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?

Get Out! Enjoying the Outdoors With Your Little One Everyday

It’s that time of year when it is starting to feel like it has been winter forever. In fact, in New England, where we live, it has been cold now for five months. Though we haven’t had much snow this year we have had dark, gray, and cold and we are all a bit ready for Spring. Today was the last official day of winter and Edith and I decided it would be the perfect beach day. And it was.

The temperature was right around 40, though the wind made it feel more like 26. The sun however was doing it’s thing and was lovely and invigorating. As we were climbing rocks and hunting for treasures I started thinking about how we had the place to ourselves. In fact, we went to two separate beaches and had both to ourselves, except for the birds and crabs.

As a stay-at -home parent being outside every day has been a priority and a real life saver. Not only does it give structure and meaning, it also helps us to stay healthy, calm, and refreshed. I read recently that Americans spend 97% of their time indoors. I also read that young children should be outside at least 3 hours, though preferably between 4 and 6! I definitely fall short of that some times though I’m always looking for ways to increase our time outside. It’s good for me, it’s good for her, and it’s good for the dog. If you are looking for ways to get out and stay outdoors more then here are some tips!

Top 5 Ways to Play Outside More:

1. Dress The Part

As the saying goes, “There’s no bad weather, just the wrong clothes.” We have found that layers are key. Edie is a real Yankee and is almost never cold unless it’s below 10. When it is that cold we definitely stay inside more. However, with layers we can stay out much longer. In the winter that means we wear all of Our LL Bean gear at once. This means snow pants and boots too, as well as good quality gloves. The cheap Target ones are cute but do not work for longer periods of time. Layer and stay!

2.Open Ended Play Is Best

While at times it’s good to have a mission or even a game as a focus, the best play is usually open ended. Backyards or beaches make great locations for this type of explorative play. In the backyard it’s good to have some old kitchen tools, buckets, old cookie trays, sticks, wagons, or other materials. After or during a rain storm these are even more fun. Always begin one of these play sessions by saying, “it’s ok to get dirty and make a mess as long as we are being safe!” I always tell Edith, “when you are dirty you know you’ve had fun!” This takes the pressure off and sets clear expectations.

3.Create a Mission Or Project:

Edie and I have a little wooden box with compartments that we use for all sorts of things. One way we use it is to organize and categorize our collections. Sea glass and shells are definitely our thing. We have multiple full jars and containers throughout our house. We use this box to help learn sorting and categorizing. It’s also aesthetically pleasing. The point is that you can set our on a mission. We will often collect things related to the season: pine cones in fall, sticks in winter, etc. It can be as simple as collecting rocks or looking for sticks in the backyard. Make it a mission and make it fun.

4. Grow Something Together

When you plant, feed, water, and wait together with your little ones there are so many fun and rewarding experiences to be had. It doesn’t have to be anything huge. We have a small vegetable garden. We love growing strawberries. Flowers are my favorite and provides an experience in most seasons. Even in winter, Edith will check the strawberry patch to see how it’s fairing. There are lessons on conservation and environmentalism to be learned as well as patience and all the amazing bugs. Right now, we are enjoying the birds at our feeder and watching the daffodils, hyacinth, and tulips slowly emerge.

5. Schedule It Every Day

We all live to follow a rhythm to our day that is predictable and orderly. This is particularly true for children. What do you do all day? Scheduling a Successful Day As a Stay-At-Home-Parent is one of my posts about scheduling if you haven’t read that yet. Schedule your time outside and make it a priority. Try and keep to the same time frame every day. Break it up if the weather is too nasty or cold (or hot). Schedule meals outside too when possible as a little picnic is good for the soul.

I’m curious…how much time do you spend outside with your children? What are other ways to get out more?

How can you get out more tomorrow?

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.

Spring Springing

This morning Edie saw a robin at our bird feeder as well as some bluejays. We also noticed larger quantity and variety of birds than we have seen in months. Also exciting is that we noticed that there were the beginnings of buds on some of the same trees holding those feeders.

Some snow is expected in a few days, but February is about half way over and even in dark and dreary New England, spring is on the way. In the following weeks my almost 4 year old, Edie and I will pick out our seeds from Baker Heirloom Seeds. Just looking at their catalog and the colors can make you happy and hopeful.

One of the other exciting things about Spring prep is that you get to start picking out some brighter colors to wear. Well, at least Edie does. I pretty much stick with blue and gray all year long except for some Nantucket Red thrown in for good measure in the warmer months. In fact, even today Edie wore a bright pink cardigan to church that had a warmth that promised spring was on the way.

Here are some colors and styles we are excited about for spring!

