12/13/07

The Stay At Home Dad

I just quit my job. No more than 20 minutes ago.

It’s scary just even writing that. I have been gainfully employed since I left college 9 years ago. I have never been fired and I have never been laid off. I have been with the same company, although in different roles, for the last 8 years which seems to be somewhat of an aberration for my generation.

But I don’t want you to think that this was a rash decision or that I lived the dream of saying “Take this job and shove it.” It’s actually quite the opposite.

10 months ago my wife and I started having serious discussions about a parent staying home with the children for a few years. It has always been hard for us to drop off our daughter off at daycare even though we had a great lady. Over the 10 months we looked at a lot of angles, a lot of options and answered a lot of questions to ourselves. How important is it to us that someone stay home with the kids for awhile.

That was probably the biggest question. I’m not an anti-daycare guy, not at all and before I found out we were having a second kid, I was ok with the status quo. But we started thinking and there was a revelation in my head.

I’m going to work 50 years of my life, probably constantly. Out of that 50 years is it really going to make that much of a difference in my career if I take off 3 or 4 years? When I said it like that, my mind started to shift. 3 years out of 50. It doesn’t sound so bad stated like that and let me look at things a little bit differently.

Do you work to live or live to work? I am certainly one of the latter ones on that. I have always put my wife and children ahead of my job. I even took my current job so that I would have more time off with the kids. I decided even back then that I wanted to spend more time with my daughter, for me. It may sound kind of selfish but that’s the truth. I didn’t like missing some of the things in my daughters life. I don’t want to be that kind of dad. I want to be there when she took her first step or says her first word.

I want to be there when she learns that dog food is not the same as people food or when she puts make up on her brother. I wanted to be part of that because I think when I get older those are the things I am going to remember, not whether or not I filed a memo correctly—that’s not the person I wanted to be.

I know a lot of you out there may be asking—why the stay at home dad? Isn’t this a bit unusual? It is but not as much as you may think.

My wife makes a lot more money than I do. She works in advertising and I work in social work. I have always joked with her that she lies for a living but I make up for it with helping people, our karma has equaled out. So it wasn’t that hard of a decision for us as to who was going to stay home. Her income is a lot more than mine.

And then I started to do research on the subject and this is when I realized that it’s actually not such an aberration. There is a whole culture out there of stay at home dads. Everyday I read about 10 to 15 stay at home dad blogging sites. When I first started doing this, it was the attitude that I loved about it.

There was no judgment here, only support. And everyone was gun-ho as well and freely admitted that they do things much differently at home that the normal stay at home mom. There was advice, the pitfalls, a plan on how to do it and everyone had pretty much the same reason. We all love our kids and we all want to be a bigger part of their lives than maybe our father’s where.

In my case, I actually had a role model of someone I respected that did this. My own father was a stay at home dad for many years. So this has been done even in my own family. Growing up my dad was a carpenter while putting himself and my mom through college. For the most part, there was no daycare for us. We were usually at the job site with my dad. I have mixed more concrete and hauled more lumber than I care to remember. But I got to spend a hell of a lot of time with my dad and those are some of the greatest memories that I have of my childhood. Would your mother allow you to build a boxing ring out of spare lumber—probably not.

So as I read more and more of the dad blogs and thought more of my own childhood, I was pretty sure that I wanted to take on this challenge. But my wife and I do nothing without research and caution. We are those people that actually have a 5 year plan.

What would I do during the day? Will there be depression and how do I handle the isolation? How do I approach this, what rules will I put upon myself? What about my own sense of self worth and self esteem? The dad blogs are where I found the answers.

First, I make a vow to never end up on the couch eating bon-bons while watching Oprah. I won’t go that way, my sanity depends on it!

I read on one dad blog that there big project this week was brewing home made beer. There was another that built a deck on his house with his kids. That got me thinking as well: If I do this it’s going to have to be my way. I don’t have fit into some kind of mold of the stay at home parent, and these guys certainty don’t.

And I found that a lot are still the macho men. Sure, they stay home, but they have no problem cussing and whipping a little ass from time to time. I don’t have to cut off my balls and get implants to do this. We’ll just do things a little bit different.

In my head I picture the colonel from the sound of music. He comes into the room and blows a whistle and the kids show up. That’s not a half bad idea. Two whistles mean lunch, 3 mean nap. I could do this.

