When my wife and I decided to start a family a little over 2 years ago, I was in the midst of completing a bachelors of science in Nursing. I had decided to switch careers and start over as a nurse. A lot of time and effort went into accomplishing this goal. There was about a year’s worth of prerequisite classes and work as a nursing assistant, followed by an accelerated nursing program which compressed the normal 2.5 year bachelor’s of science in Nursing program into 1 calendar year. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that I pretty much spent most of my waking hours preparing to be a nurse. After graduating, I was fortunate enough to get hired into a nurse residency program at UW Health and wound up working on an amazing unit.
And then my wife gave birth to my amazing little boy. Everything changed.
Night Shifts Are Worst
Working night shifts with a little one in the house became more difficult for obvious reasons. But having to leave my wife and son while I went off to work for 12+ hours 3 times a week, plus having to work weekends became unbearable. Our little one was a really poor sleeper for the first 5 months of his life. He would only sleep for 30-40 mins at a time for the whole night, and when he woke, we’d usually have to rock him back to sleep, or if we were lucky quickly put the pacifier back in his mouth.
Luckily, my wife was able to take 3 months of maternity leave because I am not sure how she would have survived trying to take care of him while I was at work overnight and still be functional in during the day at work. My wife works as a Nurse Anesthetist (she’s the one who provides the anesthesia during surgery and ensures that you make it safely through the surgery without any major complications). Every time I had an opportunity to look into my son’s room on our nursery cam, I saw my wife rocking our son, looking extremely exhausted. It tore me up to see her struggling and not be able to do anything to help. I knew this issue of sleep deprivation for both of us would be temporary, but it didn’t make the situation any easier.
Should I Be A Stay-At-Home Dad?
Prior to marrying my wife, I told her if we ever had kids that I would love to be a stay-at-home dad if we were financially stable enough to do so. Having been a regular babysitter since the age of 13, I have always been very comfortable around children. It always made me mad when men/dads were portrayed as bumbling idiots in the household because I couldn’t relate to the way the men acted. Change a dirty diaper? Sure, no problem. Hold the squirming infant? No worries, I got this. Manage to get chores done at the same time as watching a mobile infant? Well, I’ll get back to you on that one. My point is, I knew that I would relish the opportunity to be more than just the dad who went to work and played with the kids on the weekends.
Does It Make Sense For Us For Me to Do This?
So when the opportunity presented itself to me this last winter I felt like I had to take a serious look into whether or not it was a good fit for us as a family. All the pro’s of staying home were pretty obvious:
- I get to spend a ton of time with my amazing little son.
- I get to set my own schedule for the day (within the confines of his daily needs).
- We don’t have to worry about scheduling vacation times in order to actually go on vacation. When my wife is off, we’re all off.
- We don’t have to worry about paying for daycare.
- We don’t have to worry about who will take care of our son if he gets sick.
But there was this part of me that was hesitant to actually make the decision to stay-at-home. And not for the reason that most people would assume, giving up the breadwinner role in the family. My wife has always made more money than I have in our relationship, and I have never once had an issue with this fact. In fact, I could care less. I applaud her for her hard work and am grateful for that fact that she has been such a wonderful provider for this family.
No, the real reason had more to do with stupid little insecurities. What if I wind up being an awful stay-at-home parent? What if I screw-up his development and he is delayed with the normal milestones? What do I do all day at home with an infant? How do I find people to interact with during the day, and ensure that our little guy gets exposed to other little ones? What if I want to go back to work at some point in time in the future? How do I make myself look marketable enough to a future employer that they would be willing to interview / hire me? Will I regret leaving my new career to stay at home full-time? If you’re a stay-at-home parent, I imagine that at least some of these insecurities will resonate with you.
Well, after about 2 months of discussing my thoughts and feelings with my wife, we both decided that I would quit my job and stay at home. To be honest, initially, it was both a little overwhelming and amazing at the same time! How could you not love working for a boss with as cute of a smile as this little guy? I began to notice how our bond as daddy and son strengthened more and more each day. He no longer cried when my wife left for work in the morning. When he became upset or frightened he would snuggle into the nape of my neck as if to say, “Help me, daddy!”. I couldn’t have asked for more.
As is the case with most things in life, the novelty of staying at home began to wear off. I still loved being at home with my little man, but I began to long for grown-up conversation, or any conversation for that matter, during the day. I joined Meetup.com and searched for other stay-at-home groups. I found a dad’s group, but it seemed like most of the meetups were at night, or during his nap times. I also found that the group didn’t seem to be too active. I tried joining some mom meetup groups and was told that they were only for moms.
Yay For Mom Friends!
Luckily, I found a few Facebook groups for moms that were more open to having a dad in the group and joined them. I also started going to the library more often, and even though my son wasn’t really capable of playing with anything at the library, I felt the need to get out there and introduce him to other little ones. Slowly but surely, I began to make friends with other stay-at-home moms and felt a little bit of normalcy returning to my otherwise isolated day.
So Glad I Made This Decision
Do I still have a lot of the same worries I had prior to leaving my job? You bet, especially the future employment one.
But I figure, if I can stay at home with my son, keep him safe and happy, and still occasionally get things done around the house on top of that, I’m pretty sure I can do anything.