Why I'm Glad to Be a Stay at Home Dad
Whenever I'm out in the middle of the afternoon with a child of mine I always tend to get the same quizzical look. It's the look of wondering why I'm not working. Why I'm out, dressed casually, and seemingly without a care in the world. It's because I'm a stay-at-home dad running a business from home with my wife.
A recent Pew study reveals that I'm not alone. According to Pew, stay-at-home dads have been on the upswing since the Great Recession, nearly doubling since 1989 to 2 million in 2012. To be honest, my situation isn't a true apples to apples comparison as because those surveyed either can't find a job (23 percent) or need to care for their home or family (21 percent).
Rather, it's more of an apples to oranges comparison as I am not in either of those. I chose to remove myself from the traditional workforce to run my own business – which also allows me the fringe benefit of staying home. Over the past few years, I've come to appreciate a number of the unique benefits I enjoy by working from home.I can spend more time with my family. While I may be busier than I was in my former day job, the greatest benefit I enjoy is the ability to spend more time with my family. Every other major benefit flows from that. We live in a society that values men who think family is secondary at best. We prize men who are viewed as hard-working loners who never ask for help.
While I would take issue with believing a work-from-home dad is someone who doesn't work hard, I'll leave the rest behind me. I'm a man who enjoys being able to spend time with his family. I love being there when they wake up in the morning; when a nose needs wiped; or, when they want a book read to them in the middle of the afternoon. Those are all things I couldn't do if I hadn't left the traditional workforce.
There is more time for life lessons. As any parent will tell you, children grow up way too fast. I remember the day our oldest was born like it was yesterday, and in eight to 10 years we'll be helping her choose where to go to college. That leaves precious little time, and I want it to count for something. Being a stay-at-home dad allows for more opportunities to be there to teach those life lessons.
In my previous life I was lucky to get three to four waking hours a day with my children. I'd see them briefly in the morning, and once I got home from work I'd have two to three hours at best. When you begin to add up the catching up on what happened during the day, that leaves little time to pour into their lives. That's something I wasn't willing to let continue. Simply put, leaving my former day job wasn't just about wanting to work for myself but it was also so I could be there to pour into the life of my family.
I can set my own schedule. This is the no-brainer. In my former roles in the corporate world I had two weeks of vacation and one week of sick pay. If I wanted to take more than five days off at once, it had to be approved by someone three or four levels above me who had little to no knowledge of who I was. That was unacceptable to me.
According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not allow for at least one legally required holiday or paid vacation day. Suffice to say, most in corporate America feel the effects of this as they're forced to fritter away their vacation days like a squirrel does nuts before winter. I did not want to live like that anymore.
As a stay-at-home dad and small business owner I get to choose my own schedule. If I want to go to a kid's sporting event, I can. If I want to take a three-week vacation like I did this past summer, I can. There is no one to clear it with. I don't have to deal with days being blacked out. As long as my work is done I can do what I want. That freedom is priceless.
It's an everyday example of living outside the box. We want our children to see that they don't need to be held back by what society expects of them. We want them to see a cookie-cutter life, while fine, isn't the one they have to live.
In essence, we want them to see they can think outside the box in terms of what career path they choose to follow. Life is more fun when you color outside the lines, and my unique situation is a living example of that. Through my choosing to stay home and run a business with my wife, we're able to live that out before our children each and every day.
Being a stay-at-home dad isn't without its drawbacks, but the tradeoff is incredibly beneficial--and one that I wouldn't give up for anything.