Making the Most of Your SAHD* Years

There’s this catchy song by the Canadian rock band, Barenaked Ladies, that goes something like this (pretend I’m singing to you in a mesmerizing, perfectly tuned voice): “it’s all been done … woo-hoo-hooo … it’s all been done … woo-hoo-hooo … it’s all been doooooooone before.” Wow, am I good on vocals or what?

I can’t remember exactly what the group is referring to in that song, but I do know that you could apply that same sentiment – it’s all been done before – to the books being published about parenting these days.

There seem to be about 10,000 new titles on the shelves that focus on one of these three worn-out themes: child development milestones (these exist solely to make already nervous first-time parents downright neurotic); keys to creating “happy babies” (instead of reading a book, shouldn’t parents just be able to buy magic powder to sprinkle on their children to make them happy?); and parenting tell-alls (by writers who think that anyone else might be remotely interested in the antics of their children – what a bunch of arrogant, self-righteous … oh, ah-hem, anyhow, please continue reading my column. I’m sure you’ll find the rest of this quite interesting).

Having been a stay-at-home dad for the past five years, I’m looking for something a little different in the parenting section at the library. And what I have yet to find is a book that says something along these lines: In today’s world of high-stress careers and high-stress living, becoming a stay-at-home dad provides the career timeout that can change a guy’s life.
Wouldn’t it be great if there were a book that told you how to make the most of your stay-at-home dad (or mom) years, and how to prepare for the day when you go back into the traditional workforce?

Well, I can’t offer you that book yet, but I can offer a few quick ideas on the subject.

First, accept – no, go ahead and celebrate – your role as a stay-at-home dad. Seriously. CEL-E-BRATE. The other day, my older son asked me where his grandfather works. I said, “He doesn’t work anymore. He’s retired.”

My son asked, “What does retired mean?”

And I told him, “Well, it means that he used to work, but now he gets to relax and do whatever he wants to do.”

And the little rascal quickly replied, “You’re retired too, Daddy.” I laughed. In a way, he’s right. I’m on temporary retirement. Of course, keeping up with two young boys is a lot of work, but who hasn’t dreamed of jetting away from the workforce for a little while to do something totally different and something totally meaningful – like raising kids? Those of us who get to stay at home with the little ones are a lucky lot. Be sure to appreciate that, even on those days when the kids are driving you nuts. It could be worse – it could be your boss driving you nuts.

Second, you need to take the opportunity during these years to develop a “superyou” – whatever that means to you. Take some time for yourself (while the kids nap or attend preschool or go on a playdate) and do something great. This is your chance. I didn’t start exercising at the YMCA until my oldest son turned 4. What the heck was I waiting for? If I could turn back the clock, I would have joined the Y a couple years earlier. Take advantage of it.

Third, get involved in the community. I can’t stress this enough. There are plenty of ways to get involved with local nonprofits and other service organizations and projects. And the rewards are two-fold. Yes, you’ll get the satisfaction of helping others. But, you’ll also help yourself. There’s no better way to build your resume while you’re staying at home with the kids than by volunteering. Future employers have to be impressed when you tell them that you’ve helped out at, or even served on the board of directors, of local org

Fourth, think about gearing up now for re-entry into the workforce. As I said above, staying at home with the kids is kind of a career timeout. If ever you had a chance to switch fields or walk down a totally different career path, this is it. Start laying the groundwork long before you actually go back to work by earning a new degree or networking with new people. Prepare to do what you really want to do.

Finally, make your own Top 10 list. Write down 10 things you’d like to accomplish before going back to work. These could be big things or little things. These could be kid-centered things or you-centered things. Having a list in writing is often the best way of making it happen. And it could be a great way to confirm that you’ve made the most of your stay-at-home dad years.
* Stay-at-Home-Dad

Brian Kantz may consider himself “temporarily retired,” but that doesn’t mean he goes around wearing dress socks with his sandals and looking for the best place to get an early bird special dinner. Visit Brian online at www.briankantz.com or drop him