Friday, November 4, 2011

Why am I a stay-at-home-dad?

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"By choice man!"
That, in the most simplistic way, sums up why my wife and I chose for me to be a stay at home Dad over the alternatives. Before my wife and I were married, we knew that it was fast becoming inevitable that we would be engaged and have a wedding together. We had already moved into a condo and were talking about what we saw in our future, both together and our own lives. We both wanted to travel, eat at some nice restaurants, live in a house with a yard, work hard at our jobs, and of course have children. When discussing children, we were pretty much on the same page in our expectations. We wanted to provide a warm upbringing that consisted of love, care, education, fun, laughter, and experiences. One problem was day care. At the time, I was working in retail which had an ever changing schedule that included at least 2 nights a week and sometimes to weekend working days. My wife's job had always entailed a steady Monday thru Friday 9-5 type of work schedule which meant that we weren't always off at the same time and if that didn't change in the coming years, then child care could become an issue.
One day, my then girl-friend (I will just refer to her as wife no matter if we were married at the time) pointed out a Newsweek article about the rising percentage of stay at home Dads in America. She asked me if that was something that I would ever consider. She brought it up because she has a chance at becoming a full partner at her law firm that would require more of an already large time commitment and an obvious increase in pay. If I were to continue working then we would never see each other and were both agreed that that was not the way we wanted our lives to go, especially with a child. My first reaction was to completely balk at the suggestion, which is pretty much my nature to do whenever faced with a new idea.
After a few weeks, I began to talk it over a little bit with my wife (remember we're not married yet, but let's just call her my wife) and we discussed the situations that may come up in which it would be best to have one of us, mostly me, be a stay at home parent. We had no problem with the possibility of hiring a nanny, depending on the time commitment as well as the cost. All of our parents would probably be in their 60s and 70s when we had children so it would be quite difficult to count on them as full-time daycare. We didn't have to make any type of definitive plan, but it was important that we knew what our options were and if we felt comfortable with them.
Fast forward 3 years and my wife is told that she is going to be induced into labor because of her symptoms of preeclampsia. Everything works out and although the little guy is a little underweight, things turn out. I took 6 weeks off of work because my wife needed a little bit of bed rest and then went back to work. Things started out well, but that was because my wife was still on paternity leave and had help with her parents during the day. A few weeks after she had gone back to work herself, the schedule began to get a bit hectic. It became quite clear that my wife was not happy about the differences in our schedule and wanted to make some sort of change. At first we talked about hiring a nanny for 3-4 days a week and soon found out that it would cost roughly $28,000-$25,000 per year based on what we needed. That would be 3/4ths my paycheck after taxes and would require that my wife have a little more restricted work schedule herself. Since our wedding, my wife had gone from a law firm to an in house job as a corporate lawyer and was moving up the ladder. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense for me to stay home full-time and take care of our son. My wife would be able to get promotions which would mean more money, her job already was paying her quite well, and we would be almost breaking even at the end of the year from a financial standpoint if we were to hire a nanny.
It was settled. Now what the hell do I do?
Surprisingly my wife was quick to accept my proposal, not only the first time around, but this one as well. Once I got in to the groove of the daily schedule and felt comfortable in what to expect, I really enjoyed being at home for a myriad of reasons. The retail business was in a general decline and management jobs were becoming much more competitive without the benefits. You were expected to work whenever it was called for which no longer seemed fair to me. More importantly I hadn't gotten a chance to know my own Father who had died when I was 4 years old, so I thought this was a wonderful opportunity for me. Now 4 years and 3 sons later, I am feeling more of the same way. I would be lying if I said that it wasn't incredibly tough and draining, but for me, this is where I want to be. I am not religious at all and I don't know what's going to happen, so I don't want to miss watching my kids growing at this age. I could go into a lot more detail, but that would take up countless entries and hours, but most of all, I'm happy to leave it at that.
Thanks for reading.

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