Has anyone noticed that more and more couples with kids are choosing to have one of the parents quit their careers and become a stay at home parent? I meet people daily that either just recently quit their jobs or that have been raising their kids for years as a stay at home parent while their spouse works extra hours at his or her job. There was a trend in the 80s and 90s for both parents to be working full time jobs. Now, as I go through my days as a parent, I am finding that more and more couples are making the decision that I made.
When I realized that I was going to become a dad, I had to rethink a lot of things about my career and myself. As the realization set in that we were going to become parents, we sat down and tried to figure this whole thing out. What happens when the baby gets here? Do we hire someone to take care of him? How will he know his caregiver from his parents? Will we be there for all his “Firsts”(First steps, first words, etc ?) Having someone do all that stuff for us sounded very cold. But, what other choice do we have? Its not like one of us could stop working, right? Well, after weeks of talking about this, we decided one of us needed to stay home, but it came with a price.
Financial freedom was no longer my best friend. Kids cost money to raise and there are things that I had not considered. 6 years later, I am now a stay at home dad. I get up weekday mornings at 7am and get my kid up, fed, and drop him off at his school. Then, I get home and clean the house for a bit. If its Tuesday, I get myself showered and head back to my kids school for lunch duty at 10:30am where I help the kids open their juice boxes, tell them to wash their hands after the bathroom, and occasionally try out my latest cartoon impressions on them while trying not to let them "Cheese Touch" me. I walk around the whole time with my fingers crossed so I am “on base”. Then, its back home to plan my grocery shopping for that week by cutting out my coupons and getting meals ready for that evening and if there is time, I attempt to get to the gym. I then pick my kid up at 3:00pm or 1:30pm if it’s Wednesday, which is usually an early dismissal day. Depending on the day, he may have his tutor that afternoon, his advanced learning program, art class, swim team, yoga, or gymnastics. By then, its about 5:30pm and we have to start homework, eat dinner when his other dad gets home, then he starts getting ready for bed at 7:30pm. My partner gets about 90 minutes with him a day.
It hasn’t been easy for me. I will admit that the change from being a man with the answers in a technology field to being a dad raising a child in a home that I cant seem to keep clean enough has put me in a very tough emotional place. I have had to learn many things the hard way. First, I have had to learn that I do not have all the answers. I spent years asking myself why does my house look like it needs to be cleaned when every single day I clean it? Why are there crumbs on the couch when I vacuumed and wiped that couch down not even 12 hours ago? Why can’t I look across my home and see every bit of floor and every piece of seating space I own instead of trucks, stuffed animals and all my office supplies strategically spread out like land mines?
Second, I have to give up having my home looking like a well-decorated gay villa and accept that my house has an actual family living in it. When my friends say, “Let’s get together for dinner, can you host?” I have to assume they are saying “Lets get together for dinner, can you host, and by the way, we are totally cool with kids stuff being out in the common areas of your house because we know how kids are”.
Third, I have had to give up trying to understand why I cant focus on some things long enough to complete all my task that day for my task list. The simple fact is that I have a 6 yr old child; my attention and train of thought are constantly being interrupted. Like every kid, my boy not only wants to know why the sky is blue but he wants to know how long will it be blue, what if it was red, yellow or green? Since he’s an only child I am his every waking thought as far as a playmate. I am the one he wants to play board games with, get frozen yogurt with, spend hours playing Hot Wheels with, and camping out in his tent in the living room with. I can’t do this stuff and think about how unproductive I am being. I cant worry about how much crap is laying around the living room and how I hope he goes to bed early so I can put it all away before I go to bed. I have to focus on the now because this is what I stayed home from work for. This is what I wanted to experience and this is the commitment I made to my child and my family. I am only going to get this chance one time. Tomorrow, it will be gone and my son will either remember how I loved to play with him or how he was always bothering me with the things he wanted to do with me. I also have to remember that my partner is working extra long shifts, getting as much overtime as he can so that one of us can be here for our boy.
I talk with many of the moms at my kid’s school. There are about 8 of them that get there from my sons class about 15 minutes before the kids get out. They each have quit their full time jobs and they are all raising their kids as stay at home moms. They have all confided in me that money is tight with one income but that they want to raise their kids themselves. I am envious at the ones that have the grandparents nearby to help them at times. I don’t have that option. I wish we did. But, there clearly seems to be a renaissance in the stay at home mom movement. Whether it is at my kid’s school, his swim team practice or online, I continue to meet family after family that has decided to have one parent stay home from work and manage the kids and household.
There is some solace in knowing that we are not alone in this lifestyle choice. There is definitely and understanding between myself and the moms at the school about sharing info on money saving tips, and where the best deals are on school uniforms. We are part of a growing movement. Of course it does raise the question, does a child raised solely by the parents fare any better than one raised by the parents, the afterschool programs, the sports camps and the day care? I would have to think probably not. But, it does make me feel better knowing that I was there for my boy every step of the way. After all, that is what this was all about from the beginning, right?
"Who am I? That’s simple. I am a gay parent that’s treated like a second class citizen and I am done taking it.
Every day I am in the battlefields, in my kid’s school, PTA meetings, swim team, birthday parties with
other parents and I am forcing people to meet me.
Every day I stand right next to them and even if it’s just in my mind, I say “ Look at me will you! I am a gay man, right in front of you.
I have a partner of 8 years and a 6r old boy.
My kid is in your kid’s class and will be for the next 11 years.
I am not going away so now would be as good a time as any to accept me and everything that comes with me."
Joe also blogs at 1 regular joe