Thursday, January 13, 2011

What It Feels Like for a Guy

*Editor's note: In the spirit of partner guest posts, this post was written by the husband of dr. whoo.

I’m not sure I am worthy of the title of Stay at Home Dad. I don’t have my children all day long every day.

My role to take on more of the domestic responsibilities began in fall of 2008. There was a combination of factors for this decision, but it was largely based on improving the quality of life for our family. Our oldest child had just turned four years old and our youngest, two.

With both of us working beyond full time, we were watching our children grow up in daycare and were limited to an hour or two each evening with them during the weekdays and the weekends were spent catching up on laundry, lawn, grocery shopping and million other items on the must do list. Exhaustion discouraged healthy cooking and exercise, and we ended up eating out or ordering in most of the time. I could continue to list all the reasons, but the truth is we should have done it sooner for fewer reasons. I never thought I would have anything but a long career of continuous development, but my wife had more time and money invested in her career and she was the bread winner. Besides, I have way more patience with children, and all other non-cat related matters.

It has been two and a half years since we made that decision, and it was the best decision for our family. Quality of life for everyone has improved tremendously. Cindy Lou is in first grade now, and we decided that Bean would benefit from the social interaction and academic curriculum at he gets at preschool. I take the kids to school, I pick them up (much earlier than we used to). I cook the meals and clean the house, albeit poorly I am told (seriously, how does dust accumulate so fast?). I pay the bills, clean the pool, and mow the lawn. I also do general repairs, minor plumbing and electrical work and you should taste my stuffed tilapia with white wine lemon butter sauce. During varying times of the day and evening, I work (as needed) to run my unintentionally non-profitable small business with 6 employees. I did get to take a paycheck last January (2010) so that’s good, right?

I now get a lot more quality time….err, snuggling/wrestling/tickling time with the kids which is unbelievably great.

I periodically get a little restless, and send my resume out to test the waters, but every time I get a bite I am forced to reconsider the consequences to my family if I return to the corporate world. Without fail, my decision is swift and clear as to what is best for our family, and that is to stay home. That is to say, stay available. Available for sick children and doctors appointments and field trips and household duties and whatever else needs to be done. My wife’s job as an OB/GYN is stressful and demanding enough, and I cannot help with that or relieve those responsibilities in any way. What I can do is almost everything else, that’s the goal anyway. In reality, she contributes a lot and always has a sense of when I need her help the most.

Anyway, I am unaware of any stigma and indifferent to prejudgments or misconceptions that others may try to attach to me. This works for our family and I am very proud and grateful for this arrangement. I used to think of it as me sacrificing my career for my family, but now I see clearly. We were sacrificing our family for our careers. We’ve both made the necessary changes to end that, and we are a happier family for it.

12 comments:

  1. Awesome. Thanks for the perspective.

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  2. That is very admirable of you. It takes balls to realize what your priorities are and to uncommon roles that will help you put those priorities in order.

    Also, this is only temporary. Kids grow up fast, and I'm sure that when they are more independent (grade school, middle school, etc) you will be free to work again and develop your career goals further. And, then maybe you can arrange for Dr. Whoo to work part-time or whatever else you two can agree on.

    Sounds like you are an amazing partner to your wife and a wonderful dad. She is very lucky to have you.

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  3. Thanks a lot for sharing your situation! Really I sincerely appreciate.

    My future wife and I are looking into at a very similar situation, only at an early stage. We don't have kid yet, but already, I'm looking in probably putting my career aside, even though I'm finishing a master in engineering right now, since I clearly know that it will be for the best of our future family and that we won't need the extra money. I hope that I will have the same vision as you toward this situation.

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience and good luck with the evil dust!

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  4. Thanks for posting. Its amazing how your perspective changes once there is a family to consider. It is a sacrifice... One that is worth it.

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  5. Ya'll made the right decision. In a few years the careers will be a memory but your family is forever.

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  6. I love hearing about other stay at home dads! My dad was a stay at home dad for about twenty years to all five of us. My mom worked full-time during the school year as a teacher and dad worked full-time during the summer as a house painter. I think in those twenty years, between the five of us, we spent maybe a total of six months in day care or at babysitters and it has been for our benefit, as far as we can tell. None of us would trade the experience for the world!

    Dad, of course, speaks for himself, but he's always said it was a decision they deliberately considered and they knew it would be for the best. Mom had a college education, dad didn't. Mom got her masters while the oldest three of us were under seven and dad kept us out of her hair. Dad had his "nights off" by joining darts, cards, and softball teams. He plays guitar. It's been great for all of us and has left us with plenty of parenting experience, rather than daycare provider experience, to model ourselves on as we get older and think about families.

    I know it's not for everyone, not everyone would benefit from it, and being a SAHM mom would make me nuts, but this was good for us and it sounds like you made a good decision as well.

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  7. I love these posts and am amazed by the strength of the men writing them. I would also love to hear from families on this website where the fathers are also in medicine. I know that I am not alone in being a mother in medicine who is married to another physician -- one who says he is not comfortable being a stay at home father. So how do you dual-physician couples do it and still raise your children?

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  8. This is amazing! We are currently one of those families that has the 2-3 hours before bedtime to catch up on chores and quality time with the kids. It's stressful, for sure, but we're not at a place where one parent can or is willing to stay home, so we continue the daily grind.

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  9. Well said. I am a female physician who has chosen to work only 2 days a week in order to stay home with our kids and manage the homefront. Your description of why you stay home is very similar to what led me to stay home (part-time at least)- interesting that the reasons can be the same whether it's a mother or father staying home. Although my husband was less enthusiastic initially, we have both found this arrangement to be much less stressful and more enjoyable than both of us working full-time.

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  10. I´m a single mother of three, work full time as an internist en a portuguese private hospital.
    I don+t even dream about a situation like yours, it seems paradise to me :)
    Sometimes I am so burned out I can´t even stand the idea of making dinner. And ALWAYS exausted!!

    Good for you!!


    inês, lisboa

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  11. My wife is a physician and I am a full time stay-at-home dad. Our first year with this family arrangement was a little shaky, but it works beautifully for us now. My wife and I find that it works best to view this arrangement as a true role reversal: I handle ALL of the childcare, cooking, laundry, and housecleaning.

    I am enjoying reading these posts from other stay-at-home dads, and I even hope to post my own story here at some point! While I love my role as a full-time father, it does get lonely sometimes so it's nice to hear from others in this situation.

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