This is my response to the ABC News story ‘I’m Not an Anomaly’: More Dads Staying Home to Raise Kids.
It suddenly seems to be “hip” for dad’s to stay home now. I will probably go into long detail about being a Mr. Mom or stay-at-home dad, but I’ll try to contain myself. I’ve been a Mr. Mom for over 6 years. It is the most rewarding experience and the best damn job I’ve ever had. It is important that a parent be home for the kids. It also helps to have a parent available to pick up the kids if they’re sick, take them to the doctor or dentist, be available to help them with their homework and, this is important, make sure they stay out of trouble. Remember when we were kids? The households where both parents worked were the cool places to go to after school or during the summer. It was the place where you looked at the Playboys your friend’s dad had hidden or the place you would sneak a couple of beers or a few cigarettes from your friend’s parents. In other words, no matter how good your children are around you, they will experiment and likely get in trouble.
Back in 2001 my second son, Garrett, was born. I was a technical writer at AT&T. I made a decent salary; however, it was still much less than what my wife Carolyn was making. Liam, our first son, was in daycare during the day at La Petite. He was basically raised at that daycare from the day he was born and that really bothered my wife and me. I was essentially getting up at 6 am for work and then taking Liam with me to drop him off at La Petite before 7 am. I did not pick up the poor little guy until after 5 pm. After Garrett was born, both my wife and I decided we didn’t want to do the same daycare thing with Garrett. We felt a parent needed to be at home with the kids so they can play with them, read to them and just be there for them. So being the one who made less money, I decided I would quit my technical writing job at AT&T and stay home. At first, my wife and I kept it a secret from the extended family. We lived in Greensboro and our families were in Chapel Hill and Zebulon, NC so it was easy to do. Both of us knew the reaction we would get for me quitting my job and we were both right. Questions, particularly from my father, arose like, “When do you plan to go back to work?” “Are you still looking for another job?” “I found this job listed in the newspaper.” “You really should send your resume.” These questions continued on and on. What made me furious was the fact no one in my family understood that being Mr. Mom was my job. A stay-at-home dad was my new career path. I got up in the morning at the same time I did when I was a Technical Writer. I made breakfast, helped get my wife ready for work and began a full day of playtime with my boys. I changed diapers, potty trained, read to them, hugged them when they fell down and cried, put them to sleep for naps, and went on adventures with them in our neighborhood or even to the toy aisle at Target and so on. Simply put, I was there for my little guys. In addition to raising the kids, I cleaned the house, shopped for groceries and had dinner started by the time Carolyn got home from work. Carolyn would jokingly call me her “husband” and I would call her my “wife”.
The years past, the questions and comments continued from family and friends about how much longer I’m going to be at home and soon it was 2003. Our little house was growing kind small. We needed a bigger house, but on one salary things seemed tight; however, we decided to pursue this goal and eventually built a new home in Reedy Fork Ranch. How did we do this? Essentially living below the lifestyle we were accustomed to before the kids were born. We just didn’t buy new stuff. I also decided to take up a nighttime job at a stock person at the Disney Store in Greensboro to help pay the credit card bills and fund my Roth retirement account. I had taken my retirement account from American Express and rolled it into a Roth at Schwab. Funding my Roth is a joke at times because I’ll go a couple of years without ever putting money in it, but that’s okay.
Soon it was 2004. I got a call from a recruiter for a technical writer position at AON in Winston-Salem. To delight of my parents, I accepted the offer because I felt the kids were old enough. I also thought it would be good to make some extra. Liam was in public school during the day and we enrolled Garrett into La Petite daycare. I got up early in the morning and, instead of Liam, I took Garrett with me and dropped him off at La Petite. The pattern was emerging again, but again, Carolyn and I wanted to try it out.
In 2006, I accepted another technical writer job at Lenovo in Research Triangle Park. Liam was 7-years-old and Garrett was 5-years-old. Garrett, at the time, had started public school early so it was easy. However, Carolyn was now the one to make sure the kids got to school because I would leave in the morning early in order to be at work at 7 am so I could leave and pick up the kids from after school daycare in the afternoon. I did this hour-long drive to Lenovo every day for three years. It was fun at first, but it quickly wore on me and family. You would think having the extra income was good. My response would be “What income?” Most of my paycheck was going to pay for gas, after school daycare for the kids and the lawn service guy since I wasn’t around to take care of the yard and I really didn’t want to spend on the weekends working in the yard.
In December 2009, I was laid off from Lenovo. That single act was probably the best thing to happen to me. I immediately decided my future career path would be as a Mr. Mom and I would not look back or feel bad by what people would say. Yes. It’s hard living on one paycheck. However, it is doable if you cut the expenses you don’t need. To tell you the truth, when I was working, I would find our paychecks dwindled away faster. Now we’re on a budget. Every bill is accounted for and any extra cash goes to paying off debt or put aside to take care of unforeseen car or appliance repairs. Both Carolyn and I drive cars that are over 10 years old. Believe me. Those unforeseen repairs do come knocking and they do add up. Some days when I’m balancing he checkbook, I just watch the money disappear and wonder how in the hell we will make it the next payday, but we always do.
It makes me laugh sometimes to see how being a stay-at-home dad is being chic and cool now. When I first started doing this, it was just me and bunch of other moms at the McDonald’s play land, museum or park. Now I see dad’s everywhere. The only thing that bothers me is the dad who is staying home and trying to make money off their stay-at-home situation by creating a blog with advertisements or trying to sell a book about how to be Mr. Mom. The more time you spend on writing a book or running some kind of website for a daddy support group is less time you spend reading or playing with your kids. Your children are your job. I think I’ve done a good job. Both Liam and Garrett were reading early. They are in Advanced Classes and regularly makes A’s and B’s. Both of my sons are smart little men with an inquisitive outlook on life. I’ll continue my role as Mr. Mom for the time being. Once we feel they are mature enough to get by on their own, I’ll start looking for something. Most likely, I’ll be working at Costco or Target since my Technical Writer skills are basically nonexistent now. That’s okay. This adventure I’m own is worth it.