Every time I run into someone aware of my no-longer-employed status I get a comment about how wonderful it must be not having to go to work. “Wow, it must be so great to spend so much time with your daughter.” “You’ll never get these days back so enjoy them!” “I wish I could do that.” That last line is a common one too. It speaks to a certain amount of jealousy on many peoples’ parts. This frankly amazes me. I’ve never once looked at my current situation and felt in any way special or lucky. The truth is, being a stay at home dad has as many ups as it has downs. And while I’ll be happy to share the downside in a future post…
Today it’s all about the positives.
Positive Development #1: Not Missing My Daughter’s Childhood Sitting in a Cubicle
Before I get to the more selfishly enjoyable aspects of being at home with my daughter, I must cover the most obvious positive development of my current status: experiencing Audrey’s childhood on a daily basis.
I can’t tell you how many times parents of older children have remarked on how wonderful it was when their kids were younger. They frequently lament the time not shared together, replaced instead by professional and financial duties. “You don’t realize how fast it goes by,” they say. “And when it’s gone, it’s gone.” I can’t speak to these sentiments personally—not yet, at least—but it does serve as a reminder that no matter how frustrated I might be at my daughter at times, or how tired I can be at the end of the day, I need to soak up as much of my time with Audrey as possible.
These really are the best of days. And they will be the best memories to come.
Positive Development #2: The Reclamation of Sunday
My previous job was a soul-sucking affair. It was in customer service, and for years I did nothing but help others. Sometimes this was rewarding—thank you cards, the satisfaction of saving someone’s day, etc.—but most of the time my work was unappreciated and quickly forgotten. The stress was relentless too, carrying over into my home life with a startling frequency.
You see, when you hate your job—I mean, REALLY hate your job—it infects your home life. It taints everything, souring even the most precious of moments. Boisterous laughter is replaced with a small smirk. Hugs are passed by for nods of the head or pats on the back. Nothing escaped this big black cloud of dismay. This was especially true on Sundays, with the workweek looming like an oncoming storm.
Back when I was slowly dying, day-by-day, in my cubicle, the dread of going back to work began the moment I was done with Sunday breakfast. Something about finishing my cereal or pancakes triggered the despair associated with five straight days of pain and suffering. Work was coming and there was nothing I could do about it. As the day wore on the worse it got too. Thoughts of having to get up the following day and drive back to that tower of soul-sucking vampires would constantly bubble up, ruining nice dinners, time with friends, and trips out of the house. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Sunday nights were pure torture. I’d cruelly remind myself that the next moment I’d see the sun I’d be back there. Back at work. Back being miserable twisting myself into a pretzel helping an unending parade of unappreciative jerks. I’d find solace in a bottle to help dull the pain. I’d stay up to the point of exhaustion to prevent the tossing and turning I’d experience in bed as a result of having a head full of terrible thoughts.
It was taking its toll.
Now that I’m at home, though? Sundays are back. They’re enjoyable. They’re fun. They’re amazing! It’s like every week went from six to seven days for me. A whole new day to share and enjoy. How incredible is that? And Sunday nights are a joy now. No more despair. No more dread about what the following five days would entail. It’s so fantastically liberating and easily one of the very best things about being a stay at home dad. Spending the following week with my cute and funny 2-year-old instead of shagging hundreds of phone calls from a bunch of ingrates? Yeah, I’ll take that.
Positive Development #3: No More Ironing!
Back in the Dark Days I would need to iron my clothes every single morning. Oh sure, if I had been better about hanging up my shirts and pants after they went through the washer and drier I might have avoided this step in the past, but nevertheless, ironing was a constant every weekday morning. Not exactly a shining beacon for me five days a week.
Now, however? No ironing. No standing in my boxers with a pair of pants and a dress shirt at 6:25 a.m. next to a dirty cat box. I don’t need button down shirts and slacks too much anymore and it’s wonderful.
Positive Development #4: I Can Cook?
I’ll go over this in more detail in a future post, but one very nice change stemming from being at home is that I’m learning how to cook! In the past I could make…well, not very much. Pancakes for breakfast maybe. A few pies for dessert here and there, but that was about it. But in the past few weeks I’ve made a number of dishes that I never had before, including butternut squash macaroni and cheese, turkey and zucchini lasagna, and breaded pork chops with potatoes au gratin! My wife no longer has to cook dinner most nights and I’m starting to enjoy my time in the kitchen.
Positive Development #5: Lean and Mean
I’ve touched on this already so I won’t go into much detail here, but the extra time I now have at my disposal has led to a lot more exercise! I managed to “get my sweat on” back when I was working, but I’d have to do it at either 5 a.m. or after dinner, neither of which was appealing. Now, however? I can ride my exercise bike, go for a walk, or lift weights at a more reasonable hour. Awesome.
Positive Development #6: A Happier Wife
Let’s add a few things up, shall we? I’m no longer miserable about work at home, I’m cooking most dinners, and I’m busy working on my waistline. Put all those things together and how do you think my wife feels about my current situation? I’m pretty sure she’s fairly happy with it. Oh sure, there are financial considerations to take into account—I don’t have any income at this point, of course—but as long as we’re afloat and I’m taking steps toward improving my future and career, she’s much more happy about having me as a husband.
Positive Development #7: A Happier Me
Now, as I stated at the top, there are downsides to being at home with my daughter. I will share those with you in the coming days. But on the whole, I am a much happier person than I had been the previous nine years thanks to this lifestyle change. Sure, there’s something undeniably scary about being out of work. I won’t deny that at all. But emotionally, I am a much happier person. This is due to that aforementioned feeling of liberation. I am free of the despair associated with spending forty hours a week doing something that shaved years off my life.
Now I’m spending that time with the people I care about most of all. Deep down, isn’t that what everyone wants?