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?

Birthday Basics: Picking Gifts For A Four-Year-Old Girl

Edie will be four in less than two weeks. It seems quite impossible. The old saying that “the days are long but the years are short” is so completely true. Today is a Friday and usually by Friday I feel pretty bad about my stay-at-home parenting skills. I’ve lost my cool a few times and let Edie push my buttons a bit today as only an almost four-year-old can do. I think she must have asked me several times , “Are you mad, sad, or frustrated?” When my answer was simply “Yes.” Her response was “Don’t be Papa.”

It is so strange to watch your child grow from a docile lump into this person with will and opinions. That will and those opinions are often at odds with my own and a struggle ensues. I love the person she is becoming, however, and mostly I just have to learn to let her have power when appropriate and to pick my old proverbial battles.

At 4, I feel like I can begin to describe who she is as a person and while I know some of those will change, it’s still fun and fascinating. The thing is, I really like her. I feel so lucky to be her Papa and as I get to know her more I like who she is becoming.

Edie, or Edith, as she now prefers, is observant. She is quiet and often serious as she observes every single detail in her surroundings and remembers everything. Edith is kind. I have seen her offer kids a hand of help when no one is watching. I have seen her face true concerned when she sees someone else who is upset. Edith is expressive. She loves creating and dancing and painting and singing. I can’t wait to see what she creates as she ages. Edith is funny. This one is important in our family. She loves to laugh and make others laugh she will gladly fall down to get a smile from someone. Edith is perfect. I know that some parents disagree with saying that to their kids, but I tell her that almost every day. She will hear the opposite plenty in her life so I want her to know she is exactly who she should be and that she is enough.

Ok, I’ll stop gushing now. Edie is adored and she is loved. We will celebrate her with a simple party at home. Some brunch (hello…gay dads) and some cake with a gymnast design on it per her directions. We will have a few games and some face painting. Here are a few of the gifts she’s getting. Check them out for the fourish year old in your life.

(This post contains some affiliate links. This means I might get compensated at no cost to you)

1. We are big Waldorf Education fans. We hope that Edie will attend a Waldorf in the future. She learned about candle dipping at a Waldorf event and she loved it. She is getting this nice kit from one of my favorite shops, Bella Luna Toys. Check them out!

2. Edie loves taking pictures and clearly we think she’s brilliant so she’s getting a camera. This one is a good deal and is waterproof, too. A bonus for beach visits and rainy days!

3. Obviously, Edie is getting dresses from Primary. These are so cute and only $14 right now. Annnnddddd they are so soft and wash perfectly. Want to buy cute spring looks at 20% off and free shipping?? Well, here you go…
Get 20% off your first order at Primary.com with code AFF20PCT

4. Ok, one more from our faves at Bella Luna. This adorable little Loom is the perfect starter model. Low commitment and low price until we see if she enjoys its. Bella Luna also has great dolls and some wonderful wooden toys as well.

5. I mentioned the face paint we will be doing at the party. It’s comes from a shop we have mentioned before, Ecokids, from our favorite state of Maine. Edie is also getting a few art supplies from them. We love their paint and their finger paint as well.

These picks are simple and hopefully help to encourage Edie to be her true self. We look forward to celebrating her and loving her more every day. We also look forward to when the tantrums stop. They do stop right?

Happy Spring. Happy Birthday, Edith Daring. You are loved.

Privilege and Thanksgiving

I have never been a Thanksgiving person.  I do not actively oppose Thanksgiving, and I do love a good table setting and an excuse to use fine china and heirloom silver, but it has just never been my thing.  In part, I think it is because I have always loved Christmas and have sort of thought as Thanksgiving as a day to check off so we can get to the main, more glitzy, event. Thanksgiving has always seemed a bit blah, gray, and I don’t know, boring?  Like many things in life my husband has changed my perspective gradually over the years.  He loves Thanksgiving.  He loves the low-key vibe of it all, and he loves to feed those that he loves.  He loves the rest and simplicity of it all.

