Full Time Dad’ing. In Sierra Leone.

If You’re Happy And You Know It Clap Your Hands

Over a month into my new job and I’m pretty sure Elsie is loving her Daddy Day Care. I definitely am. I must admit that not having a ‘proper’ paid job is quite nice, for now, but Full Time Dad’ing is tough work. It’s mentally and physically demanding, and tiring. 

Full disclaimer; while I’m proudly calling it a Full Time Daddy Day Care role (it really is), Kirsty is around and about with us all day. She starts work (either her 2 day a week paid job at The Change Foundation, or AdAmi Project work) around 08:30, works until lunch and then again from around 13:30 – 17:00. So my core Daddy Day Care hours are only about 7.5 hours a day (that’s a full time job!). Elsie usually sleeps for about 2.5 hours of that – i’ve become an expert at putting her down for naps – so i’m ‘on my own’ for 5 hours with Elsie. But I can call on Kirsty for help whenever I need it, as she’s either on the veranda or in the restaurant area working on her laptop. It’s the best of both worlds for her and Elsie really. 

Living in a hotel room in Bo Town, Sierra Leone, makes Daddy Day Care quite tricky. But we’ve come here well prepared. Kirsty is good at improvising. I’m getting better. Some of Elsie’s favourite activities and things to do during Daddy Day Care include: 

  • Taking things (lego, toys, blocks, anything) from the floor, standing up and putting (smashing, with a surprising amount of force) them on to a chair, shouting “Daaaa” every time, and grinning like a maniac each time she does it
  • Walking practice, using a chair or a box as a Zimmer frame
  • Making funny noises like “triiiing” and popping noises 
  • Learning new words – her first word was “moooo” and she’s starting to come on with words now so we’re spending lots of time pointing at things and repeating words. Her attempts to copy are very cute and funny. A ‘spoon’ is an ‘ooon’, ‘blue’ is ‘ew’, and ‘quack quack’ is ‘ack ack’. 
  • Me lying on the floor and her clambering over me, back and forth, laughing her head off, face planting into the floor if she doesn’t get her hands in the right place
  • Putting all the balls from her ball pit (there’s over 100) one by one into a box
  • Taking all the balls out of the box and putting them back into the ball pit
  • Bashing any two hand-sized objects together quite hard, with a big grin on her face
  • Getting musical. Bashing her xylophone, shaking maracas and shaking an empty plastic water bottle filled with spaghetti. 
  • Singing and dancing – she has her own favourites playlist on Spotify and loves my dancing judging by her laughs. Kirsty’s dancing gets much bigger laughs. 
  • Singing nursery rhymes. Over and over and over again. 
  • Playing peekaboo in many many forms. Her current favourite is sitting in the middle of the tunnel and me crawling from one end to the other to surprise her
  • Our daily crawling race along the veranda. Elsie wins most days
  • Endless playing with some stacking cups. Smashing them in a tantrum on to the floor if she can’t get them to stack into each other properly
  • Me throwing things high up in the air to land near her. Wow! 
  • Brushing her hair
  • Me building Lego towers, Elsie smashing them down immediately 
  • Playing with all our clean Tupperware keeps her quietly entertained for 10 minutes at a time
  • Emptying everything out of the suitcase – launching things behind her in comical fashion. She’s amazingly good at throwing things backwards. 
  • Daily episode of The Baby Club – post lunch when I’m low on energy. If she kicks off at dinner time she gets some Peppa Pig. 
  • Whistling her toy eggs. Bashing them together. Throwing them around. Watching me tidy them up, and repeat. 
  • Books!! Books books books. She loves us reading books to her and loves looking at the books herself too. We’ve got about 30 books but that’s no where near enough, i’m going slowly mad reading them to her again and again. I must have read her favourite one (Farmyard Hullabaloo) every day now for about 3 months. 
  • Walking around the compound gardens looking for hummingbirds and dragon flies and trying to grab and eat flowers

At meal times we go down to the restaurant / bar area where Elsie gets lots of attention. All the staff at our hotel are incredibly enthusiastic for her – they absolutely love her, and she loves them back, much to their delight. Fellow guests and visitors are always coming over to see her and say hello. A few of the staff have young kids too who we’re starting to get to know. They are all invited to her 1 year birthday party next weekend! 

