I get asked this question from time to time from both genders. Men and women are equally curious on my experiences staying at home. I think the moms mostly ask me to see if we share the same experiences. It’s not surprising to me that we have the exact same experiences. I am puzzled that they always seem surprised that my experiences and their experiences are mostly the same. I can sum up my time as a stay at home dad as immensely rewarding while simultaneously being one of the most frustrating positions I’ve held. Not many dads choose the path of elevating their spouse’s career over their own. Not many dads have a choice either as more and more women out enroll men in regards to higher education. Women are surpassing men in higher education. This stay at home dad experience will become more common in the future as the earning power of women increase. Let’s start this discussion about what is immensely awesome about staying at home with the kids.
Alright guys, here it is, this is what is so awesome about staying at home. It isn’t the lack of work frustrations, meetings, commuting to and from work or any of those other drudgeries we think about. What is awesome about staying at home with the kids is being at home with the kids. What do I mean by this? I spend a lot of time with my kids. I’m thankful for this even though it is also the thing that almost drives me crazy sometimes.
I have absolutely zero, nada, no guilt about not spending enough time with my kids. I’ll tell you a secret ladies, fathers do worry about this all the time. We worry that there just isn’t enough time in the day to provide for the family, spend time with you, with the children, and try to squeeze in a round of golf on the weekend. If we do get out on the weekend, we start feeling guilty about it. I don’t have that. I can go out on the weekend or the weeknight and I don’t have a shred of guilt. I spend time with my kids. I spend a lot of time with my kids. Matter of fact, I have to get out of the house to keep my sanity.
Here are some other great things about staying at home. I get to take my kids to school, or doctors appointments, or pick them up when they are sick. I’m there all the time. I’m the go to guy when it comes to family emergencies and it feels good to be able to shepherd the flock. I take care of the house and everything that goes with it. I do 75% of the housework to include grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, and cooking. This frees up our weekends as a family. When myself and the wife were both working, it seemed like we were spending our entire weekends catching up and never really getting to enjoy a family outing or some leisure. A dual working household has to spend a lot of time catching up on the weekends. Now, I will tell you that some of things that are great as a stay at home dad, are the very things that make it difficult to stay at home.
Even though it is wonderful to spend a lot of time with my kids, they can also really wear on my nerves. Here is an analogy I told people when asked what it is like staying home with three kids under the age of 5. I feel like I’m running a restaurant. However, in my restaurant I have three of the worst customers you would ever want to have. They are very demanding all the time.
I’m also running this restaurant by myself. I’m the manager who orders all the food, pays the bills, and makes sure the accounts are balanced. I’m the full time cook, making the meals to order. I’m the hostess who seats my three little customers three to four times a day. I’m the waiter who takes the orders and serves the food. Sometimes my customers throw my served food on the floor. Sometimes my customers yell at me for the horrible choices I’ve given them. Sometimes my customers demand food NOW because they have no patience. I’m the bartender who gets the drinks ready. I’m the bus boy who picks up and cleans the dishes and wipes the table. I’m the cleaning man who sweeps and mops the floors. I’m the maintenance man who changes out the filters, adds water softener, keeps the machinery greased and operational. I’m the landscaper who cuts the grass, picks the weeds, and helps keep the outside looking good. Now that I’ve typed it all out, that’s a lot of stuff man. I need a freaking pay raise!
I embraced all these duties early on; however, none of these duties are glamorous. Most of this stuff has to happen. Some of it doesn’t have to happen but then you would live in a nasty, dirty house. What I’m saying is, these jobs, even though they are essential to a smooth running house, are not challenging and rewarding jobs. Sweeping and mopping the floor for the 500th time becomes boring and mundane. Constantly doing dishes and folding laundry becomes very mundane. I can tell you I get real tired of folding little kids laundry all the time. These tasks do wear on your motivation.
I love my kids to death, but being with my kids all the time wears on all of us. It is nothing different than a deployment with a bunch of Marines. You are the best of friends for a while. At some point 5 to 6 months down the road, you start getting sick of these people. You are with them all of the time. You eat chow with them all of the time. You sleep in the same room or building with them all of the time. You smell them all of the time. The stories start to repeat and the tempers start to flare. You get back from deployment and everyone leaves to take a break from each other. Then, something wonderful happens. All of the annoying and bad stuff that happened on deployment just disappears. All of the great stories and memories come to the forefront and that is what everyone talks about and laughs about.
That’s how it is with my kids. We get on each others nerves from time to time. I get exhausted and they probably get exhausted with me, but I know things will be different once everyone is in school. We will have stories and memories about the good times when daddy got to stay at home for a couple of years. I won’t ever regret having this much time with my kids. It may push me to my limits some day, but I know for sure I will never regret this decision when I get older.
So, that’s what it’s like staying home with the kids. It’s the most frustrating yet rewarding experience I’ve had the pleasure of pursuing. I always try to remember when the customers in my one man band diner are screaming and tearing the place apart to JUST EMBRACE THE SUCK buddy!