The Reason I Stay: The Life of a Stay-at-Home Dad

Our daughter, Edith, just turned four. It really is crazy and incredible and I can hardly believe that it has been four years already. As I have mentioned in other posts, this is the final Spring and Summer before she starts school in the Fall. We are so very excited that she will be attending a Waldorf School. (More posts about that in the future). However, I am sad too, because it will be the end of a portion of my life with Edith that I have been very fond of: the stay-at-home-dad years.

I feel so very lucky that we were able to figure out how to make it work for me to stay at home. Being a dad (Papa actually) that stays home brings it’s own awkward moments and plenty of moms giving unsolicited advice. We still have a very pervasive attitude in our culture that men are merely babysitters and aren’t fully capable of parenting. I have wonderful and smart friends and none of them have ever “momsplained” anything to me, but plenty of strangers have:

“Put that girls hat on!”

“Giving mommy a break?”

“Do you have the day off today daddy?”

“Shouldn’t you be working?”

“You are doing a good job, daddy, how great that you are helping out!”

Gag. Gag. Gag. And these are just the tip of the iceberg.

Dads are parents too. This is doubly true of folks lucky enough to have two of them. Mostly we laugh these off but sometimes and on some days it can get to you at least a little bit.

I always get very excited when I run into another dad who stays at home. In fact if you are reading this and you are one please message me. We should definitely be friends. I’m not sure if stay-at-home-moms get the same line of questioning but I do get asked to sort of justify my choice to be at home. So, I thought I would share the reasons we chose for me to stay home. I say “we” because clearly I have the best husband on the planet and we make our decisions together. Usually. Unless it’s about how to spend $200 a week at Target. That’s all on me.

So here are the reasons I stay home.

1. I wanted to parent more than anything

I waited until I was almost 40 to be a parent. For a large part of my life I didn’t even think being a gay parent was an option. I want to be the best parent I can be. For me, this means spending as much time as possible with Edie in her formative years. I want to set the pace of the day for her and be there when she reaches milestones. I liked being a teacher and making money but nothing at all compares to the responsibility and reward of being a parent every single day.

2. She is my only child

Perhaps if we had started earlier, or if adoption wasn’t so darn expensive, or if having multiple children wasn’t so expensive then we would have had more than one. As it stands though she is my only child and most likely always will be. (Unless I get pregnant naturally). I literally can’t believe that my time as stay-at-home Papa is getting remotely close to ending. I have learned so much about myself, the world, and my husband during this time. I also feel like I’m just now getting ok at this parenting thing. Like many of you I feel like I suck most of the time. However, I give it my all because she is my all.

3. I want Edie to love herself

This is my absolute top goal as a parent. I want Edie to love herself and to love others. It’s also part of why we are raising Edith in a faith community. I want to be here to show her how to speak kindly to herself and others. I want to be there to help her navigate racism as best I can and to help her love herself so much that she can stand brave and tall in the face of injustice. I want to be there to help her build her confidence and to find her voice. Again, I mess up almost every single day and as a white man I am still learning, but we are determined that she love herself.

4. I stay home so Edie knows we will always be there

I should make sure that you know that I didn’t love my job as a teacher. So, quitting a job you don’t like is never too difficult. I should also say that though my husband works a full time job as an attorney he too makes tons of sacrifices. He rushes home on the 5 pm train to insure he sees Edie for at least an hour every evening and he is at her beck and call all weekend. We make sacrifices of our time to be with her because we want her to know that she is our priority and that we will always be there. This is certainly not to say that working parents do not do this. I am not judging anyone’s choices at all. I’m simply explaining our choice!

5. Who wouldn’t want to play all day?

Of course there are tough times. Most of the time by Friday I’m so tired and just want a moment or two to myself. However, I basically get to play all day and spend a large chunk of time outdoors. What’s not to love? Today, for example, we made pancakes, we did some chores, played with baby dolls, painted, went to the library, read, danced, did gymnastics in the family room, colored, played in the yard, walked the dog, and drew before bed.

Perhaps you are a stay-at-home parent as well and can relate to some of these. Maybe you are thinking about taking the leap into the land of parenting from home every day. I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences. Also, if you are a fellow stay-at-home-dad message me! We can start a club.

What are your thoughts on staying home to parent?

Lent With a Four Year Old: Radical Self Love

Edie and I went to a great Children’s Service to celebrate Ash Wednesday this evening. Before I went I was hesitant because with my dad’s dying I feel I’ve had enough mortality reminders. However, it’s important to me for Edie to have a spiritual practice and we haven’t been to church in a few weeks.

So we went and it was just right. Being part of a Liturgical church means you do the same rituals and prayers over and over again. I find this comforting and reassuring. I also find that each time I participate I experience or learn something new.

This year I need Lent to be about self care, self love, and radical self acceptance. This was the message that resonated with me this evening. Maybe it will resonate with you and your family too.

Self Care

This is such a buzzword these days and as with all buzzwords this one can seem hollow and cliche. In a spiritual sense, self care is one that requires an investment of time and often patience. This Lent we are committed to taking care of ourselves by attending services, and being fully present for each other. It means that as a family we allow each other the time to do things that are nourishing: exercise, napping, meditation, running. We will take care of ourselves and we give each other space and time to do so as well.

Self Love

I want so desperately for Edie to love herself. This is always my top priority. In part, this is because this is one of my own struggles. In a Spiritual sense in the Christian Church we are reminded in Lent that we are claimed by God in our Baptism and that we are enough simply because of that. We are literally made of stardust. We are everything we need to be. We are beloved. This was what I explained to Edie tonight.

The cross on our forehead was a reminder not just of our mortality but that we are connected with the Earth and every person and thing that was ever alive. We are dust! (Said with enthusiasm and excitement and without somber dread). We don’t have to try and be anything that we are not. We are loved. In loving ourselves we do a better job of loving others, of forgiving others, of being grounded and connected with everyone and everything we meet.

Self Acceptance

Traditionally Lent is a time of sacrifice, confession, renewal, and reimagining. When we accept ourselves and teach our children to do so we accept that we are not perfect. We are enough but we all have things we can work on: being more kind, working harder for social justice, speaking up more about racism, welcoming transgender folks to our communities more, demanding healthcare for all, saving our planet from the effects of climate change. This Lent we should work at overcoming all of these “sins”.

However, we must accept that we are human. Our children are humans. Our spouses or partners are humans too. Everyone we come in contact with is. We accept and forgive others as we accept and forgive ourselves. Lent is a time to let our best and most authentic self feel love and acceptance even as we strive to improve.

This Lent I want to deepen my connection with my husband and Edie. I want to ground myself and feel connected to all life in the universe: past and present. I want to accept others for who they are. This Lent I want to make more room for love. This Lent I want Edie to know what it means to be accepted exactly for who she is and to love herself and everyone else a little bit more because of it.