When I had kids, everything changed. I was no longer me. I was Baba. I was “Honey, can you pick up Pampers?”. I was “Hey man, why don’t we ever see you out anymore?”. I was “So, when are you actually going to get a real job?”. That was the guy I became.
And, as my oldest got a bit older, I became the guy that would escape to the bathroom and close the door thinking she was happily playing in her room and I might, just maybe, possibly, hopefully, have 96 seconds all to myself. All the while, she clearly had this little GPS installed into me while I was sleeping because the moment the smallest thought came into my head that I could ‘escape’ into the bathroom to just contemplate even brushing my teeth (it had been 2 days), a little tap tap at the door and a “Baba, let me in!”.
I’ve always been a gym guy. Always ‘pumped iron’. Spent hours and hours. I love it. It’s been my peace and quiet time (even with bad music blaring overhead and sweaty, ‘fragrant’ guys watching themselves in the mirror lift 5kg.) I was that guy – before the kids.
I was that fun guy who had no problem staying up until 4a.m. only to get back up at 6 a.m. and head out for another day of work and then do it all again. To my friends, I was that guy.
Important note here, I haven’t seen 4a.m. in the last 6 years unless there was a vomiting child, a hungry baby or being kicked in the face by a kid that is sleeping sideways in our bed.
I also used to have conversations with my wife. I was able to string more than 2 sentences together that did not have the words “Stop that” or “No” or “You’ll hit your head” or “I love you too baby” (the child- not the wife) dotting the middle of everything I said. We used to go to the cinema. We used to go to a club here and there (I don’t drink). We used to go out to dinner and stay for hours talking nonsense. And yes, we had that big, wonderful bed all to ourselves. That same bed that we would sleep in until 11a.m. and then go off and do something spontaneous. Or, just go to the store spending about $200 less a week than we do now and be able to walk lovingly arm in arm together at a slow pace without chasing kids in every different direction. I was that guy. We were that couple.
These days, I find comfort in the 3 days a week that the youngest is at nursery while the oldest is at school. I am granted a blissful 3 hours and 56 minutes (the 4 minutes it takes me to bust out of the building running like Forest Gump after dropping the youngest) where I can be myself. I am that guy again (well, kind of).
At this time, there is big decision making that takes place. Do I go to the gym? Do I run the list of errands that my lovely, amazing wife has left for me that this Baba can only effectively do when there is not a child in tow? Do I just go and sit for coffee somewhere where no one, and I mean NO ONE, will talk to me? Do I just drive around aimlessly remembering how much I took for granted being able to pick myself up, grab my wallet and go (no diaper bag, no thoughts on diaper changing facilities, nothing).
My wife, on the weekends, ‘lets me’ go on Fridays and Saturdays to the gym for 2 hours and painfully tries to avoid harassing me with Whatsapp messages innocently saying, “Hows gym?” or “We miss you” or “We are ok if you are wondering” (she’s still working on that). But I’m there and I love it. I cherish it. I want to hug that time. I want to marry that time.
Last weekend, we took off to Al Ain to celebrate our oldest (at 6) winning the #SciFest (Science Fair) for her grade. Add to that, she conquered 10/10 on her spelling test, again. So, we went off, got a suite and spent the entire day/night sliding the water slides, floating in the pool and having lunch and relaxing in the amazing weather in the #UAE this time of year. She loved it and we were happy. Plus, my sister came through and graciously watched the girls while my more gorgeous that usual wife and I went out to dinner and relaxed and walked, arm in arm, at a slow pace around the grounds of the hotel. And, loving the fact that we could laugh with each other. Share stories. And yes, have full and complete sentences that still included “I love you baby” (this time for the wife). It was magic. It was bliss and it was our time. It was like feeling renewed again. We forgot how much we really liked each other! 🙂
A lot of people that do the nanny thing get that benefit of being able to plan and go out and have that time. But, we don’t and thats again, by choice. But, I can say that the quality time we do get is amazing when it does happen.
Eventually, we come back to reality and my escape to the bathroom which has now been reduced to about 67 seconds (2 kids) and there are little ‘tap taps’ at the door and wailing “Baba, she is hitting me again!”. And, with technological advancements, that GPS device pinpoints not only my location but seems to even know where in the bathroom I am actually positioned (as things start getting slid under the door to get my attention exactly in my direction).
I’m not going to be that parent that is trying to create some illusion on social media that the entire world (24/7/365) revolves around my kids. It doesn’t. But it sure feels like it sometimes. And, it sure feels like every thought and sentence is 36/10/420. And, I’m not going to fool anyone in that our life is full of making crafts, drawing pictures, happiness and laughter and Mary Poppins walking in and saying “I’m not needed here”. I’m real and I’m still that guy that wishes for just a bit of time on my own because I’m human. Having kids didn’t turn me into Super Nanny and become obsessed with the type of laundry detergent we were using (I’m lucky to remember to put laundry detergent in).
So forgive me if I escape to the gym because I do a lot of thinking there. I pump iron and tune out the nasty music blaring overhead and the Kardashians playing endlessly on the treadmill tv. Thoughts do jump into this Baba’s head about what stuff I can do with my kids. What I can do differently to help my oldest who is struggling with her maths. What I can do to encourage my baby to listen a bit more. I am that guy.
And, if I’m sitting and having coffee at Starbucks, alone and looking a bit lost, it’s ok, because I really want to be there and I really don’t want to talk to you (unless your name is my barista-buddy behind the counter that creates works of art with my Mocha Chocolate Chip). I may be playing with my phone and looking like every other Arab guy there that seems to be attached to social media looking at everything that everyone else is doing. 9 times out of 10 I’m looking at the pics of my kids or trying to have a conversation with my mom in Egypt or answering my friends that I used to hang out with when I was that guy (who thankfully have forgiven my lack of showing up at anything anymore and seem to still like me for me).
It’s not easy being a Stay at Home Baba. Social outlets for me are limited. Time is limited. Stigma toward Arab Stay at Home dads is still very evident (as I’m sure it is in other places). And I still get frustrated about what I’m doing or not doing in the eyes of just about everyone.
I enjoy those 3 hours and 56 minutes. I really do. But, I also enjoy my girls. I also enjoy being a husband to my wife. But wow, there are really those times where just that minute is all that I need to regroup and figure out what my next move is.
In conclusion, I seriously need to figure out where that GPS has been embedded into me because I think my wife now has some app in her phone that knows where I am as well (as she tap taps on the door asking “Hayati, are you ok?”).
3 November, 2015