We get out and about in to the local community a few times a week to do AdAmi Project site visits. These are always incredible sensory experiences for Elsie (and me!). She gets totally mobbed and/or stared at, depending how confident the locals are. A pumi pikin (white baby) is a very rare sight in Bo, especially out in the local communities away from the main built up areas. These are areas where the locals, wildlife and animals co-exist, so there is lots for Elsie to see and hear – cockerels, chickens and their chicks running around, dogs, cats, ducks (not sure how there are ducks here tbh), birds. Insects we avoid! 

Every other day we drive in to Bo Town to pick up supplies. It’s about a 10 minute drive along very bad (but safe enough) roads which are crowded with people walking, on mopeds, bikes, tuk-tuks, a few cars, delivery vans & lorry’s, improvised sack trolleys and other varieties of chaotic modes of transport. Elsie stays in the car most of the time but if we both need to go in to a shop, bank, money exchange, or wherever, we take Elsie with us. The back windows are tinted, and the surprise when we yank a pumi pikin out of the car from everyone around is usually audible. They are intrigued by her car seat – I haven’t seen another one here. Babies travel happily on mopeds here. I’m still amazed by how chaotic, loud, disorderly, busy, hectic, and crowded the town is – it’s an overwhelming experience for me still, while Kirsty is quite used to it having lived in Kenema for 4 years. Elsie takes it all in her stride, gazing around at the madness. 

All in all she’s getting great sensory experiences every day, although there are days I wish I could take her out for a nice long relaxing walk. Going for a walk for the pleasure of it would be a totally alien concept here in Sierra Leone, no one walks for enjoyment. And it’s 38 degrees by mid-day at the moment 🥵

I haven’t left Elsie’s side since 17th January. Spending so much time with her is a total privilege and I feel lucky to be able to do it. And it’s easy to do here in Salone too, because there’s not that much else to do. There are times when Kirsty and I feel a bit bored, but Elsie is always smiling, up to some sort of mischief or doing something new. She’s developing quickly and i’m happy to be witnessing it first hand. 

Keeping Elsie happy ✅

The Simple Bare Necessities

Life is very different here, but we’re adapting and making it work well for us. We are very much back to basics, but the simplicity and rudimentary nature of our current routine is what we needed. Each day is filled with simple things that we look forward to and really enjoy, like…

  • Waking up around 06:15 feeling energised – Elsie’s sleeping better than ever and we’re caught up on our sleep after a really quite terrible few months at the end of last year
  • Exercise – a HIIT workout, or a KJ Pilates session first thing, before the aircon goes off at 7am
  • Cold shower :-)) 
  • Breakfast – a spicy omelette with fried plantain
  • Our morning coffee – we bought out our coffee grinder, 3kg of Ethiopian beans, a large cafetière and an aeropress with us  
  • Laptop time while Elsie sleeps 
  • Lunch – we feast on a tomato, cucumber, onion, avocado and hummus sandwich in a freshly baked baguette, then fruit. 
  • Beer O’Clock (17:30) – my daily reward for looking after Elsie
  • Dinner time – we cook curry, chilli or pasta every night in the hotel’s kitchen
  • Aircon time! (18:45) and another cold shower
  • Bed (21:30), knackered
Give me two Stars, my daily bread

Although we’ve slowed things down we’re both still quite busy. Being in country is really benefitting Kirsty’s work on the AdAmi Project and she’s getting lots done, with more to do always. And i’m taking some online courses which I do while Elsie naps, which will hopefully lead to a change in career path in the future. 

I don’t think this life would be everyone’s cup of tea, but we’re loving our simple routine and basic existence – for now anyway. I do have a list of moans, obviously, which i’ll save for another post.

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