I must insist that you click on the video above. That video is exactly how I feel about my new job. It makes me laugh but also, hell yay! I’M A STAY AT HOME DAD!
In January my wife and I switched roles. Her year of maternity leave ended and she went back to work. I’d arranged for my contract to end in December and I stayed home. I’d never spent an entire day alone with my son until then. I remember dreading coming home from my office job because infants are terrible conversationalists, they just cry. Binary communication: 0: Okay; 1: Scream and Cry
That first month or two is a complete haze of memories. It was pure survival mode as I acclimatized to my new life. Discovering when it was okay to ignore his cries and when I needed to stop whatever I was doing and pay attention. I remember staring at the clock thinking when is Janine coming home? and regretting all the times I didn’t immediately rush home from work. Sometimes you need backup.
I’ve gone on record saying the stay-at-home parent’s job is the hardest but it’s also the easiest. Some days all I do is play with Nathan, we laugh, we giggle and I’m nothing more than a tour guide as he explores the world around him. Shopping at Wal-Mart becomes a fun adventure and Ikea roxors because I let him out of the shopping cart and he runs around playing with all the display toys. I play too. Every dad should force their baby’s mama out of the house on a regular basis and just spend some one on one time with their kid(s). It can be frightening and scary and the complete opposite of fun, for many many days in a row even. But it’s worth it. There’s no other way to get that parenting confidence then having absolutely no backup.
Parent’s complain, a lot. If you listen to them it’s like they are constantly bitching about their child(ren) or how difficult their life is. The other way parents behave is a polite nod and say “everything's good” with a smile; that just means you don’t know them well enough or they can’t complain just now because if they did they would have a complete melt down. Something’s always bad. When you get into a good bitch session about parenthood the conversation can go on for hours. Some of the stories about the stupid thing your child did take minutes of conversation just to set up, they require background information, geographic details and in-depth descriptions of your state of mind with caveats like how they’d been keeping you awake all nights for many days in a row. It also keeps us sane, letting vent on these problems, knowing that we are not, in fact, alone.
I theorize we, as parents, complain because the good things about parenthood are so minor in their details. Because, actually, something’s always good. Every single moment is what makes it worth it. Tiny little moments like watching him spill less yoghurt all over himself as he gets better with a spoon. Watching him play with a dinosaur instead of just chew on it. When he learned to give us kisses. Practicing high-fives with him and the moment where he got it. Listening to him say “bye” to everyone we pass in the store. Handing me a rock he just found on the ground like it’s the most awesome thing he’s ever seen and he just needs me to hold onto it for a moment so he can investigate the hundreds of other rocks nearby. Being so proud of his sippy cup because he can carry it around and drink water whenever he wants (I mean, that’s technology). Playing with the remote control for the fan. Watching him in his sleep grabbing for his soother. No details, no setup, see… not really great conversation.
But they are really great moments. Those are some of the moments that warm my heart. I mean where do you go from “Nathan tried to put on my shoes today” maybe you can add “it was sooo cuuute.” Sometimes with fellow parents you get a knowing smile as you share a mutual bond. They say “she’s been pulling herself up on the couch lately” and you smile because you remember that moment, or you know that moment will happen someday for your child, and they smile because they are so proud of their child’s brilliance. We parents smile at each other, as we both think of our own child. It is a deep warm smile that I cannot really describe. Sometimes you nod a little bit as you look at the other parent because, well, yeah, exactly. It’s those small little things. They’re like crack cocaine for parents. We will endure so much just to make it to the next little hit. Watching Nathan grab handfuls of rice and shove it into his mouth because, clearly, that is more efficient than a spoon (he’s right, y’know, it works much better). Pointing at a stuffed animal he’d never seen before and saying “duck” (and it was a duck! How did he know?!). Time spent with children is the potential to experience those moments.
I get to experience more of them now. It is a wonderful privilege.
Before and during the switch people always asked me if I was going to do computer programming from home, in the evenings. But no. Not even tempted. I can barely keep up with life as it is. I don’t have to fill out time sheets, attend meetings, or work on something I know will be completely useless to the client but is the pet project of a manager or business analyst.
I’m a stay at home dad and the core of what I do is directly relevant to raising my child. In ten years the software I wrote will be a crumbling legacy system. In ten years my child will still be developing into a fully fledged human being. At some point I’ll have to go back to the office world and chances are high that I’ll never again get to spend months in a row just reading books and taking baths and going to the library and wrestling and dancing and singing. I’m so blessed. You’ll hear me complaining a lot, I’m sure. It makes better stories and sometimes this is the hardest job in the world (and I’ve only got one child).
But sometimes it’s the easiest. It’s the most rewarding work ever. I know what Nathan’s favourite book is and I know his favourite page in a book and they’re different books. I’m going to say something now that I’ll don’t think I’ll ever be able to say again for the rest of my life, not with the same conviction:
I love my job.