February 2023 . . . .

“Job Search”

I ran into a wall in 2022. Not literally, although that is not beyond me, I am sure. The wall I hit was one of perception.

I’m not a “stay at home dad” anymore.

What do I mean? Well, I’m reasonably sure that you know what an SAHD is. When parents make a joint decision that one will work (go to the job function site) and the other will remain home and care for the children during the workday. I apologize if you already know all this, or if you think that me explaining it is a kind of -ism, but when I began doing it, nearly 20 years ago, it was novel, and I was alone on the playground with my girls and their friends and their friends’ moms. And at birthday parties. And at the library, or the waiting line after school. It was . . . amazing. Not the being alone, because I wasn’t, of course, but the being there, for every moment. Making meals, doing chores, helping with lessons, playing, learning with them everything they learned, being asked questions, making memories.

Pretty schmaltzy stuff, I know. Also pretty great. I highly recommend it if you have the opportunity. Even the strange bit at the end, where the pandemic muddled the crisp lines between home, work, and school, and occasionally required creative stay-at-home caregiver tag-teaming. Still, getting to be the primary home-parent has been pretty rewarding for me. I learned a lot, raising two girls.

And now they’re out, doing their own things. And I stay home. It’s quieter. When I wash dishes, I crank up the tunes — the ones I used to dance with the girls to, while we made peanut-butter saltines. We talk on the phone — a lot. About new things, like how college classes are, or what went on today at work. I listen a lot more. They teach me. And we laugh a lot, and remember things that happened when they were little, not so long ago.

What does it all mean? I hit that wall, dusted myself off, got up again. Now what?

Well, things will never be the same. That’s good and bad. I liked being Dad. And now being Dad means something new. I still get asked questions, but those questions are . . . curious. Like “Hey, what happens if I do this?” Not “may I do this?” I have to remember to use my words. Words such as “in my opinion,” or “I’ve always found that . . . .” They must make their own ways in the world, not necessarily my way. And I also have learned that sometimes they just want to talk, not get advice. They don’t mind if I ask if this is the case, either.

The days seem longer. I have to fill hours on my own. I am thinking about taking a class. I don’t know what in, yet. And when spring comes, I will get a fishing license. Yes, that is cliché. That doesn’t make it less of a good idea. The baseball season will return, eventually, and I want a seat in the stands behind home plate, where I won’t get too sunburnt, and can read between innings.

When I started out in this stay-at-home-Dad role, my desk was in the living room, in the middle of things. I did my reading and writing after chores or during naps, then during school, and finally late at night when everyone else was asleep. Now, my office, with the books and computer and comfortable chair, is more of a hideaway — with some houseplants I care for and a ticking clock and pictures on the wall and a cup of coffee going cold. It takes a little longer for me to find my groove and be productive, and I can stay on task a bit longer without interruptions. It is as rewarding as ever.

Yet, I miss the interruptions. The sound of cartoons on the television. Swinging on the swings. The call to come draw with me or to play knights-and-castles. The homework check-up. Snack-time.

Man, you can’t beat snack-time.