I’ve been a waiter, front desk clerk, professional DJ and an advertising sales rep.
But the best and longest job I’ve had is as a stay-at-home dad.
My “alarm” goes off at about 6:30 a.m. It isn’t an annoying buzz, but our 7-year old bounding in full of energy. Usually, it’s welcome, but there are mornings when it would be nice if she had a snooze button.
Shortly after she comes in, my wife leaves for work and the rest of the household begins to rise. Sometimes, I take a shower and sometimes I don’t. My four “bosses” don’t care what I wear or how I smell.
By about 7:15 a.m., most of the other three are awake and dressed and all of them are in the kitchen mulling over their breakfast options. I come down, dressed however I want. No stuffy shirt and tie. No painful dress shoes. I am wearing shorts and a T-shirt or jeans with holes and a sweatshirt. There is no one here to impress since my little bosses already think I’m the greatest.
I help them get their cereal poured or the jelly spread on their toast and try to get my breakfast eaten in between their conversations and demands for more orange juice. Some of the morning paper gets read.
After breakfast, the older two girls finish getting ready for school and all five of us walk the three blocks to their school. On the way, we meet many friendly neighbors, who the kids usually spend more time talking to than me.
When the younger two and I return home, the day is wide open. I’m not chained to a cubicle in an over-air-conditioned office with only the hint of sunlight coming through the window of my boss’s office if she ever opens her door. The kids and I go to playgroup with other at-home dads that are part of LinOma Dads, or to the hardware store or to the Papio trail to ride bikes or we play baseball in the backyard. Two days a week, they go to preschool and I get 2 1/2 hours to myself.
Sure, there is laundry to fold, dishes to do, floors to sweep and bathrooms to pretend they don’t need cleaning. There are temper tantrums and drawings on the walls and floods in the bathroom to contend with. Occasionally, the stress level peaks beyond what I experienced at my other jobs, but there are no office politics and my tan is awesome!
After we get the older two from school, there is a snack followed usually by homework, dinner, mommy time (if she’s not traveling), baths, another snack, stories and bedtime. This part of the day flies by, and I’m exhausted by the time the last child stops coming out of his or her bed to complain of the latest ailment that hadn’t bothered them all day.
Some people think this job is not “manly.” They believe it is not “natural” for a dad to be the primary caregiver. But I wonder what is so manly about any of the other jobs I have had? Plus, research released last week actually confirmed that, biologically, men are designed to be involved parents. Researchers found that dads who are involved with basic childcare duties have less testosterone, which means, like moms, involved dads become more settled, more patient and possibly more healthy.
I admit that the days in this job are long and unpredictable but the “pay,” in the form of hugs and kisses, is the best I’ve ever had.
If you are an at-home dad, please attend the 16th Annual At-Home Dads Convention in Washington D.C. on October 8. The support and knowledge he can get from guys who enjoy this job is invaluable and life-changing.
Al Watts is the President of Daddyshome, Inc. – The National At-Home Dad Network and an at-home dad of four children living in west Omaha.