My wife and I accidentally created three good looking human beings. To atone for bringing them into this harsh world, which appears to be on the downside of its 4.5 billion year existence, I figured the least I could do was spend a lot of time with them. So I became a stay-at-home dad (SAHD) for four memorable years. As I look back, there were definitely some long-term effects.
I’ll be upfront: it was rough at times. There was the physical aspect of lugging around infants and toddlers who could not or would not walk, and the mental drain that came with being on-call all day. And the crying…man! I’m noise adverse, so the screams were akin to the U.S. military torturing Al-Qaeda suspects with Barney’s “I Love You” theme song played at maximum volume for hours. (True story, by the way.) But I didn’t crack. And I now look fondly upon my time served, for the most part.
The SAHD experience enabled me to develop “manny” skills that I still utilize. I learned to cook Instagram-worthy meals for five in fewer than 15 minutes; I developed a soldierly sense of time and scheduling—Having fun playing with your toys? Too bad. Time for a nap!—and I increasingly became one of those annoying people who wants everything clean and orderly the second it becomes messy. Unopened mail, toys everywhere, a sink full of dishes…ewww!
Most of all, my time as a stay-at-home dad made my heart, previously selfish and hardened by years of #RNS, more empathetic. I’m still known to yell out, “Stop all that whinin’…Just whinin’ for nothin’!” but I have developed an understanding of where they’re coming from as recently de-wombed little people in an exciting and scary new world.
Still, there were a couple of long-term negatives of being a stay-at-home dad. For one, my career fell off. I suspect this is one reason why SAHDs have such high rates of depression and divorce. I was doing contract work during the SAHD years, which meant trading off upward mobility and benefits for flexibility. When I reentered the workforce looking for stability, employers were like, “Management? You mean that lil’ experience from five years ago? Nah, bruh. You gotta start over.” I’m just now recovering.
Also, I began to feel as if “I already put my time in” at home. My wife would come home from work and I’d immediately dump the kids on her and head upstairs for a nap. I’d awake reenergized, cook, work for a bit, drink liquor, watch Netflix, and then get about four hours of sleep. But as far as anything else with the kids, like calming them if they awoke screaming at an odd hour…NOPE. Handle that, Amber! That same feeling pops up today. I fight it off, but maybe I have PTSD from their wild asses.
The boys are now in school at least some of the day and pretty much on autopilot outside of spontaneous outbreaks of hand-to-hand combat. I’m not sure if they remember staying at home with me, but I like to think that they got something out of it. Even if it’s just a fresh perspective on gender roles or a comfort where they see me as a goofy ass nurturer and not only a disciplinarian.
Amber and I switched roles for a time, and she got her alone time in with the boys. They liked her more and showed it by being extra clingy. Now we’re both back at work, putting in a busy 3 to 5 years so we can retire early and spend more time with the boys just before they hit that age where they don’t want us around. I hope they don’t think they got rid of me. I’ll be back for more!