I also took the time to talk to a lot of stay at home mom’s. Like it or not, they are going to be part of my world and it would be foolish not to listen to some of the things that they have said. No one knows how to do things during the day for cheap like stay at home moms. But also practical advice, like do your grocery shopping twice a week rather than once. It counts as an outing and the kids love to run the long hallways.

And then I found out there was a stay a home dad convention. This kicks so much ass. That’s how gun-ho a lot of stay at home fathers are about this and the decision was pretty easy from there.

What about the view that I may get from society, friends, family etc? Well, for the most part, I don’t care. I have never made apologies for doing what I thought was necessary for my family and I won’t start now, that just ain’t me. But the majority of my friends and family were extremely supportive. What about other guys who work? Believe it or not, a lot in my age range with kids were jealous. They thought it would indeed kick ass. They would even talk about the things that they would do—like attend the World Series of Video games with the kids.

But there will always be that part out there that freaks people out. My wife was approached by a stay at home mom with a mothers group. When my wife informed her that her husband was going to stay at home instead of her, she quickly withdrew her offer for her to join.

That’s understandable I think. I mean, you don’t really want to talk about your episiotomy scar with me. I get that and I won’t force myself down your throat. But I’m not going to hide either.

So to date I have set up the following: a day schedule for how things are going to work, flexible of course, I’m joining the early childhood PTA, I do have a mom’s group, I know at least one other stay at home dad, and I have a blog to continue to get the support that I have gotten so far.

I know that there will be failures and I know there I times where I will be ready to snap. I know that some days I will fall flat on my face and be tired of coloring books and baby vomit. But I also know that this is a rare opportunity and I don’t want to pass it up, because I need this as much as my kids need this.

Finally, you may be asking yourself what was the first thing I did when I quit my job this morning. Well, I put my feet on my desk and it felt good.

9 comments:

  1. Well, I would like to give you a big, solid high-five, Hossman. I think it's great that you two have worked out the details and that you're able to spend more time with the Hosslings. And it's nice to see a male ego that is not so fragile that to simply entertain this thought would equal virtual castration.

    Anyway, I think it's great for you, the wife, and the kiddoes.

    Congrats, sir. And best wishes.

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  2. A great decision! Happy grownups make a happy marriage and a happy marriage makes for happy children. I have every confidence you have the ability to make this a success.

    The options for how spend your days sound great - but spend the next two work weeks savoring your daily reading of 10-15 blogs a day - because for a stay at home parent there just aren't enough hours of the day to enjoy such decandence!
    luv MiL

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  3. It just hit me. Good god, I actually quit my job. I think I may vomit.

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  4. Jared from DadThing.comDecember 17, 2007 at 12:07 PM

    Hello! I am not a SAHD, but I would be in a heart beat. Unfortunately I make more money than my wife, so I must go to work. :(

    Anyways, congrats on taking the leap. If you are like the other Stay-At-Home blogger Dad's I know out there...you will thouroughly enjoy yourself (and your children as well) :)

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  5. My advice: find someplace the kids like, maybe the zoo or a museum, or park, and go every week. It gets you out of the house, you'll probably see the same people most of the time, and the kids will thrive on the routine. It's worth the price of an annual family membership if it's not free. Story time at the library or bookstore is good, too, but only go to the toddler one. Zoos are good, because you talk about the animals, read about the animals, act like the animals, draw pictures of the animals, eat the animals' food, and if you know you'll be back next week, you don't feel the need to see everything.

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  6. Please everyone, keep the advice coming! I'm going to be new to this and although I don't doubt my ability to kick ass, I'm not stupid enough not to listen to people with good ideas. I should run for president.

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  7. I've stumbled here via DadThing, and it's a good find.

    Congratulations on your big decision, my guess is you'll all have a ball!

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  8. Still freaked out a little that I quit my job but the closer my last day approaches the more excited that I get.

    Still any advice anyone has I am more than willing to listen!

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  9. I just stumbled upon your blog. Today is my last day at work before beginning the whole SAHD thing. I'm a little freaked out about leaving my job. I have an 8 month old son at home who I love more than words can ever express, but I'm still scared. Now that you've been doing this for a few years, can you impart any advice on me? Thanks.

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