The first major obstacle, and there would be many, that I had to wrap my head around when I first became a stay-at-home-dad was laundry. With a thirteen-month-old boy, there was always laundry to be done. Growing up my mother always had a dedicated day for laundry, usually Saturdays but sometimes Sundays. By the time I got to college and started washing my own clothes I noticed religious undertones to doing laundry; for some it was like the Sabbath, a day dedicated to observing nothing but washing machines and dryers.
But with an infant, laundry can be a daily routine. There are burp cloths, drool bibs and exploding diapers. It is basically impossible to keep a baby’s clothes clean - they puke, they piss, they crawl, and they cry - there’s not a moment in their existence at this stage of life when they possibly can’t soil their clothes.
Laundry, and the constant need to do it, was the first household chore to make me feel like I was going mentally ill. It was like trying to stave off waves from the sand castle you built at the beach as a kid, a useless and plumb silly task. And just when you thought you’d gotten a hand on the boy’s laundry, along came time to wash our clothes. I had to have a crash course from my wife in the basics of “line drying” clothes and told that it was imperative that I read the labels as to how to care for certain articles of clothes. Curses! It just seemed to never end. As a matter of fact, almost seven years later I still find that there’s always a load of laundry to be done only now I sometimes ignore the pile of dirty clothes until they get up and walk away.
It would pretty much be the same way with dishes. There would always be a bottle to wash. Although we were still breast feeding our son, my wife had to pump her breasts so there was always an arsenal of breast pump mechanics to be disinfected and cleaned as well. I began to formulate a design for the man-boob; some sort of breast-like device that a father could wear that would simulate the scenario of breastfeeding on mom’s teat. I’m sure it has been invented by now.
The dishwasher and the laundry machines became my new best friends, we shared coffee and conversation together most mornings although they weren’t very good at conversation – it was pretty much a one-way street but they were very attentive and great listeners.
In keeping with the cleaning m.o., I started a very intimate relationship with our vacuum cleaner. Much like dishes and dirty clothes, there wasn’t a day that went by that I felt I couldn’t find a reason to use the vacuum. That first Christmas after I became an at-home dad my wife got me one of those Dirt Devil hand-held vacuums, the only downside to the Dirt Devil was that it didn’t come with a holster. It would be much further into my tour of duty that I would discover the genius that is the Swiffer and his glorious cousin the Wet Swiffer. Somewhere down the line, I began thinking about leaving my Hoover for a Dyson, but those Dysons I just couldn’t afford.
There’s one common thread here and that is my own anal retentiveness. I found that I was becoming completely obsessive about trying to have everything clean all the time. A few years later I would learn to let go, that it was OK to not have the household clean as a whistle 24/7. I realized that the pursuit of such a thing would drive you completely bonkers. I also have come to the conclusion that it is perfectly okay to be bonkers.