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What I've Learned as a Stay-at-Home Dad

POSTED: June 5, 2014 4:00 p.m.
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The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature. Antoine Franois Prvost, Manon Lescaut

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You know the term "jack of all trades?" My wife would say I'm a "jack of all jobs." She's still waiting for me to find a career that sticks. I've been a school bus driver, a retail employee, a congressional staffer in Washington, D.C., a pharmacy school student and pharmacist intern, I've worked in call centers, and I had a job offer in Hawaii as a mortgage loan officer (I even passed all the licensing tests).
I graduated college with a degree in political science. My intent was to go to law school and become an attorney. While striving towards this goal I was working alongside many attorney's and soon discovered that I would be bored out of my mind as an attorney.
My wife and I were both working to pay the bills and we hardly saw each other. My kids were at daycare during the time our schedules overlapped and simple things at home started to get neglected.
As I continued to apply for jobs with the hope of finding one that would turn into a career and support our family on a single income, I also started doing a lot of soul searching. I wanted what was best for my family, but I also realized that I too, was a member of this family, and I needed to be happy as well.
My wife had just been offered a promotion, it was one that would require a somewhat difficult schedule, but provide enough money and benefits for the family to meet our needs. It would require that I remain home and take care of the domestic side of things. I can say, it wasn't an easy decision. It required a lot of faith, but it felt right. I can honestly say it has been one of the best decisions we've ever made. Has it been easy? Not by a long shot!
This change has really put things into perspective for me. I've learned a lot about myself, my kids, and my wife. Believe it or not, my wife and I see more of each other than we did when she was a stay-at-home mom and I was in school and working. My children are happy, I'm happy, and my wife is happy.
What have I learned?
Self-help books aren't all as cheesy as a lot of people think
I actually did learn and get motivated about improving myself and my circumstances from a few. One thing they all had in common: It's okay to think outside the box. Sometimes conventional isn't realistic. Sometimes the norm is holding us back.
I can't do it all on my own
That's what family is for! We're supposed to help each other. I don't have the talent, energy or brains to run it all alone — and that's okay. Extended family is a great resource as well. I learned to seek out the advice of my parents, siblings and cousins, all of which have, at one time or another, been in tough situations. Even though their circumstances may be different, their methods of solution may be helpful.
Family meetings are essential
Input from the whole family is needed. In a family meeting or council, everyone should feel welcome to express their frustrations, their hopes and their own goals. The family council should provide options with goals of helping each other achieve their own personal goals and desires. When a family works together there is more love and respect in the home. I recommend conducting one on a monthly basis. Set aside a designated time and place where there aren't other distractions and the family can focus on the family.
Appreciate the little things
I have so much more respect for mothers. Staying at home has probably been the hardest job I've ever had — seriously! As a working parent I was more of the evening and weekend kind of dad. At home I would turn on the TV, let the kids keep themselves occupied and I could work on what I wanted. As an in-home parent, I've come to realize that's impossible. In fact, it should never have been my attitude before. Kids are full of life. They offer so much joy and they grow up so quickly. If you miss out on them now, you miss out on the little things that make them so great. Not to mention, the opportunity to teach, and learn.
Sacrifice
It's an essential part of family life. Sometimes we have to give up our own selfish desires in order to help those around us. I've discovered when I sacrifice and serve my family, I'm actually so much more happy and so are those around me.
Don't give up
Happiness really is a state of being — an active decision. We've all heard it a million times, but until you actually put that idea into practice you'll never fully understand its truth. I am so thankful for an opportunity to have so much time to spend with my kids. It's hard. Some days I long for the office, but then my kids do something that makes me laugh and I realize I've got one of the best jobs in the world.

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