 

I think I too have always been acutely aware of my privilege at Thanksgiving.  I have so much. I have time, clothing, shelter, and food in excess. Compared to many other people I share this planet with I am so rich and so full.  Much of this “stuff” that I have is simply due to being born where and when I was born.  I am white.  I am a man.  I am upper middle class.  I am an American.  Of course, it would seem that I have much to be thankful for to some, but that seems almost showy and braggy in a way.  I struggle with how to be grateful for the things and experiences I have while still being mindful, and angry, about those denied so many often in my name and in the name of my country or religion.  Classic over-thinker? Perhaps.

 

But, here comes Edie Daring and my life perspective changes in so many ways, obviously.  And what is that feeling that I seem to have more and more every day?  Gratitude. Thankfulness.  That feeling that this life is enough.  As we struggle with all the ins-and-outs of parenting and the responsibility of trying to raise a strong woman who is also a good person, one thing that seems very important in that process is teaching her to be thankful and grateful.  For it seems, one way to actually counteract in a way all of this privilege and often excess, is to learn to be grateful and happy and thankful with the ordinary and the mundane as well as the enormous and immeasurable.  One way to be happy with where you are in every moment is to be thankful.  This does not let us off the hook.  We can still be mindful of privilege and injustice and the evil of greed and power and be thankful at the same time.  Thankfulness softens us a bit and makes it a little easier to persevere in health against all the growing inequities in the world today. Thankfulness gives us hope.

 

I was struck recently at church about the lack of thanksgiving.  During our liturgy in the Episcopal church there is a part where we pray (duh). Specifically we offer our prayers of supplication and then prayers of thanksgiving.  Basically, we ask God (the universe, higher power, Light, Love) for stuff on our behalf and on the behalf of others. There then comes a time when we say what we are thankful for or what we want to thank God for.  We always seem to have a long list of out-loud asks for God, often folks that are ill.  This is great! However, when it comes time to say the things for which we are thankful it is often quiet.  Now, I am sure many people, like myself, name things in our heart. Edie and Tim always are first in mine.  I bet too that many people struggle with naming gratitude out loud.  Thanksgiving is a chance to do that.  Thanksgiving Day gives us a day to be vocal and say out loud those things for which we are thankful, and to not be embarrassed about it, for whatever reason.

 

Thanksgiving seems to reassure us that we have enough. We are enough. The Earth is enough. Love is enough.  A perfect transition into the season of Hope that is the Holiday season, I suppose.  Also, thanksgiving is a way to perhaps curb our excess and want for those of us that systematically have too much and as a reminder to work for justice and fairness economically for those that are without. Edie reminds me every single day of the importance of gratitude for everything.  She has a cold right now and is a terrible sleeper when she is sick.  I spent most of the night in a rocking chair keeping her upright so she could breathe.  This morning I am thankful for that (at 3 a.m. I confess I was not) because I have been told that some day I will miss those days.  Edie and Tim and I all love each other unconditionally and if ever there was anything to be thankful for that is at the top of the list.

 

Like many things in parenting, Edie is the one actually teaching us.  As we worry about teaching her to be grateful and thankful and thus a “good person” she is already a step ahead of us and is helping us to catch up.  We just have to shut up and let it happen.

 

Edie is thankful for strawberries.  Edie is thankful for leaves of every color, and snow, and puddles, and thrift shop baby clothes for her baby dolls.  Edie is thankful for her dog, Rufus, her sandbox, friends Noah and Ebba, and for maple syrup.  Edie is thankful for music, cartwheels, trampolines, and for salami.  Edie is thankful for chickens, seagrass, the ocean, and for her family.  Edie is thankful for Mars, her blanket out of the warm dryer, the woods, and her scooter.  Her list and her gratitude goes on and on and on.  Because of her, mine does too.  I am okay with that and look forward to a day of relishing in that.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

How Not To Be Too Gross At Christmas

Halloween is over and our little Edie’s strawberry costume has been packed away and put in the cellar with the skeleton, witches, ghosts, and other decor.  So now our parental sites seem to automatically turn toward Christmas. This post is not about lamenting the fact that the stores are putting up Holiday items and some even playing music. I guess that’s just to be expected a bit at this point. I mean I have to admit I get a little excited when I start seeing some of it. I do think that this early jump start on Christmas is of course hyper-capitalism inspired  consumerism at it’s worst reminding us to spend spend spend in order to be happy and have the perfect Christmas and perfect life. A trap most of us fall for. Myself included.

