Monday, September 27, 2010

Mr. Mom Chronicles: Working At Home

I'm in the middle of typing out an e-mail to a source on a story when my two-year-old boy climbs up into my lap with a book, "Put Me in the Zoo."

"Booky?" he asks.

This is slightly annoying -- I've got work to do. But the boy is part of my work, too. If I'm going to be a stay-at-home-dad-slash-freelance-writer, then I can't neglect the dad part of the equation. Even if doing so would make the writing part of that equation much easier.

So I read the book. Tobias climbs down, retrieves another tome and brings it to me. "Booky?"

"No, son. I've read you one, and I've got to get this done. Can you read it to yourself?"

Tobias doesn't like the idea. He raises the book high over his head, then slams it down to the ground. Then he toddles off.

We're one week into this experiment -- ok, we're a week into my new way of living life -- and it's clear that this is the battle I'm going to have to fight every day. I've got to write enough to bring in my (desperately needed) share of the family income. But I've also got to give the boy attention and nurturing.

When I'm writing, he wants to play with me. When I'm making a phone call he wants to play with his sound-making toys -- or he wants to play with my phone. This would all be much easier if he would just take a goddamned nap, but that's only happened once this week.(Which I deserve: I drove my mom insane by never once taking a nap after 18 months.)

I've tried putting him in his room behind a baby gate. Sometimes he'll take it. Sometimes he won't. I've had to dump him in his crib for 10 minutes at one point just so I could finish writing a piece with a clear head. I feel bad about this. I'm home with him! I'm the parent! I don't really want to shuttle him off to day care -- and I couldn't afford it now, even if I did.

But always, the work is calling. I don't think I'm going to solve this problem. I think that's simply the way it is.

13 comments:

diana said...

As you've not asked for advice, read no further unless you're curious. This unsolicited advice is courtesy of a free-lance writer who stayed home with three kids who are now grown.

A young child has no comprehension of time, your needs and wants or the concept of interference except how it applies to him. Young children do understand when the doorbell rings, the door can be opened to find someone there. This is to say you can effectively use Pavlovian conditioning to teach your son how to get what he wants without having to ask (and without interfering with you, although this is not yet on his give-crap-o-meter).

The rule right now, as you've set it up and he has learned, says the boy has a 50/50 chance of getting what he wants if he asks (or, presumably, keeps asking). The flipside of this is there's a 100% chance you'll have to stop what you're doing (either to give him what he wants or {{snicker}} explain to him why he can't have it right then or at all).

Put a timer in charge of both of you. For two hours busy yourself at the computer, but not with work. At the beginning of the hour tell him you've set the timer (set it for 10 minutes), and when it goes DING! you will read him a book of his choosing (or color with him, whatever). Before starting your father/son activity, set the timer for five minutes. Tell him when the timer goes off you have to "get back to work." Set the timer for another 10 minutes, tell him when it goes off you'll read/color/whatever. Reset the time for 5 minutes, again telling him you have to go back to work when it goes DING!

Do this 10-minute/5-minute routine for an hour. Do a 15-minute/5-minute routine for the next hour. The next day, take two hours to do a 20-minute/5-minute routine. Take two more hours to do a 30-minute/5-minute routine. Meet his every "Now, dad!" with, "I'm so sorry, son. I can't. The timer hasn't gone off yet."

You are teaching him a new way to get what he wants so his wants don't get in the way of your work. He knows he will get what he wants when the timer goes off. You know you have until the timer goes off to get work done. If you need more than 30 minutes at a time to get your work done over the course of the day, I strongly encourage you to hire a sitter or take a job outside the home. If you hire a sitter, refrain from calling yourself a Stay-at-home-Dad around anyone who knows you've hired a sitter.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Antihistamines. I know someone who's used them to good effect.

(And this is probably why it's good that I'm not a parent.)

KhabaLox said...

I like diana's idea a lot. I'd like to try it, but I'm not a stay-at-home dad.

The only thing I'll add (or repeat) is you have to be consistent. Our 2.75 year old always used to say, "I'm tired!" when he got upset (e.g. we told him "No"). So whenever he said that, I made him go lie down in his bed, telling him, "If you are tired, you need to lay down." He still tries that trick, but it happens less and less now.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Okay, I guess Diana's idea is less likely to get Child Protective Services called in.

Bonus! It also forces *you* to work until the timer goes off!

(word verification: "brivesso": something very, very, minutely brief.)

Work From Home said...

I think it's good to spend a little time with him then after awhile it's also good to let him now that you need to work. Just balancing and multi-tasking :)

hafijar said...

A young child has no comprehension of time, your needs and wants or the concept of interference except how it applies to him.

hafijar said...

Put a timer in charge of both of you. For two hours busy yourself at the computer, but not with work.

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