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.

Papa’s Picks : The Ultimately Easy and Affordable Girl’s Style Guide

Spring is coming and that means so many things are coming back to life. As a gardener, Edie and I are obsessively checking for new sprouts in our garden. We have also all but finished our Spring clothing shopping. Find the task daunting? Let us help you to make it simple and affordable.

When I first became a dad I way overdid it with clothes. In fact, if you ask my husband I still have that tendency. Setting a spending plan (budget is such an ugly word) helps to give you some guidelines. Make sure you are also aware of how your little one is growing and changing at the time. Don’t want to buy too much if in the middle of a growth spurt and always try and buy a little too big.

In New England, where it is winter for a really really long time, Spring is about adding some color again and also pieces that can be layered. Some of the pieces will transition into summer and some will not. Keep that in mind when prioritizing and sizing. After that I like to think about what things are priorities and what things I can get with leftover money as splurges. Here are the three categories I like to think of:

The Affordable Basics, Layers and Mix and Match, and Holidays and Splurges

This post contains some affiliate links. While I might make some money off of your purchases it comes at no additional cost to you.

The Affordable Basics

One super important thing I have learned is that leggings are not an option they are a necessity. I also have learned that really 3-4 pair are plenty. I do laundry every day. Duh. See this post- Plastic Free Love. If you don’t do laundry every day, first off I envy you, secondly then add a few more pair. I used to buy higher end leggings and it is not worth it at all!! Target Leggings are where it’s at! $6? What? Yeah, $6 and they last and are soft and you need every color. Check out the unicorn ones! The basics go with everything!

Layers and Mix and Match

Next you need some layering pieces to add to your leggings. I can not say enough good things about Primary. Some of you still haven’t tried them and I’m really not sure why. Gooooooo!!! So soft. No stupid logos or goofy pictures. Just great colors and fit. I find the stuff to run a little big, which is great because you get a few seasons out of it. Their dresses have pockets: a must for Edie and most other dress wearers. Here is Edie in her black dress from Primary


Get 20% off your first order at Primary.com with code AFF20PCT
Enjoy a great discount code here!

Holidays and Splurges

With most seasons comes a special occasion or Holiday. When I can I like to splurge a little for an outfit. With Spring, I always look for a Birthday outfit and an Easter outfit. For those I usually do Hanna Anderson or Boden. As a newbie parent, I used to buy a lot more from them. As we are getting closer to paying for Kindergarten and in order to keep my marriage intact I try and shop at these spots only when on sale or for special occasion. If you have the resources, go for it. I particularly love Boden’s quality, and both brands are committed to representation and diversity. Win!

Look at this number we are eyeing for Easter:

Hello gorgeous

A shoes and accessories post will be coming soon and separately…but take a look here for the best shoes ever…Zimmerman Shoes.

Let us know what you think! How do you manage seasonal wardrobe changes? Share your successes and favorites with us!

Plastic Free Love

As stay-at-home-Papa I am the one in charge of keeping the home running smoothly and beautifully within a budget. See! The gay lifestyle is no different than yours.

One thing we have been focused on a lot lately is plastic. In fact I can get a little obsessive about it. The other day when Edie and I were shopping I knew that I was driving home a point as she was checking pieces of items that we were thinking of purchasing

Edie helping clean up

and saying, “metal, metal, glass, ok Papa are you happy? No plastic?”

Plastic is something pretty gross and it’s everywhere and in fact poisons our food, air, and water. Plastic is made using nasty chemicals and once it’s here it’s here for a long time. One thing that drives me nuts is the amount of unnecessary plastic that food is packaged in, particularly fruits and vegetables. We try and buy as many things from bulk bins and avoid having our broccoli with a side of petroleum whenever possible. Not only is plastic gross and avoiding plastic can actually make your home less toxic, it can also be cheaper!

Here are some things we do around the house to avoid plastic and excess packaging.

1. We love making our own laundry detergent. Choose any bar soap scent that you like (right now we are using cinnamon) and add a few other ingredients that all come in cardboard and you’ve saved your purse and the planet. Here is our recipe. Totally non toxic so kids can help grate and mix as age appropriate too.

-one part grated bar soap -two part borax -two part washing soda -mix and keep in cute glass ginger jar. -use 1/2 teaspoon for wash

2. Stop buying cleaning products! Not only are they harsh but they are expensive. We bought glass spray bottles and fill them mostly with vinegar and it cleans almost everything. Add your favorite essential oil if you don’t love the vinegar smell like I do. Why am I craving sauerkraut? Add some baking soda for toilets and tubs. Make a separate bottle with a little olive oil and vinegar for furniture polish. Again, all kid friendly so your whole family can clean together!

3. We discovered this store a few years back and they are amazing: Package Free. Love them! We buy our compostable toothbrushes here as well as deodorant, floss, and plastic free food wrap! It all comes without packaging and the quality is fabulous.

