The Many Pitfalls of the Parenting P&L (or Managing your Household Dadios)
There are few things in life more complicated than the system of credits, debits, pink passes, get out of jail free cards and brownie points that couples hastily erect in the aftermath of childbirth. Perhaps Quantum Physics. Or neuroscience. Or the process through which the Irish Pankhurst decides on What to Pack for the Weekend.
It’s not just complicated, it’s opaque and open to interpretation. An Unwritten Constitution. Of all the unspoken, unanswerable parental questions occurring across the world at any given time, ‘Whose turn is it to get out of bed next?’ and ‘Does my 15h day at work equate to his 12h alone with the kids?’ must surely be near the top of the list.
No one (as far as I’m aware) has stepped forward to capture that complexity or formalise the process by which a Dad (or a Mum) can seek to secure a ‘Weekend Away with the Lads’ (or a ‘Week Away in Ibiza with the Girls’). There is no Stephen Hawking or Brian Cox to confidently state ‘This is the Way of Things’. No one to ‘codify’ parenting’s hidden reality. No independent arbiter of whether ‘an hour in the pub watching the football’ equates to ‘an hour’s leg wax’. The closest we probably get is Relate, and that’s only for when things get REALLY out of hand…
So I’m going to give it a go. To create a scoring system to live by and a tool through which scores can be agreed and settled. I anticipate some debate but you have to start somewhere. I am calling Fatherhood credits ‘Dadios’, for obvious reasons.
How am I qualified to do this? I’m writing this on the way to 2 nights away with my mates in a month where I will also be having an afternoon watching the England rugby team limp to an unconvincing win over Samoa at Twickenham. So I know what I’m talking about. I already know, for example, that my other half will be mentally docking points as she reads this mild boast of fatherhood freedom. I may never see freedom again, but I’ve always been a bit of a martyr (just ask her).
Normal Day at Work – You basically sit on the train for 45m, fanny around on your computer for 8h and sit on the train again for 45m, never once leaving your comfort zone. Whilst you may try to make out you had a ‘tough day’ to your partner, they’ll see right through your bullshit and award you a full Brexit ‘Nul Points’.
REWARD POINTS: 0 DADIOS, NONE, NADA, NUL
Night-time Re-beds – this is a complicated one because these range from ferrying your child back to their bed (a matter of 5 or 10 steps and 5m max) to lying stock still on a hard floor for 5h (some form of CIA torture) because every time you move they wake up and scream. Equally a series of these can lead to torture-grade sleep deprivation.
REWARD POINTS: 1 DADIOS PER TRIP (+ HOURS SPENT DEBEDDED)
Morning Prep – involves getting the kids up, washed, dressed, breakfasted and ready to leave the house. Again complicated, because, whilst one day you may be dealing with two little angels, the next you may be dealing with cereal-throwing Devil children who want to brush their teeth with a spoon and will only wear pants.
REWARD POINTS: 2 DADIOS [EASY] 4 DADIOS [DIFFICULT]
Drop-off – involves taking the kids to nursery and/or school on time. Relatively straight-forward, if time-pressured. Generally, the less time you have, the more difficult they are, though. If, for example, you need to leave the house in 5m, one child will need a poo & the other will hide from you in a drawer. Extra points for feeling judged at school gates.
REWARD POINTS: 2 DADIOS / DROP [EASY], 3 DADIOS [DIFFICULT]
Pick-up – similar to Pick-Up but done at a time when everyone is 10h more tired, hangry and snappy. The pick-up is a tantrum minefield of extracting them from friends, coaxing them into coats and using your entire armoury of carrots and sticks to get them back home. One extra credit if you have to do it on a dark, ball-freezingly cold Winter night.
REWARD POINTS: 3 DADIOS / PICK UP [EASY] 4 [DIFFICULT]
Bath & Bed – it’s not called witching hour for nothing. And it’s a task-rich environment – you’ve got to get them in the bath, get them washed, get them out of the bath, get them dried & dressed, get their teeth brushed and get them to sleep. Any one of these could lead to total meltdown in which case you get the Dadios equivalent of Danger Money
REWARD POINTS: 4 DADIOS [EASY] 6 DADIOS [HARD]
½ Day Solo Parenting – this is a tricky one. It’s a given that looking after 2 kids single-handed for 5 hours or so is no mean feat, but there’s occasionally some fiddling of the books – a little ‘nap’ here, a bit of ‘TV time’ there – which probably equates to the ‘commute’ time you get if you work.A good solid points-earner.
REWARD POINTS: 10 DADIOS
Hard Day at Work – the ‘hard’ in ‘hard day’ is very subjective. Whilst a Corporate Away Day is one man’s Craic, it is also another man’s Arse. I would judge ‘hard’ based on stress levels – for me, 2h in a workshop with a nasty client equates to 20h of Business As Usual. Police, Fire Service, Nurses, Teachers, etc – double points.
REWARD POINTS: 15 DADIOS [HARD DAY]; -15 DADIOS [LYING ABOUT YOUR DAY]
Full Day Solo Parenting – you wake up and think about what lies ahead between you and your 7.30pm G&T and it seems insurmountable – a frenetic, poo-streaked, food-stained, tantrum-strewn 12h of fucking mayhem. There’s only one thing harder than looking after a child for a day and that’s looking after more than one for 2+ days.
REWARD POINTS: 20 DADIOS PER DAY [+5 PER EXTRA CHILD]
Redeeming your Dadios: much like the BA equivalent, you need to plan well ahead or your Dadios will be irredeemable (rather like you). I would estimate the following exchange rate:
Night out – simply an evening of letting off steam, followed by sleeping in your own bed; I was going to award this 5 but you may well swerve bedtime so it’s 7 DADIOS
½ a day’s peace – since this probably requires your partner to shoulder the extra effort, I say this is worth 10 DADIOS
Night away – you’re avoiding the whole evening & morning routines so this one’s going to cost you more than coping with your kids and a hangover for a few hours: 15 DADIOS
Weekend away – the Motherlode, the Daddy, the Holy Grail of Fatherhood Leisure, a whole 2 days and nights away, it was always going to be pricey: 40 DADIOS
Week away / work jolly – don’t even think about it, I did this 3½ years ago the day after my 2nd son was born and I’m going to be in the red for longer than most Millennial students [NOT ENOUGH DADIOS IN THE WORLD, MATE]
So there you have it. A scoring system. It’s not perfect and it’s not (totally) proven but hopefully it’ll make it much easier for you to manage your own Parenting P&L.