Welcome to “How I Stay Sane,” a weekly column where real dads talk about the things they do for themselves that help them keep grounded in all the other areas of their life. It’s easy to feel strung-out, and unless you regularly take care of yourself, the parenting part of your life will get a lot harder. The benefits of having that one “thing” are enormous. For Pouria Mojabi, a 36-year-old father of a seven-month-old who lives in California, a nightly routine of dishes and rocking his baby to sleep helps him find his center — and perspective.
Washing dishes makes me feel like I’ve tackled a lot of problems. It helps me completely disconnect from my work. When I’m just standing over the sink and cleaning, I don’t think about all of the issues going on my life. It helps me focus on something different and relax. And it really, really makes my wife happy. She feels appreciated. It just improves the whole vibe in the house.
I do it every night. That’s my job: wash the pans, dishes, organize the cabinets. I also organize the fridge. That’s one of my favorite things to do to relax. I really just love organizing. It’s all just relaxing to me. So, for me, it really is a perfect activity.
Part of what relaxes me about it is how easy of a problem dishes are to solve. It’s straightforward, compared to other problems in work and in life that are more complicated. And actually, the second element of it is the water. I strongly believe that water has healing powers. The fact that my hands are in it, I’m feeling it, I’m close to it. That part is also relaxing in its own way.
I really try to be present when I’m doing these chores. I know they’re simple, but I really only try to focus on this one thing. I try not to let my mind wander. Of course I zone out sometimes, and start thinking about work, but I really focus on staying right on the process in front of me. It’s a concerted effort, focusing on what’s immediately in front of me. It’s just one, small job that I want to do right. In general, I clean up in relative silence. I listen to the sound of the water coming out of the faucet and hitting the pans.
The best part is waking up the next morning. Just walking into the kitchen before the daily chaos has begun. The counters are clean; the fridge is organized; the dishes are all put away. That’s a really good feeling. Also, my wife is just happier and more relaxed because she knows I’ve handled something for her. She sees that I’m contributing. I mean, she does a lot to take care of the baby and the house. So I want her to see that I care; that I contribute.
We have a seven-month-old daughter. There are toys all over the place; when she eats, the table is covered with food. So going into the kitchen after the chaos and seeing it clean and organized? There’s no better feeling.
Part of why I like it so much is the sense that I’m sharing the responsibilities. My wife works really hard through the day; I see it as my responsibility to clean the kitchen, read the baby a book, change her diaper, put her in her pajamas, rock her until she falls asleep. I like to tell stories at night. I used to tell them to my wife, and now I tell them to my baby.
From when I start cleaning the kitchen to when I go to the bedroom, it’s a no-devices, no-laptops, no-electronics zone. It’s just me, cleaning, and then the baby and a book. In our modern life, it’s a moment of quiet, a big missing piece. It helps me disconnect in more ways than one. This is the time I completely disconnect from the world: I clean, I take care of my baby, I pick up a book. That’s it.