around 2:30, so we will play, read, go over alphabet/numbers/shapes flash cards, or go to the park when he arrives via carpool. Once diplowife gets home from work around 3:30 or 4, I’m usually physically and emotionally exhausted enough from holding/feeding/bouncing/consoling/laughing with D that I need a break, so we have worked out some free time for me to study while she takes the kids to the park. After my study/workout time, we heat up and eat dinner, which takes at least 2 hours because we have to fight to get S to eat. After he eats, we bathe him and get him to bed, and then we try to get some free time together if it’s possible.

So that’s it. I’ve tried to explain to diplowife what I do all day, but it usually comes in exasperated text messages like, “Let’s discuss later, poop explosion.” For those who choose to be stay-at-home parents, my hat is off to you. This is tough work! Personally, I’d rather be at the office, but it’s great to know that I have a significant hand in my kids’ development so I’m trying to make the most of that.

*Note: SAHDiness, not SAHDness. I’m not sad to be a SAHD. It’s just weird.

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