We decided to have my husband watch our kids for a whole weekend. Here’s how that went.
Everyone asked me if I was worried how things would go if I let my husband watch our kids. I wasn’t. I mean, he’s their dad. He knows how to take care of his own children…right?
For years, I have been a stay-at-home mom for our four children. Sometimes, when my military husband is training or deployed, I have them by myself for months at a time. Things don’t always go smoothly, but I have grown into the role and am usually a pretty hands-on and active mom. Recently, I got my first weekend without a baby. My parents were celebrating their 40th anniversary, and I decided my oldest daughter and I should fly to the East Coast to be with them. We made the trip as brief as possible–flying out on a Friday night and returning on a Monday morning. That would leave my husband home with a 7, 5, and 3-year old for about 52 hours. What could possibly go wrong?
In some ways, the weekend went about as I expected it to. Some things surprised me. And a few just made me laugh because it’s funny when the roles are reversed. Here’s what went down.
All this happened when we let my husband watch our kids:
Cooking was a challenge. I tried to prepare them for the weekend by stocking the kitchen with easy meals like frozen pizza, chicken nuggets, and mac & cheese. To be fair, we sometimes eat simpler food when he is away. Unfortunately… he forgot that our oven runs a little hot, so if you set it for 400 degrees, it is really more like 425. This resulted in some burnt pizza and crispy buffalo wings, which no one really enjoyed. The boys also complained that he didn’t make their morning oatmeal ‘the right way.’ He told me, “I don’t know what witchery you use to brew it ‘not too soupy’ for one and ‘not too hot’ for the other.” They all missed mom’s cooking!
Bedtime was easy. Without mom around to tuck each child in, tell stories, say prayers, and talk about the day, bedtime went really quickly. They just… got into bed and went to sleep. When he is gone, bedtime is one of my least favorite times. All four kids run through the hallways, bugging each other and goofing around as I remind them multiple times to put on their pj’s and brush their teeth. Maybe I need to change my approach!
He couldn’t say no. He had to run an errand to the store, so of course he took all the kids with him. When our three-year-old daughter found a stuffed Minnie Mouse almost as big as her, he was a sucker for a pretty face. She got the Minnie. I would have told her no immediately. But Dad isn’t used to getting 3,428 requests per child per day. And it is kind of cute how much she loves that big toy…
He didn’t call for help, but… Typically, if my husband is with the kids for even an hour, I expect to get a few calls or text messages. I was somewhat surprised that he didn’t need to ask any questions for the whole first day! But by evening, our daughter was really missing me, so he called to let her say hello. I thought this was very sweet and I enjoyed talking to her through the video call. However, I realized the irony of the situation. During deployments, I never have the option to make a call to my husband. The kids cry and miss him all the time, but I have to find ways to cheer them up and pull through until we hear from him again.
They went out to eat, a lot. During one weekend alone, they went out for lunch twice and ordered pizza delivery once. That’s way more often then our family is used to. Typically, we go to a restaurant once a week. When my husband is deployed, we don’t even do that, since taking four kids to a restaurant is not exactly relaxing for me. Preparing our own meals is one of the ways we save money during deployments.
Someone threw up. On the way to the airport, my son was feeling queasy. Then he threw up all over the back seat. So when I got off the plane, the first thing I had to do was talk my husband through the clean-up process. Luckily, I keep spare towels and baby wipes in the car for such occasions. But I had to laugh, because something like that happens to me every time my husband leaves.
He was confused how to use public restrooms with kids. While running errands, he had to use the bathroom. My husband confessed how puzzled he was about how to do that when he had three kids with him. Never mind that I have had a small person in the bathroom with me for one reason or another almost every day for the past nine years. He has always had the luxury of going alone. (Don’t worry, he figured it out.)
He was amazed how quickly the dishes piled up. He actually did a pretty good job of keeping the house cleaned up, and he even started a load of laundry on Sunday. He ran the dishwasher too, but he was surprised how quickly it filled up. The day I came home, he apologized for the breakfast dishes being in the sink. “I swear I just did the dishes,” he said, “and the sink is already full again!” I just smiled sympathetically. I knew exactly how he felt. And he only had 4 people in the house! I have to do dishes every single day just to keep up.
He couldn’t believe their attitude change when I returned. As soon as I got in the car, the kids got louder. They started asking for things, whining about things, and fighting with each other. My husband was shocked. “They were NOT like this while you were gone!” he declared. They had actually been fairly quiet and well-behaved most of the weekend. I always try to tell my husband that the kids act differently with me than when he is around. Typically, as soon as he walks out of the room or goes into a store, the kids start acting up. Of course they push all the limits during a deployment. This was probably my husband’s first time seeing the night and day difference.
In summary, he did fine. I’m grateful he gave me the opportunity to see my family, and I think we both learned a lot about each other during the time we were apart. You gain a lot of respect when you walk in someone else’s shoes! Shortly afterwards, we had the chance to switch roles for a day again when his military unit celebrated Jane Wayne Day. I got to don his flak jacket and kevlar and go out to the rifle range. You can read about that experience here. We definitely are happy with our own responsibilities and don’t ever want to switch jobs!
Have you asked your husband to stay with your kids? How did it go?