Yes, I’m a work-at-home, stay-at-home dad. And no, this doesn’t mean I’m holding a tin cup full of pencils. Not because I couldn’t use the extra money, but because my children manage to lose anything and everything that might be useful for work or soliciting. Pens, pencils, jump drives. If I need it, it’ll disappear.
Yes, I’m a work-at-home, stay-at-home dad. And no, my family doesn’t let me work in peace. My role as CEO, CFO, COO, C-Everything-O has broadened to include on-call garbage man, chauffer, waiter, peacekeeper, and jungle gym, depending on whose needs aren’t being met. With my kids, interruptions are as necessary to sustaining life as oxygen.
Yes, I’m a work-at-home, stay-at-home dad. And no, I don’t have structure or predictability in my life. Every day is a mangled unrecognizable antithesis of what was planned. My wife once suggested that I sit down and create a schedule to chisel out specific times when I’m going to work. After we shared a good laugh, I returned to my daily life of predictable unpredictability.
Yes, I’m a work-at-home, stay-at-home dad. And no, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My friends say they much prefer going to the office and escaping the insanity at home. For me, it’s the insanity at home that keeps me sane. I’d go absolutely bonkers in an office environment. Driving like clockwork to and from work in traffic every day, needing permission to tend to things at home, and being immersed in a mindset of company before family. Put me in a cubicle or a boardroom and I’ll probably self-implode. It’s just not for me.
Being a work-at-home, stay-at-home dad, I get to trade workplace conversations like this…
“As you can deduct from the third quarter fiscal blah blah drone drone…”
…for conversations with my two-year old daughter like this:
Kamryn (pointing out the window): “Dad! It’s a fish!”
Me (looking outside): “Uh, that’s a squirrel.”
Kamryn (pausing): “Yeah. A PRETTY fish!”
The reason I consider myself a “work-at-home, stay-at-home dad” is because I bridge both worlds. In the traditional totally stereotypical definition, a “work at home” dad has the luxury of working for a paycheck from home, but perhaps isn’t mired down with the daily tasks of daily living. He works, often uninterrupted, from a locked-away home office free of meddling kids and mundane chores.
In contrast, a “stay-at-home” dad is often defined as the primary day-to-day caregiver while the mom works outside the home.
I realize that these definitions are broad strokes. I’m simply trying to convey that I don’t think I wear either hat exclusively. I don’t consider myself a “work-at-home” dad because this implies that I’m not involved in the daily tasks of daily living.
Nor do I consider myself a “stay-at-home” dad because I do set aside a healthy amount of time for work. I’m also well aware that I don’t do nearly the same amount of child-rearing as a bona fide “stay-at-home” dad might do in a typical day. Even so, my primary focus and my raison d’être is my family. In the simplest of terms, they come first. Deadlines come second.
Granted, I have the help of a wonderfully supportive wife who is also a stay-at-home mom, but I do try to be as involved in my children’s days as possible during their waking hours. I try and do most of my work after they go to bed, which works out great considering it’s the only time our home is quiet. Flatulent dog aside.
I’ve worked for and by myself from home for years and it wasn’t too long ago when working from home was synonymous with being unemployed. Back then, there were two types of people who worked from home. The uber-rich and the unemployable. Because I wasn’t sporting a Ferrari, I was often perceived as the latter.
This misperception isn’t limited to adults. Because my kids have never seen me disappear from 8am until 6pm they assume money just magically finds its way into our household. I’m always around, always there for them. For years, my children never thought I worked.
Case in point: I had volunteered to man the concession stand during my then 8-year old son’s baseball game. As he walked to home plate with his bat he saw me slinging Ring Pops and proudly shouted, for all to hear, “Dad! You got a job finally!” Worse yet, he dropped his bat and gave me two big thumbs up.
There’s no convincing people that you really do make good money and aren’t on the verge of being homeless when your son makes this kind of exclamation. But alas, I can’t expect him to acknowledge the work I do. Mainly because he, in conjunction with my other spawns, don’t let me get any work done anyway. I half believe money magically makes it into our household as well.
With the advent of advanced technology, home-based warriors have gained more and more traction in legitimacy. It’s also helped me gain even more freedom. In the past, working from home literally meant working from home. You couldn’t leave. Today, thanks to my wireless card, my laptop, and my Droid, I can work anywhere. The car during a long trip, our moving van when we relocated, a hotel, an airplane, the local park, wherever. I am completely untethered.
I have a rather unique situation in that I don’t have a boss and I don’t have co-workers, but all of this freedom doesn’t mean I’m free of responsibilities. Working from home takes a high level of self-discipline and self-motivation, which is a barrier many of my friends say they couldn’t overcome.
For me, the balance is simple. I devote all the time I can to my children and work when they’re either at school, asleep, with friends, or entranced by a movie. Sure, working from home often equates to working more hours, in spurts, at sporadic times throughout the day. But the trade-off is being able to be with my wife and children.
I’m there when they leave for school, I’m there when they return from school, and I’m able to attend school functions and doctor appointments during the day. All without the need for an excused absence, a permission slip, or docked pay.
Rarely do I miss a new discovery, a lost tooth, or one of those cherished childhood moments. Granted, rarely do I miss tantrums, squabbles, or one of those frivolous childhood demands either, but the exchange is still worth it.
Thanks to their never-ending freakshow-like shenanigans, my children have me conditioned to the point where I can work from anywhere. If I did have to work outside the home, I think the stock exchange would be the best place for me. All the screaming, yelling, shredded paper, frenzied panic, and unintelligible pandemonium? I’d feel right at home.
I actually thrive on change and chaos because my kids have groomed me this way. I’ve become nomadic in my working habits as I tend to migrate to quieter in-home destinations throughout the day. Depending on the circus that surrounds me, I’ll work in bed, on the sofa, at the dining room table, in the kitchen while cooking, or even outside.
I do have an office…my own inner sanctum…but it’s a rarity to actually find me in there. What was once “Dad’s Domain” is now cluttered and overrun with Nintendo cartridges, crushed M&M’s, princess memorabilia, scribbles in permanent marker, and enough crumbs to bread Shamu. It’s gotten to the point where even my kids avoid it.
Unless, of course, I’m in there. Then? It’s party time.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.