I Had it all Figured Out
When I was a teenager the world seemed infinitely simple - finish high school, go to university, get a job, be a millionaire, get a house, get a wife, have kids. Also, I planned to be a perfect employee, a perfect husband and a perfect dad.
I mean, I guess I didn’t have it ALL figured out. Well into university, I was still unsure if I should go with a Ferrari or a Lamborghini. With all that planning, one thing is certain: I didn’t plan on being a stay at home dad.
Growing up, it wasn’t as if I was oblivious to the concept of a stay at home parent. My mom stayed home with my siblings and me and my friend’s moms stayed home with them. My context, however, for a stay at home parent was entirely female-oriented. Not only had I never encountered a stay at home dad, all my pop culture experiences pointed to the idea that it was the mother who took care of the domestic duties. Movies went so far as to crack jokes about women wanting to find a wealthy husband so they could stay home and raise children. I don’t think I thought it was impossible for a father to stay home with their children; the thought just never crossed my mind.
That’s just how it was.
Fathers didn’t stay home with their children. Fathers worked and thereby provided income for the family. Fathers made decisions and dealt out stern looks and fear of repercussions if the family rules were not followed.
I’m sure this wasn’t the case in every home but this is how it was in my home, my friend’s homes, and in all the pop culture that influenced me.
Okay, So What Happened?
Let me back up a little here. My wife and I found out we were having our first child on June 1st 2015. At that time, we were both working in the corporate world as Geologists.
If you are unfamiliar with Canadian maternity leave, here is a brief run down. A new mother can take a paid maternity leave of up to 16 weeks. Once the baby is born, either the mother or father can take 36 weeks of parental leave. 12 months in total. (Recently changed to 18 months, thanks Justin!). After the leave, their employer is required to accept the employee back into their job.
In most cases, the mother stays home for the full 12 months, while the father might take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks off work when the baby is born. Then it’s back to work for dad.
Now that we’re all on the same page, back to my story.
December 1st 2015, 3 months before the arrival of our son, I was laid off from work. It was obvious that a lot of people were going to be let go so I tried to stay positive. I focused on the opportunity to be home with my newborn child and wife; an opportunity that very few fathers get.
My initial plan was to stay home for 6 months. From what I read in all the, “What to Expect” type books, the first 6 months can be hard for new families. So why not be home to shoulder my fair share of the hard days and the good days?
However, like some sort of a drunken blur, those first 6 months went by in a flash. The economic downturn in our city continued with more layoffs in the headlines every week. I remained optimistic, however, that jobs would eventually come around. Plus, everything was working out at home so there was no need to change anything just yet.
This went on for another few months until all of our friends who had given birth to babies at the same time we did started talking about going back to work and which daycare they were going to use.
It was then that I started to consider the idea that perhaps I could be a stay at home parent.
Don’t Read Forums
Initially, my wife and I glanced at a few daycares without a lot of commitment. I do what I always do when investigating a new topic… I take to the Internet.
The Internet is such a vast ocean of information ranging in credibility from peer-reviewed literature to opinion pieces. This makes it basically useless. It’s kind of like saying you are looking for a snack. You scan through the fridge past the oranges and apples until you lock eyes with the piece of cake you intended to eat the whole time.
Okay, you’re probably saying, “What the heck are you talking about?”
What I’m trying to say is, I don’t like daycares. So, when I look for information about them on the Internet, I’m looking for the piece of cake the whole time; the piece of information that will justify my position, the stuff that says just how terrible daycares are.
The bottom line is that the Internet is so vast, if you have an opinion on a topic, you will find all sorts of supporting evidence that solidifies your own point of view.
He’s so Helpless
By this time our son was only 10 months old. Although babies develop at an amazing rate, I just couldn’t picture someone else caring for him. His naps fluctuated all the time and his food preferences altered in a matter of microseconds.
So, after reading horror stories of daycares leaving children crying in the corner, feeding ice cream if the child won’t eat the one healthy item offered to them, changing diapers once every 4 hours no matter the condition of said diaper… my heart just couldn’t handle the uncertainty.
Now, I’m not saying there aren’t hundreds of loving and qualified daycare workers and daycares that couldn’t have met his needs.
What I am saying is that I didn’t want to have to wonder if they were.
I Planned on Being a Stay at Home Dad
So, with only a couple of months until my wife returned to work, we decided together that me staying home was what was best for our family. My mind shifted from relentlessly searching for jobs to preparing for the often-grueling task of being a stay at home parent.
Do I love spending more time with my child? Yes!
Do I sometimes wish I had a bit more balance? You bet! (In fact, read about whether or not I miss work HERE.)
I didn’t plan on being a stay at home dad and I certainly don’t have a Ferrari or a Lamborghini but what I do have is the assurance that, while things didn’t go according to plan, I’m right where I should be.
Earning those millions will just have to wait.