Friday, October 16, 2009
Musings of a Happy SAHD
This guest post is written by Robb Peck, an avid letterboxer in Vancouver, Washington, and a stay-at-home dad. Read more about his family at Out & About w/ Happy SAHD
Musings of a Happy SAHD (as in Stay At Home Dad)
I started being home not long after our second child turned a year old and I lost my job, catapulting our family into a new place. Like millions of other Americans who have had this happen, I felt a bit betrayed and more than a little dismayed. I had spent better than half of my life training and practicing my profession, and suddenly I was no longer in charge. It was hard to shake that off and get going on looking for a new job while helping out around the house.
At first, I resisted the whole “Mr. Mom” thing. Sure, I would get the kids up and fed, do some cooking (more chances to use the grill!), and tidy up the house, but I was still in charge of the 'big' things – the cars, the yard, maintenance & repairs, etc. After all, I was still looking for a job, and my focus had to be on that. But, as life would have it, my wife and I ended up in a complete role reversal when she rather quickly found a great full-time job that paid better than mine.
We had a hard choice to make: If she kept her job and I eventually found one, we would have no one at home, and our kids raised in daycare – a choice we had long ago decided not to make. And it kind-of made sense: I had spent the better part of my life training to become a teacher, with 13 years of experience in the classroom – why not stay home and raise our kids?
So I've been a SAHD through the "terrible twos," potty training and preschool to now kindergarten and the wonders of the 5-yr-old "why" with our son, and from kindergarten and favorite 'dollies' through scouts and sleepovers with our 8-yr-old (going on 18-yr-old) daughter.
I've been the kids' social director for play-dates, birthday parties, summer camps, and sports.
I've gotten to do things many fathers miss: celebrate the first time my boy used the 'big potty'; spend an afternoon playing pirates on the playground, build massive 'forts' out of all the chairs and every blanket in the house (and then have it all put away before mommy comes home!); see my children grasp the concept of phonics and read something brand new; or hold my daughter after school the first time another girl made fun of her clothes and crushed her ego. I also get to do amazing things like chaperone field trips to the pumpkin patch, help out in my kids' classrooms, and take my kids after school to volunteer down at the homeless shelter.It's different, however, being a SAHD.
Most moms wear it as a badge of honor if they are a SAHM: they are sacrificing their 'working life' to spend the quality time it takes to raise kids right, and be there for them.
But many of these same SAHMs treat a SAHD as if there must be something wrong with you, as if it’s not okay for a man to stay at home and let his wife go earn the paycheck. I've experienced the strange, guarded looks from the mommies at the park and the children's museum. I've actually seen mommies guide their little ones to the other side of the playground when I was playing with my son on the slide or swing. And I've had play-dates turned down because only I—not my wife—would be home to supervise.
Oddly enough, even though I'm there with my kids – just like them – it takes a bit for some to realize that I'm not out 'cruising' to pick up moms, or stalking their kids. Once I got past the stares and snubs, several of the SAHMs have become good friends, with us trading off watching each other's kids now & then.
Some working fathers aren't exactly sure how to treat a SAHD either, especially when I might spend an afternoon at their house – or their wife might spend an afternoon at our house – while our kids are playing. One thing that seems to help a lot is to invite the whole family over for dinner one evening so everyone gets to know each other a bit better first. (And yes, I do the cooking. If you're passing through town some time, we'll have you over. I make a mean stir-fry and pot roast, and have become a bit of an expert with homemade breads - especially pizza crust. I even cook once a month at our church for about 100 people or so...) Then there are the friends who can't imagine that you actually like being a SAHD. Again, there's the perception that there must be something wrong with me since I've stopped looking for a job. I've had the ex-coworkers ask about when I was going back to the classroom. And I've fielded calls on my cell phone from my old buddies 'ribbing' me about being "Mr. Mom." Of course, I was playing with my kids at the zoo when they called!
Though a lot of my new ‘job’ is fantastic, it's not all fun and games. When a kid is burning up with a fever, or puking their guts out, my wife heads off to work and I get the 'pleasure' of dealing with it. I've picked up a lot more of the housework, of course, but I still take care of the cars, yard, maintenance, repairs, etc. I also do the bulk of the laundry (kids' clothes, sheets, towels, etc. - my wife prefers to wash her work clothes herself), the shopping (which is really fun with a 3-yr-old), and most of the errands.
All-in-all, it's wonderful being a SAHD - with an incredible, intense time to really bond and get to know and help shape your kids - and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.
A lot of our society looks at mommies who stay home as almost 2nd-class citizens. Yet, I've learned the real secret – they have the best job in the world!