I'm trying to stay away from my computer a little more this week since it's spring break in my neck o' the woods. (I didn't say I was doing a good job at it; just that I was trying!) Anyway, tonight I have a guest post from a fellow writer, stay-at-home parent, and friend from high school. Meet Joe. Then check out his website!
My name is Joe Konrath, and I'm a stay at home dad.
I'm fortunate that my career--fiction writing--allows me to be home full-time with my son, whom I love dearly and whose name escapes me at the moment.
My wife (I think her name is Maria) owns her own dog walking business. That means she's out all day, leaving the household in my care. So I'm responsible for the cooking, the cleaning, and helping our child with his homework, while also working as a novelist with seven published books.
What's my secret? How can I balance being a good father and taking care of everything that needs to be done around the house with a lucrative career in the arts, while remaining happy, healthy, and stress-free?
The answer is simple: I cut corners, do a half-assed job, and let things work themselves out. Because unless someone is bleeding so badly it doesn't stop after forty minutes, chances are I'm not really needed.
Here are my tips on how you can shirk as much responsibility as I do and still have a happy, healthy, somewhat stable child.
Tip 1: Make the children become self-sufficient. One of my favorite photos of our son is from when he was three years old, making himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, his face covered with a good amount of each. A close friend of mine, also male, told me, "How can you make him do that himself? Are you so lazy you can't make a sandwich for your kid?"
Yes. Yes I am that lazy. But that's not the point. Why should I make him lunch when he can do it himself? What is that teaching him? Especially when he can plainly see I'm checking my ranking on Amazon.com for the fifth time that day?
My son is now eleven. He gets up and ready for school by himself, and as been doing that since Kindergarten. He makes his own breakfast and lunch. He also makes dinner for the family once a week, without any help from me, though I am nearby shouting helpful advice such as, "Don't burn yourself" and "Get the steak away from the dog and rinse it off, Mom won't know."
Tip 2: If you're able to tune your children out, they quickly learn problem solving skills without you. These are skills that carry on into adult life. Skills such as putting on their own Band-Aids, basic grooming, laundry, and homework. Especially homework. I think I'm going to print up some T-Shirts that say, "I Am Not Google." I bet a lot of parents would buy them.
Some tricks for tuning your kids out include: feigning sleep, pretending not to hear them, typing something at your computer when they walk into the room (this only works if you're a writer), and turning the tables by asking them what time they're making dinner tonight.
Tip 3: Bribe them. Sure, learning responsibility helps build character and makes your kids into functional, well-rounded adults, but chances are they won't go for it unless they get an allowance. I currently pay my son nine-hundred and eighty dollars a week.
Tip 4: Show them and tell them you love them. The more my son is able to help himself and take care of things around the house, the more quality time I'm able to spend with him, because I'm not locked into doing all of these things myself.
For example, we just spent 18 hours together, father and son bonding while playing Resident Evil 5. Videogames gave us a chance to address some important family issues, such as: How many bullets to the head does it take to drop a zombified alligator, why we need to take turns holding the hand grenades, and how it was his fault, not mine, we lost that last boss fight because he was too busy opening crates to find extra health while I was getting chewed on.
But, Joe, you may ask, what about house cleaning? Didn't you say earlier that you're responsible for the house cleaning?
I am responsible for it, and it's totally my fault that the house cleaning doesn't get done. Usually my wife gets so sick of living in a pig sty that she spends her day off cleaning up. She's usually vocal about it, too, interrupting whatever videogame I'm playing with my son.
JA Konrath is the writer of the Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels series of thrillers, each named after a drink. The sixth, Cherry Bomb, comes out in July. The books are equal parts humor and suspense, sort of a cross between Janet Evanovich and James Patterson. He's also the author of the horror novel, Afraid, written under the pen name Jack Kilborn. Afraid comes out March 31, and Joe insists its the scariest book ever written. But if you're a parent, there probably isn't much left that can scare you, so you should check it out. You can visit Joe at his website,http://jakonrath.com/.
And check out my review and giveaway for a Peek email/texting device HERE!