Family Matters – Empty days

family_mattersMsafiri’s regular columnist Jackson Biko urges ‘stay-at-home’ dads to find themselves an absorbing hobby

The stay-at-home dad wakes up, looks out the window and sees miles and miles of time. Unadulterated and idle time, all waiting to be filled with activity or thought. Time is your enemy, ye stay-at-home-dads. Time, after a couple of months at home, starts taking a tactile form – it starts acquiring a scent, it occupies space like an unwanted visitor and it stares you in the face, daily. Then, just when you are thinking you are going to lose your mind completely with domestic inertia, you realise that there is more trash to be taken out. Or a hedge to be trimmed. Or an egg to be beaten. And the wrathful cycle continues, like a carousel.

Losing your job, for a guy, is the universe’s way of reminding you that we are but pawns in its game of life. And nobody ever thinks about losing their job, not until you see a cluster of suits filing into a boardroom one day, wearing looks more sombre than their suits. Your letter will soon follow, with the words ‘recession’ and ‘downsizing’ prominent.

And being in the house alone, for long periods of time creates a special relationship with your fridge. You will keep opening it. You will open it to look for food. And you will open it just to open it

Then you will go home and tell the missus that you won’t have a salary anymore and then proceed to extol the virtues of a kale diet. Then she will act strong and say what you really don’t want to hear: “Don’t worry, we will pull through.” (What you really want to hear is, “I have put away some money, about Ksh2m…”) In a few weeks your last ‘salary’ will hit your account, together with a severance package. It’s okay to print it out, and stare at the figures for a while, because your account will not see that kind of money on a monthly basis in a while. Cherish the moment.

Staying at home after you have lost your job is an excruciatingly tasteless experience. You will learn all the cracks in the living room, because you will spend lots of time lying on the couch, trying to stare at God, but seeing only the ceiling. You will run errands for the missus, because, well, let’s admit it, you have more time on your hands. “Honey, would you kindly go ask the water guys why the bill has an error?” Or, “Perhaps, if you get time (no kidding) you might take the kid’s bicycle to that repair man at the shopping centre?”
And being in the house alone, for long periods of time, creates a special relationship with your fridge. You will keep opening it. You will open it to look for food. And you will open it just to open it. You will often find yourself standing at it, holding its door open and wondering what you wanted in the first place. Which also means, you will be losing your mind. Slowly. You will not get loads of feedback from your job applications, and that, coupled with spending lots of time vegetating at home, will turn you into a grumpy, moody and fat bull. Take it from someone who has been there before: get a hobby. Anything – stamp collecting, gardening. Exercise – it reduces stress and angst. Watch only romantic comedies or thrillers with nice endings. Avoid action movies. And read the Bible. It calms one.