From the moment my wife and I agreed that a child or many would be a part of our future, the topic of stay-at-home parenting roles became a very real notion for us. What I had not counted on? Being suddenly “downsized” by my Internet startup employer of three years and having the role of house-spouse forced upon me prematurely. As a (formerly) working father of twin girls, I’ve begun to dream about the chance to imprint myself upon them – not merely from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and the weekends – but all day, every day.
Until I lost my job, staying home with the little ones was simply an idea. I am now charged with leading the family decision-making process as it pertains to parenting – organizing nightly check-ins with mom regarding developmental milestones, consulting parenting books to back up anecdotal evidence from friends and family, searching the Internet for similar horror stories, and implementing change.
And here’s the truth: I’m not ready. My ducks are not in a row. I haven’t begun to hatch my chickens, let alone count them. If that gives any indication to where my head is right now, the parenting police should probably step in to make an arrest. And yet, in two weeks my role as Mr. Mom commences – only there will be no TV cameras, no actual mom, no nanny, no grandparents within shouting distance, just me : Dad.
If this were the start of a new job, no problem. Day One: Meet the staff, attend a few meetings, lunch with the boss, work on a 30-day strategic plan, meet more staff, go home and sleep well, repeat all week. In the corporate world, you are given several weeks to deliver a product; in retail, you shadow a veteran employee in the field. As a stay-at-home dad – SAHD, an acronym that makes perfect sense now – the new customers are on the living room floor simultaneously screaming, filling their pants with last night’s sweet potato puree, pulling sharp objects from a side table, and trying to chew a power cord. At which point I want to wake up.
But I have to think there are plenty of other dads out there like me, fathers who are experiencing the – er – joy of raising a family through a recession. After all, I’m not the only laid-off dad around. The fact that those affiliated with gross profit-making or policy found clever ways to buy a third home in the Hamptons or Aspen while the rest of us watched our mortgage rates triple, our consumer spending tank, and our small businesses close is not something I just made up out of nothing. These are the financial realities of our time. Never mind that my commute was 75 minutes each way, or that I gave my job my all, I now join the ranks as the second largest group of American citizens unemployed since the Great Depression. Marxist theory posits “unemployment” as a good thing within a capitalist system because it forces wages down, helping businesses stay in the black. I’d tell you more about it, but reading Marx isn’t helping me prepare for being a SAHD.
I hope I can pull this off. More importantly, I hope I make good decisions and raise my girls well. Finger pointing and theories aside, I am now confronted with two beaming babies and a half dozen stay-at-home mom support groups within a one mile radius. All I have to do is walk to the nearest park and throw a tantrum of my own to make contact. I can only hope they will let someone that can’t read instruction manuals and can’t seem to find time for a shower into their club. Good thing my babies are half-cute. (I’m lying. They are the most adorable babies. Ever.)