Quitting my job meant that I would become the primary caretaker of our kids. In our case, that meant being a stay-at-home dad.
Not missing anything anymore.
I was excited. When I was working a full-time job, I somehow always seemed to be traveling when there was a dance recital, school play or another milestone of my kids that I would never get to experience again. Now I wasn’t going to miss a thing any longer. It’s true, I’m part of it all now and more; volunteering for the PTCO (or PTO), helping design the set of the annual school Shakespeare play, being cub master of my son’s cub scout pack. I’m grateful for it all, even on the days I wonder why the hell I signed up for it…
Not the only stay-at home dad.
At the time, I was glad to find some other stay-at home dad’s picking up their young kids from school. When I grew up there only ever was a dad picking up if he was off work. We’d chat after school while the kids played. You realize they all have a story. The ones I met were all professionals with a college degree, who had agreed with their wife that they were going to be at home for the kids, instead of their wife. I know a former lawyer, a former management consultant, a librarian and a few others, of whom I don’t know what they did in their former career.
Most of these guys keep themselves occupied between 8 and 3 like me, with another home based occupation. They also tend to use their expertise from their former career in a voluntary position for the school or the PTO (or PTCO in our case), cub scouts and other clubs.
The stigma of the stay-at-home dad.
However, I do still notice a stigma with being the male home maker, as opposed to female. It’s when you’re at a social gathering and inevitably someone asks that question: “what do you do?”. It’s such a loaded question. It really means “Where do you stand on the social ladder compared to me?”, even if you use it as an ice breaker or to break the silence. I noticed that when you say you’re a home maker or stay-at-home dad, it’s an instant conversation killer. Many men don’t know how to respond to it. They’re used to talking a little shop and they suddenly can’t. Women tend to react much more positively, because they have a much better idea of what you do, or I think they appreciate that you clearly agree that women should be empowered to have a career, regardless of having kids.
Now of course I tell those who ask that dreaded question that I’m an artist, which never kills the conversation and is fun to see the reaction which ranges from disdain (oh, the starving artist), to interest or even envy (he doesn’t have to deal with the crap I deal with at the office).
The ultimate project manager.
For those that think being a stay-at-home dad is a matter of hanging around, watching Netflix, playing X-Box or that it makes you a deadbeat, think again. The more you are at home, the more you realize that your house needs cleaning, decluttering and maintenance. In addition, you need some serious organizational and project management skills to ensure that there is food in the house, there are school snacks available, to keep on top of special events at school (almost every week something), there are no conflicts with soccer, dance, guitar class, flag football, scouting. Birthday party invitations and presents, making sure homework is done…including reading, bike tires are inflated. Add to that, dentist appointments, doctors’ appointments, orthodontist, car maintenance etc. It’s no surprise that Google Calendar is my best friend.
There’s a huge pay-off. I get to see my kids more, be part of their lives, bond with them and know what’s going on in their lives and at school. I can contribute and be part of the community, which is material for a whole other blog posting. I got to know the wonderful teachers at school and made friends with other volunteers, neighbors, moms and dads. And when I’m not doing that, I get paid to create art!