I’m in a transitional phase. I used to call myself a stay at home dad but I’m feeling guilty about that lately, with two kids in school 9-3:30 and the other 12:50-3:15. I have a hell of a lot more time to write than I used to. My ambition has returned. And my head’s finally starting to clear from the fog of diaper fumes that once enveloped it.
I’m finally coming out of what I call “The Tunnel”. I see others, who’ve just had fresh kids, they’re just entering “The Tunnel”: and it’s a tunnel of exhaustion where you cling by your fingernails to the life you once knew. (You begin to emerge from The Tunnel when your youngest child turns about three, I figure.)
I’m so happy to be out of The Tunnel I could spit. The other day in the park my wife spotted a cute baby and said: “www, don’t you just wish you could go back to those days?”
I stopped, turned to her, and looked her in the eyes with all the seriousness at my disposal:”Pam”, I said: “I am so glad to be out of that phase of our lives I could dance a little jig.”
Our kids sleep through the night now. I don’t even remember what a freshly filled diaper smells like (though I have a dim recollection of it being quite revolting). I can finally once again write sentences that don’t sound like this: “The sun is up. I am up. The sun is bright. We need milk.”
But I don’t know what to call myself these days. I’m very part-time with the kids. I get a lot of help: from my mother, and from Shahnaz, who has been coming to our house on a part-time basis, off and on, for years now.
I know what to call them. My mother is my mother. And I know what to call Shahnaz because she clarified it for me the other day. I was introducing her to someone and I said: “This is Shahnaz. She is, uh¦ Boy, Shahnaz, I don’t really know what to call you.”
Babysitter seemed too trivializing: she’s almost forty. But she only comes in part-time, so “nanny” seemed to be overstating it. Besides, I always get images of Mary Poppins from that word and Shahnaz is no Mary Poppins (and I say that as a compliment: she’s great with the kids but not old-fashioned).
“Uh, child care provider?” she said. In a tone of voice like: “Duhhh!” Which was fair enough, under the circumstances. Somehow this phrase in all its obviousness had eluded me. Maybe I’m still shaking off a few residual diaper-fumes from the old brain-pan.
“Of course. Child care provider. Right. Thank you.” I said, feeling dumb.
Maybe it’s that simple for me, too. Maybe I’m overthinking the whole thing and should just say: I’m a parent.