Looking Back With Perfect Vision
Would you do it all over again? It’s a question I’ve been getting more and more often these days. I’ve been doing the stay-at-home-dude thing for so long that the kid I started staying home for full time when he was a month-old infant now is in high school and itching to drive my car* somewhere far away from the intrusive parent who he sees all the time. (For those of you not big on subtlety, it’s me he wants to drive away from.) Which means I’ve got a big of a longer-range perspective than some dads just starting out on this adventure.
When I meet someone new and tell them I’m a stay-at-home dad for my three boys and chef/lunch maker/clothes washer/errand runner/dogsbody for my wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Fuming Right Now If She’s Reading This, most often they’ll ask if I planned to do something like this when I was younger.
It’s hard not to laugh at those questions. Of course I didn’t plan for this to be my life’s work. I was going to topple governments, bring down corrupt presidents and expose injustice as a crusading newspaper reporter.** It was only after I met, fell in love and decided to procreate with my wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Even More Beautiful When She’s Mad, that staying at home began to be thought of as an option.
I’ll also be asked, on occasion, if I think it was worth it. Would I, were I offered a time machine with strict prohibitions against going back to invest in Apple, Google and Amazon stocks, go back and do it all over again?
Considering that I didn’t plan for it, hadn’t been looking forward to it and (to be truthful) sort of resented the idea at the beginning, can I look back with a clear field of vision over the last 14+ years and say I wouldn’t change a thing?
Thank you and good night.
What? You. . . The two of you not related to me out there still reading this. . . You want more information? sigh
Okay, fine. As unaccustomed as I am to public writing, I’ll give it a try.
For the slightly longer answer, there are plenty of things that I would do differently (some much, much differently), but there is no way on Earth or anywhere in the universe that I would give up the wonderful opportunity I was given to be such a large part of my sons’ lives as they grew to manhood.
I was never the best parent. I didn’t know craft from shinola and couldn’t help with a non-writing project to save anyone’s grade. Because I started out resenting the status quo, I fell in to some lazy grooves and then never broke out of them. I wish I’d taken more time to just. . . be with Sarcasmo1, Zippy the College Boy2 and Hyper Lad3. I could go on and on about the things I should have done better, things I can see clearly now that I’m no longer in the middle of them, but that were fuzzed by the ever-present press of the day back in the day.
But I would never give up the closeness I’ve gained with all three of my boys. I had to be the Bad Parent Who Said No a lot of times, but I also was there to witness their moments of joy and achievement, and could take the time to coach their sport teams, and help them find the answers to difficult homework problems, even one year was spent relearning algebra.
The screaming. The poop. The constant whining. And then there were the kids to take care of as well.
If you’re considering whether to try out the whole stay-at-home thing, I urge you to at least give it a fair shake for a year or so. My wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Even Prettier Now, and I thought it was important that at least one parent be there for our sons, so I might be a bit biased. Still, becoming a stay-at-home dad is a profession filled with unique challenges and unique rewards. I honestly think it’s the hardest job I could have had, but it’s also the one that made me smile and laugh more than any other job.
In hindsight, would I change some things if I could? Yes.
Would I do it all over again, stay home with the boys and forego my planned career? Hell, yes.
Footnotes & Errata
* Baby, you can’t drive my car. All right, fine. You know he’s going to drive my car. I know he’s going to drive my car. He knows he’s going to drive my car, but I just wanted to fantasize about it a bit. I’ve already lived through teaching two boys to drive in my car. I’m not sure I can manage to both stay sane and live through a third. Notice the emphasis on the word my? Yeah, mostly because their mom wouldn’t let them drive in her car and, as a matter of record, wouldn’t even be in the car with them driving for years and years. She’s a smart woman, her.
** Yes, yes, I know. I grew up in the shadow of Watergate. In reality, I would have been bored to death covering endless city council sessions, writing up appallingly banal crimes, and retyping press releases.
1 Not his real name.
2 Not his real name.
3 Don’t ask.