Has Staying Home Been Worth It?


Well, after nearly five years of being a full-time, stay-at-home dad, it finally happened. I saw a job posting that was so alluring, it made me think seriously about returning to the traditional workplace.

The morning after seeing the classified ad, I was on the phone with a friend who knew the details — what the position entailed, how much the job paid, everything. All of it sounded great.

And so I began writing a brilliant cover letter in my head. And then I began imagining the rest: what it would be like to get dressed up for work again every morning (instead of throwing on my now-standard jeans and T-shirt); what it would be like to double our household income (who couldn’t use extra money nowadays?); and what it would be like to have conversations with adults during normal business hours (I could talk about something other than dinosaurs, trains and Froot Loops).

Then, just as my lips were curling into a sly grin, I imagined something else: dropping my two sons off at day care on my first day back to work. And that is precisely where “seriously thinking about returning to the traditional workplace” ended for me … for now.

I am absolutely certain my wife and I could find a quality child-care facility that would take wonderful care of our boys. And I am absolutely sure my kids would survive the transition. But, I am also absolutely sure that I couldn’t do it. Not if I had a choice. And, fortunately, we are in a position in which we do have a choice.

It’s a choice my wife and I made when our first son was born — to have one parent at home at least until he started kindergarten — and it’s a choice we renewed when our second son was born.
Everyone’s situation is different, for sure, but that is the choice my wife and I made for our family. And we are determined to see it through.

Still, those 24 hours of pondering a return to work did me good. It allowed me to assess where I am at and think about the future. That’s a great thing for any stay-at-home parent to do from time to time.

I couldn’t help but consider the opportunity costs of staying home. The most obvious is the loss of full-time income. And, just as important, in terms of a work career, are the rungs in the ladder that haven’t been climbed. By the time our younger son enters kindergarten, I will have been home for eight years. Eight years! That will qualify as the longest I have held any one “job” in my life.

Those eight years pretty much will account for my entire 30s — which is the work world’s typical transition period from being a grunt (in your 20s) to being a grunt’s manager (in your 40s). If you skip working in your 30s, what happens then? Do I have to go back to “START,” or can I simply advance eight spaces? I guess I’ll just have to find out.

The opportunity costs are most apparent on those days when temper tantrums turn into full-blown tempests — complete with gale-force screams and torrents of tears. You question why you are doing this. Does it even matter? Will the boys even remember any of this? I hardly can remember anything earlier than when I was in third grade and my older brother tricked me into eating a piece of dog food.

What makes me want to continue to stay home, though, are the opportunities that vastly outweigh those opportunity costs: To be able to watch in wonder — every minute of every day — as they grow and learn in these formative years; To be able to introduce them to the world and its possibilities; To be a primary guide, along with my wife, in the development of their character; To be fully involved in their first school experience at an outstanding preschool. This has become my meaningful “work.”

A child’s early years go by so quickly, and, as they say, they are years you’ll never get back. So, the traditional workplace — and the income that goes with it — can wait. After all, our decision for me to stay home was never about the money. It was about family. Has staying home been worth it? Absolutely.

Brian Kantz will gladly denounce this column and go back to the workplace for a mere $2 million per year. Any offers? Visit Brian online at www.briankantz.com