Plus, poor Thanksgiving. We really love Thanksgiving in this house. My husband is basically the best non-professional cook ever. This is his favorite day of the year. He creates lists, flow charts, and plans weeks in advance. We enjoy having some of our besties over and eating until it hurts and being lazy for a few days as we begin to ease into winter in New England. And we never eat turkey! We also think gratitude is pretty important. And don’t get me wrong, I have been known to put the lights up the very day after Thanksgiving and even sometimes the live tree, which usually ends up dry as a bone by the second week of Advent and in our yard promptly by December 26th.

What I really want to talk about though is something we were recently asked by a dear friend: How do you avoid going overboard at Christmas? How do you not fall into the trap and buy way too much stuff? How do you keep it real? So, here is a list of ways to do just that. I call it:

THE HOW TO NOT BE TOO GROSS AT CHRISTMAS LIST:

1. Wait for it.

It is easy to fall into the trap of buying early. Edie has had a Crate and Kids catalogue for well over a month that has things circled with the letter “E” written next to them.  I find that the earlier I start, the more I buy, and let’s be honest most of our kids really do not need that much more stuff. This is something I have not always been great at and sometimes am still not. I was raised by very generous people and had very doting maternal grandparents. I never knew what it was like to not get everything on my list and then some. So try and wait until December! Heck, wait until the middle of December. There is something nice about participating in the old tradition of Advent. This is literally a time of waiting. It helps you to slow down and not rush to Christmas until Christmas. Then, you get 12 days of it! Obviously this practice can be applied in a secular way as well. So, wait!! This year we have vowed to wait for our tree until it is a bit closer to the 25th.

2. Be like Santa, make a list. 

I find that when I go to Whole Foods with Edie on a Monday without a list, I spend approximately $8,000. I buy candles, plants, soaps, cut flowers, 8 kinds of crackers and popcicles and many other items I don’t really need. The same is true with Christmas. If you go into it blindly with no real plan you overdo it. Decide how much you can really afford or want to spend then prioritize and stick with it. We like to get Edie one or two big things. This year it’ll be a crib, stroller, and high chair for her baby dolls as this is her favorite thing to do right now: “take care of her girls”, as she calls it, including her well loved-baby named Baby that is now completely legless and still fully loved. Because of this we will also be adding a new baby to her collection. This is the one we are excited to gift her this year from Hazel Village. We are always on the lookout for good dolls of color and there are simply not enough. If you do not know Hazel Village you should check them out as the stuff is amazing. We were introduced to them by our awesome friend and blogger over at Simply On Eden. To round out our list we then find something that keeps her connected to being outside (obsessed with this), something related to art and making things, and several new books.  That’s our list and we are sticking to it (my husband is reading this and will certainly hold me to it).

3. Be Green and Buy Vintage!

I mean Etsy  makes it so easy to buy vintage and handmade things. My search for baby doll furniture has lead me to look there and I will be narrowing it down soon. If you have any recommendations please let me know. For the same price you get something much more sturdy, typically made of  wood and without the packaging, and much better quality. Other things that can be bought second hand include books, board games, and fun stuff like porcelain tea sets and dollhouse furniture. Facebook market place is also a fantastic place to shop locally for used items. For clothing I sometimes use Thredup. They are great for cleaning out the closet as well and send you a big bag to send back to them. You can even get shop credit when they sell your items which means more Edie’s clothes! A great task to take care of right before or after the Holidays.

The last thing I will say is that we have learned over the few years we have been doing this that less is more. Kids really can’t play with more than about 10 toys, in total. We do have more than that still but we are constantly trying to downsize. Toys that are open ended also tend to go over better and provide longer entertainment and inspiration. So, when you get new stuff get rid of the same amount or more! This also helps with clutter and mess.

Edie will be happy to get a new dolly and a few things to go with those dollies. There are lots of kids that have far less. This is an important lesson to start teaching at a young age as well in an age appropriate way. This year we hope to give back as a family and serve a meal here or there to those in need. We also will go shopping for someone in need together. These experiences help to ensure you are raising a nice person and helps us all to battle that Christmas Gross feeling. These are just some ideas that I had. I would love to hear from you. Let us know how you can make Christmas less gross! Now, on to Thanksgiving! Oh, and a cute picture of Edie from last Christmas, of course.