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?

What we leave behind.

This one is going to be a bit heavy. I have been listening to Joni Mitchell, it’s Monday, and my dad is dying. He has been for a few years, but is really sick now and I was just texting with him and he “really just wants to make it until Christmas.” He was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis about five years ago and has been steadily declining since. There were several times we thought it was the end but this time it really is. He can’t really do much at all. He gasps for air and is uncomfortable. He texts and listens to music and plans for his cremation and memorial. In the evening, if he is up for it, he gets wheeled to the car and is driven around by his partner to look at Christmas lights.

Edie has only seen my dad twice. That is enough right there to leave me heartbroken and sad. My parents divorced about 14 years ago and I didn’t handle that so well. I was mad at my dad and let that anger eat away and ruin our relationship. Not that it was ever a perfect one, but it definitely had its positives. I have a lot of regret about those missing years and our lack of closeness. Some days it really gets me down.

Edie will not remember my dad. Even now he is mostly known through pictures and texts. When I tell her that he is my dad she laughs nervously as if she doesn’t know what to do with that information. He and I have made peace as much as we can and I’m so thankful for that grace. My dad had a really tough childhood and was emotionally and physically abused in some really awful ways by his parents. When I think of this and consider what a kind and gentle parent he was I’m amazed at his strength and tenacity and love.

I learned a lot from my dad. Sure, smoking cigarettes and flirting are two of those things. Thankfully, I haven’t smoked in 14 years or so and I rarely get the chance to flirt. But, I learned some really important things too. Some of those things helped shape me as a parent and will help Edie as a person too. One way I can remember and honor him is to share with her those things and tell her about my dad and all the things he helped me learn and be.

My dad taught me to love everyone. He didn’t stand for racism and homophobia and indifference or prejudice. He is kind and anti-war and violence. He never owned a gun. He’s never voted Republican.

My dad believed that his daughters and sons were equal in intelligence and ability. My dad loves hanging out with LGBTQ folks. When I came out, all the young gays who were often rejected at home had a warm welcome, a meal, and a place to stay with us. My dad (along with my mom) would even take us all to the gay bar for a drag show.

My dad stood up to institutions like the church and challenged them on institutional biases and prejudice. Eventually the hypocrisy grew too much for him and he left those institutions behind.

My dad taught me to love good music and to sing loudly and enjoy it. Some of my fondest memories are of Simon and Garfunkel being played loudly on the record player as we all sang and danced along. To this day folk music is still the epitome of good music.

My dad loves family. Though his parents were difficult my dad made the effort over and over again to show them love and kindness and forgiveness. My dad always put my sisters and mom and I as first priority. He worked very hard to provide for us, and we wanted for nothing.

My dad loves the ocean and the beach. We didn’t grow up in a coastal state but always vacationed on the shore. He knew how to just sit and listen to the waves or Bob Dylan and chill.

My dad loves Christmas. As his health started really declining almost a month ago, one of the first things he wanted done was to have his tree put up so that he could enjoy it for one last season.

My dad is cool. He has a strut. He is a music snob. He has a wicked and irreverent sense of humor. He is a smart ass. He loves passionately and deeply.

I will miss my dad. I already do. I only hope that I can pass on to Edie some of these great things that he gave to me. I hope that some day, she will have a similar list when she writes about her Papa’s legacy.

Edit: Dad died on February 19th, 2019 at home alone. We are still in the early stages of grief and it can be brutal. He IS missed. Now, to work on my own legacy with more intention and love.

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.