4. I know it sounds a bit pretentious to say you get your toilet paper delivered and I’m ok with that. For serious though, if you aren’t using Who Gives A Crap then give them a try. No plastic!! The wrapping is all compostable and they donate money to building toilets in underserved areas. PLUS, you don’t have to lug toilet paper around!

5. No plastic cups or straws. This one is tough when kids are super little and I would definitely recommend silicone then. Metal tumblers and plates are also great options. Teaching kids to wash their own plates and cups also helps them mimic grown up activities and become productive household members. Oh, and speaking of washing up we love the zero waste dish soap from Beehive Alchemy. Fun to use, pretty, and toxic free.

I’m curious to hear other simple ways you would suggest to make our home a little less toxic and plastic free? Edie and I are happy to share more ideas too!

It Does Work

I’ve been trying to teach Edie gratitude and thankfulness, at least as much as one can teach a 3.75 year old.  I can’t really teach her to be grateful if I am not.  That is the really tricky part.  I think I have to admit that I tend toward pessimism naturally.  I am a bit anxious and depressive, a belly-acher if you will.  So this post is not about me preaching to you or even giving advice.  Believe me, I am the last person that you would want to take advice from.  Most of the time I feel like I am a super hot mess of a parent and human and am mostly just trying to get through each day and make myself better and hopefully get better at this parenting thing, too, without being a total jerk to those I love and need the most.  Along with exercise, gratitude is a fantastic remedy for these conditions and attitudes.  I try many evenings to have Edie pause and name what she loves or loved that day, to name the things for which she is grateful.  I say most nights because there are some nights when we can barely get her to potty and brush her teeth before she loses it and collapses into alternating laughing and crying before a final crash into sleep.  Last night as she was about to fall asleep, she said simply:

“Let’s talk about Maine.”

Maine is our favorite place in the world where we like to vacation and would love to live full time if we could figure out how to make a living there.  It makes us happy and peaceful and relaxed.  We always feel more connected and more ourselves, really.  It makes us grateful.  So we talk about Maine.  We talk about our favorite meals, memories, and moments including Rufus, our dog, getting sprayed by a skunk.

These shared moments of gratitude bring us closer together and help keep us centered and focused.  It’s one of the reasons I find it necessary to belong to a faith community.  It’s a place where you can share your struggles, sure, but it’s also a place to be grateful together.  To say, even though there is a lot of shit in the world we still press on.  We have hope. We hold each other tight.  We stand up to injustice and oppression.  We know that Trumps presidency will one day end.  For certain it takes a lot of audacity to have hope and gratitude. There are days when I can get bogged down with a lot of the junk that a lot of us do: my aging dog, my dying dad, failed relationships, oppression, the rise of the right around the world, and climate change to name a few.

Hope, grace, and gratitude seem to be the antidote to most of this shit.  I have so much to be grateful for.  I have a feeling that most of us do.  As usual, Edie is the one who teaches me how to be a better person.  She already gets it and when she says, “Thank you, Papa,” her gratitude makes me grateful too.

Here is what I am grateful for in a list form.  This list is not exhaustive.  It is a start and a reminder.  It is an anchor for me to come back to on those days when I can’t seem to find a place to start.

I am grateful for:

  1. Every text message that I still get from my Dad.  There will not be many more, but there have been more than I thought.
  2. Tim, my husband.  I literally have no idea how he puts up with me.  He makes me a better person.  Every single day.
  3. My family.  My mom who I get to live with.  My sisters, who understand me like no other people on the planet.  My family through marriage.  I am lucky on all accounts here.
  4. The ocean.  I am grateful to live on the coast and the ability to smell the sea daily, to gather sea glass, and to have the mystical metaphors that come along with the tide.
  5. Sobriety.  I drank too much for so long.  Man, a lot of it was really fun.  I still drool when I think of a good Cabernet.  But, I am healthier, happier, and much more rested and present than I have ever been.
  6. My plants, inside and out.  There is nothing like growing something to help with gratitude.  Sometimes when no one is watching or listening I even tell them how lovely they are.  Crazy ass hippie.
  7. Edie.  Yeah, we have our difficult moments, but this person that I am lucky enough to spend every day (and many nights) with is just perfect.  I have been told not to tell her that by some well intentioned folks but I completely disagree.  She is perfect.  How many of us actually feel that way about ourselves? I want her to and she is gonna have enough messages to the contrary.
  8. Snow
  9. Bread
  10. Sleep.  I love how dark it is in coastal New England in the winter time. It gives me an excuse to put on my pajamas at 7 and be in bed reading by 8.

Ten seems like a nice place to start.  Gratitude is something I am working on for my sake and for Edie’s too.  I am doing it because I have to.  If I do not, I can get completely bogged down in the garbage.  Gratitude enables Grace.  It gives us that second chance ( and third, and fourth…).  Like teaching a three year old to be grateful the hard part can be getting started.  As Edie has taught me, sometimes you just have to cuddle in bed and talk about Maine.