It’s 12:08. On any particular day, a month ago, I’d be sitting next to my son at our kitchen table, and we’d be eating our sandwiches, talking about the video games we might play that day. These days, it’s back to giving my son a hug and a kiss in the morning, then not seeing him until I’m home after work.
For a good portion of 2012, I was a stay-at-home dad. I did almost everything with my three year old son: eat, play, write, and sometimes, god willing, nap. I’m not here to tell you that it was a perfect world being home with my son day-in and day-out. I’m not here to say that it was easy. But I’m here to tell you that if I could do it again, I would.
After losing my job in December of 2011, I rewrote my resume, made sure my online presence was societally-acceptable, and I started plugging away. But in the meantime, I got the gift of spending a lot of time with my son. Some of the time, we spent laughing and playing, but more importantly, we had conflict, and were forced to resolve things big and small. I felt as if I was really helping my son develop into a thoughtful person, and not just leaving it to his school teachers, or my wife alone.
Being such an integral part of my son’s life for the last year was an incredible way to put into perspective what being a father is all about, and the importance of being a good teammate with your spouse. I’m not knocking the working fathers – usually, I am one – but being home allowed me to see things and affect things from a different angle, and I appreciate the opportunity to do so.
The day before I started my new job, I found myself tearing up, thinking about the things I might miss out on while stuck behind a desk at work. Nothing big – I don’t expect my son to write a piano sonata or even learn to spell “sonata.” But I’m going to miss the everything of it, if that makes sense. It’s not like we did terribly much during our days together, but I’m going to miss it all.
Most obviously, I’m going to miss sleeping in, and convincing my son (which didn’t take much work) to crawl in bed with me and sleep in as well. We raised an incredibly good sleeper (on purpose!), and one of the best feelings in the world is feeling him crawl up into bed and snuggle in next to you. I mean, me. Not you. That’d just be weird.
I’m going to miss, most of all (and probably a little selfishly so), making my son’s day. Letting him have a small treat in the afternoon if he was good all day, or finding a toy that fell out of rotation and playing together with it. Playing a co-op video game together with him, or letting him play a video game alone on my Nintendo DS…these are seemingly small things that really made him light up. We haven’t been able to spend much time in our backyard because various work was being done on it. But being able to go out there from time to time and letting him dig through the dirt really thrilled him. My wife and I spend so much time doing the parent thing of saying “don’t touch that! Get out of the dirt! Don’t throw that!” So it’s like magic when we just let our son go outside and romp.
There were fights. Lots of them. I mean, my son’s three. But I spent a lot of time working on myself. How could I parent without yelling as much? How could I get my son to say he was sorry about something and really mean it? How could I teach my son that small conflicts and punishments didn’t mean I didn’t love him, but that I loved him a lot?
There’s a big picture here. While at home, I longed for work. I knew I’d miss my family, but I enjoy solving problems and interfacing with people – and not just over Twitter.
And in addition, there’s a lot of pressure at home to, well, not work. As a dad blogger, you have to make a decision: do I spend my day talking about being a father? Or do I spend my day being a father?
Being a father always wins.
So, the big picture here is that going to work not only pays the bills, but it also affords me a lunch hour to talk about being a father, without that nagging feeling like I should shut the laptop and get down on the floor to play with my son.
And, in-perspective as well: there are very few fathers that get to stay-at- or work-from-home, and they’ll, I’m sure, present you with the pitfalls of long-term stay-at-homeness. I was just a tourist. And like a good tourist, I took a lot of pictures, had fun, and would love to go back.
(This article can also be found on The Huffington Post.)