1. When we first had a girl we said absolutely no pink. We didn’t want her to be a princess-imitating gender-norm-loving girl who overly obsessed with body and image and all things traditional used to keep women and girls down. But, we have softened. We still want her to smash the patriarchy but she can wear some soft pink while doing so. We bought this shirt this week because I just love a kid in an oxford or button up. Too cute. There are several colors available but the pink is adorable! Thanks, Target.

2. If you have never shopped at Primary then follow the link and start now. Lots of logo free, basic, good quality, comfortable basics for all genders. This is the first year they have offered raincoats and they are perfect. I love a Classic Yellow Raincoat , but they have several colors to choose from. Buy it a size up and you might just get two years out of it! Maybe…

3. You guys know how we love love love head wraps and turbans. Spring means we get to update fabrics and add bright colors again. Please take a look at this one here from our absolute favorites at Dillon Joy . It’s everything! Go ahead and buy it now because they will sell out!

4. Finally, everyone needs good quality shoes for Spring that will keep you warm and dry. Edie and I wear our rain boots to the beach everyday when we are looking for sea glass and other treasure. My mom always says you should never buy cheap shoes. And I always listen to my mother. You really can’t go wrong with classic Hunter boots. They are well made and are a spring classic.
We could go on and on, but we won’t. These are just a few things to help us lean into Spring a little bit. What things are you excited about this Spring? Let us know! Let’s keep hope alive.

A Bald Man Does Hair

Whether biological or adoptive parents none of us can really be totally prepared for all the changes that happen when we are lucky enough to have a baby. When I look back over the last 3 and a half years I’m astounded at how different life is as a parent and all the things that I have learned. I can change a diaper, make a booboo feel better, carry another human while walking the dog and carrying groceries, and I am pretty good at doing hair.

As a white middle aged bald man (wow, that’s depressing to write) my hair care routine for years has involved some clippers and that’s about it. No product necessary, not even shampoo, just the same bar of soap I use everywhere else. Admittedly, one of my trivial fears about having a daughter was that of hair care. Yes, those fears pale in comparison to the fears that she will face being treated as a second class citizen, unequal pay, victimization, etc., but a fear nonetheless. Having a girl of color made this an even more challenging feat as my husband and I are both white. But here we are loving our perfect girl and learning every step of the way how to do that. We make mistakes just like we do with everything else almost every single day but I am determined to get this one right and work hard at doing so.

We want Edie to love herself. No small feat I know, particularly for a girl of color with two gay dads living in a world where racism, sexism, and homophobia are still rampant and viciously alive. This is part of the reason why I am a bit obsessed with Edie’s clothes, wanting her always to put her “best foot forward” for herself. I want her to be determined, confident, and brave. She already asks for straight long hair. This breaks my heart. We tell her every single day that her hair is perfect and that she is gorgeous and exactly right. We show her other people, famous and ordinary, with hair similar to hers. We hope that this sticks. We tell her she is in charge of her body when random white ladies tru and touch her hair and we show her how how to say, “No, don’t touch me.” We hope that this sticks too.

We read books to her where people with hair similar to hers are characters and hair care similar to hers is discussed. (White parents of white kids you should read these to your kids too. Here is a great one: https://www.amazon.com/Emis-Curly-Coily-Cotton-Candy/dp/1503144941 If we all do this, it’ll really stick!

I won’t get in to hair routine too much with you. There are others that are far better at that than me, and I have learned from them and other women of color in our lives. https://www.today.com/parents/white-moms-black-hair-blogs-teach-adoptive-interracial-families-care-2D79488068Women and men of color all have different hair textures, needs, and routines just like all white and other people do. I will say that moisture if key for Edie and we make up for the money saved on my hair care needs by investing in plenty of product for her. She is worth it.

Our very favorite products are all from Miss Jessie’s . Everything. The smells are delicious and the quality is not to be beat.

We are also OBSESSED with this awesome mother and her handmade turbans: https://dillonjoy.com. Try one out! Perfect for a day when letting your hair rest or recover or just feeling like you don’t want to do your hair. Turns a mess into glam in no time. Edie doesn’t love hats at all and is often freezing because of that. However, she adores these turbans and keeps them on all day. Plus she looks so glamorous in them. The shop owner is so sweet and responsive and you can get a nice discount as a first time buyer.

I’m a middle-aged white guy (God, I really have to stop saying that) and I do hair. I wash, and condition, and co-wash (https://www.devacurl.com/blog/co-washing-101/). And I love it. I love it because it’s an experience that I’ve never really had with someone who looks different from me who is also my daughter. I love it because it’s intimate and relaxing and a time for bonding (and usually YouTube gymnastics videos). I love it because it slows down time and the day for a minute. Mostly though, I love it because it’s a time when my growing brown daughter sits on my lap and I can whisper, “You are beautiful. You are perfect. You are exactly as you should be.”

And then I pray that it sticks.