You and I both know that behind your confident macho exterior you are scared to death. I know that you love your kids, but you saw the maniacally eager expression that flashed across your wife’s face when you agreed to watch the kids for a couple of hours. Sure, they look like helpless little angels, but you have seen them turn into Animal from the Muppets without warning. So here is some advice, man to man.
1. Have a plan.
The good news is that you do have one advantage over mom and that is time to plan. You are a less familiar commodity and your kids will likely give you a short period of calm before they transform. Take advantage of this. Make a big list of things to do, and have your stuff ready. It will not really go as you planned, but it will help you to relax and feel more prepared.
2. Do not plan to get anything else done.
Do not get too ambitious. High expectations will set you up for frustration and failure. I know that your wife gets things done while you are gone, but let’s be honest, multi-tasking is not our strong suit. Focus on the main goal, keeping the inmates alive and the house structurally intact.
3. Stick to the list.
You know what I mean. Your wife gave you some overly detailed instructions before she left the house. It does not matter what else you do, if the list says brush their teeth and they do not get brushed, you have failed. You may be looking at the list as a set of general guidelines, but actually it is a solemn contract you would be ill-advised to violate. And usually you will find that things will go better if you stick to her schedule. The good thing is that this frees you up to all kinds of improvisation. If your wife did not want the kids to have pickles and ice cream for supper she should have specified.
4. Be silly.
I know you fear that midway through a tea party one of the guys will stop by to borrow your lawnmower. And yes, if he sees the silly hat and apron, you will never live it down. But your kids need to play with you, and you will be their hero if you act silly. So close the blinds and loosen up. It is worth the risk.
5. Take pictures (of the good stuff).
This is a great time to make memories. Kids grow up fast, so document the good times. Also, as soon as the fun is over your kids are likely to forget all the fun they had. They will likely tell your wife that it was “boring”, or worse, they will remember only the bad stuff. Pictures will serve as evidence of your accomplishments and proof that you did not lie on the couch the whole time.
6. Do something for Mom.
When in doubt, color we-love-mommy cards together, and pick her some dandelions. This will cover a multitude of other mistakes. You will find that there is a double standard in gifts for your wife. Every gift she gets from them is a masterpiece and every plastic cup of flowers they give her trumps the most expensive bouquet you will ever buy. Don’t let it bother you; use it to your advantage.
7. Use movies strategically.
Just in case there is a mom reading this, of course we would never let our children spend a whole evening in front of the television. That would be horrible and fry their brains. But an occasional visit with the Veggietales is not all bad. Since movie time will be limited, save it for when you need it. Do not start the evening with a movie or even mentioning a movie, or nothing else will ever get done. Wait until later, after you have plenty of other documented activities, and when you need to clean up before mommy returns.
8. Do a quick five minute cleanup shortly before your wife gets home.
Take a shovel and scoop all the toys back into the toy box. If the floor is clean when your wife gets home, she will think you are superman. Your wife will not care if the kids snuck into the kitchen and spilt a container of Kool-Aid as long as it is out of the carpet by the time she returns.
9. It will end.
You will be pushed beyond the bounds of normal human endurance, but never fear. As soon as your wife left, she actually started to miss them. And she has no confidence in you, and will worry about their survival the whole time she is gone. Soon she will be able to bear it no longer, and come home. Hang in there.
10. Tell your wife all about it.
Be prepared to give your wife a full report when she returns; she will be expecting one. Tell her about all the mistakes you made before the kids tattle on you. Besides it will give her a good laugh and put her in a good mood. She already knows what it is like to mind the zoo, and she will be happy to know that you understand her days a little better.