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?

We Become What Is Expected

One of the things I learned as a teacher in Public Schools for almost a decade was that when teachers have high expectations for their students, they usually see students achievement increase.  This can be applied to several areas.  Unfortunately, in today’s school climate the philosophy is viewed in light of how to increase test scores. Gag. (That merits a whole other entry and is one of the reasons I don’t think I can go back to schools at this juncture).   A lot of the things that I learned as a teacher have helped me to better parent as well.  I am  pretty patient as a Papa, something else I owe to managing 20 little ones on my own for hours on end.  So, life prepares us for life and teaching helped me a bit to be a better parent for certain.  We get asked on occasion about the way we choose to dress Edie.  Mainly, we get questions around dressing her in Disney, or pink, or flowy princessy type clothes or more specifically why we do not. That is a tricky and complex question but here is a bit of our philosophy around clothes and really parental and societal expectations.

I guess the old quote, “clothes make the man..er the beautiful, strong, confident woman” is true.  When we dress our daughters in pink (only) or in Disney attire (only) or in those weird princess things that look like they might catch on fire if you are in the same room as a heat source we are telling them that there are very limited ways to be a girl (and a boy).  In fact, there has been a lot of research that shows that how we dress our girls (and boys) can influence and limit the career choices they make as adults.Forbes Article  Now, moderation in most things is the key, I suppose, and if your kid has a natural inclination toward these things then so be it.  As long as they know the options and that the girls see just as many options as the boys do.

The other issue at play here is entertainment and media.  I have to admit for the first two years of her life we had absolutely no tv or technology.  It was easy, because we just didn’t do it.  So, we didn’t know any other way. Plus we got to feel so smug about it. hehehe.  She does watch some tv now. In fact, on days like today when she is super tired and it is super cold and windy out she watches a bit more than I am comfortable with.  There are also many many days where she watches nada.  We are super careful and intentional about what she watches for the exact same reason.  A lot of media designed specifically for kids portrays girls as loud, mean, overly emotional, or unintelligent or flat.  Right now, she basically only watches Caillou.  I have to say (leave it to the awesome Canadians) that Caillou is pretty decent with regards to gender stuff.  The dad is kind and sensitive and does a lot of the cooking and cleaning.  Mom has a smart short haircut and has a life outside of her family.  Now the voices are grating and God awful but the content is good.  There is also a good amount of cross cultural relationships occurring. Win!

The point is that we control the images that Edie sees.  We think it is important that she see all the different ways to be a boy, girl, woman, man, or gender non-conforming. (Hey, maybe Caillou is gender non-conforming?) Maybe that is why we are all obsessed with this book- Julian Is a Mermaid We do dress her in a lot of dresses and tights and that is mainly because she prefers those.  She HATES jeans. I’ve tried them all.  We dress her as a little person in things that are comfortable and perhaps on trend. (Read gay dads who like to shop.) We also like things that are well made and that will last and we can gift or resell after she is done with them.  In the future we hope to share a few of them with you.  Ok, I will share one now. Sad that we discovered these folks at a point when Edie will soon be out of their size range but you will thank me for them when you check them out. Real shoes made by real people in the U.S.A. for generations. Obsessed…Zimmerman Shoes  If you follow our instagram, and you can right from this page, you will see a lot of the brands that we have come to love and trust.

I write this blog to share what I believe about raising my perfect kid. I do not have it all figured out and welcome comments and debate.  I do think our children become, in part, what we expect of them.  I want Edie to have all the options that an affluent white boy has and then some.  I want Edie to follow her heart, her dreams, and her passions, no matter what or where they are.  I want Edie to be kind and empathetic and interesting and interested.  Oh, and I want her to be well dressed too. I expect it.