My wife, who skillfully manages our four children, works Tuesday evenings - she calls it time out. As I walked in the house on a recent Tuesday evening, I hear Meghan (4) screaming. Tim (12) is mercilessly teasing her by hiding her teddy bear. Pat (14) is hollering from the basement at Tim; and the phone is ringing. The ringing stops, which means Maura (16) got it.
When Meghan hears me enter she runs crying "Tim's teasing me and I'm hungry." I ask the boys, "Why didn't you feed her?" Tim responds, "she didn't say she was hungry." Pat runs up from the basement and reminds me I have to take him to guitar practice now or he'll be late.
Maura bounces down the steps, pokes her finger in my ribs and shouts, "I need help with my Algebra but give me the keys 'cause I have to run to school to get my history book and Mom says give Meghan a bath before you put her to bed and have the kitchen looking as nice as it did when she left, which was spotless." I won't tell you how I reacted that evening. As married-with-children typically means both partners are working, the need to cope with such situations has become a daily necessity. For you fathers, who haven't acquired the natural mothering instincts, here are some pointers I've learned the hard way to ease the pressures of work and family: Don't think that by ignoring the family they'll go away. If pressures at home build because of schedules, personalities, etc. deal with them. Rather than react to events like I did, create the action. Be prepared for those evenings or weekends when you're the only cook, cleaner and entertainer. On my fateful Tuesday, I should have phoned home before leaving work to discuss plans for the evening. Plan family schedules in advance.
Have a large calendar hung prominently in the busiest room in the house and preferably near a phone. Schedule activities immediately on the calendar. My wife has informed me of major family plans while I was watching Pitt play on TV. Because I didn't tune into the discussion, when the time came for me to be at whatever event she was talking about at the right time and place, and with the right kid it didn't happen. Have a few tricks up your sleeve. When you're watching the kids for an extended period of time have some backup baby-sitting help. This can take the form of a secretly hidden Barney video or a water-based coloring set for the younger children.For the older kids try a sci-fi video, a few firecrackers, water balloons, or a new computer game you got in the after-Christmas season sale.
Children can take responsibility. Children can be assigned baby-sitting, cooking, cleaning and other duties so you don't burnout. At younger ages, children can be encouraged to match socks, take their dishes to the kitchen cabinet, make their beds (with as few wrinkles), and pick up things in their room so the carpet color can be rediscovered.