New Job; or reflections on a spell as a stay at home dad

Ken writes:

I’ll be starting a new job on Monday. Aside from a brief spell with Diageo that I arranged as an industrial placement during my MSc, this will be the first paying job I’ve had since Frank was born back in late 2009. It feels pretty good to be joining the ranks of the wage slaves again. I can take a lot of positives away from my time as a stay at home dad. I think I have a close relationship with the boys, especially Frank. My cooking has improved immensely. I have learned how to cook roasts, casseroles, sweet as well as savory pies; I can make my own curry sauce from the constituent spices. I have done amazing feats of DIY, including insulating the attic, tiling the kitchen and bathroom, painting the walls. I’ve laid out the garden, planting trees and putting in raised beds. But despite these achievements, it was slowly driving me insane. I’m just too old fashioned in my basic outlook on life to regard being the principal care-giver for two boys as an acceptable life for a man. I was ashamed of my situation. Now, if it had been Dot in the same situation, I would not have seen it as shameful for her. If it had been one of my male friends, and they had not felt ashamed, I wouldn’t have judged them for it either, but I’d be lying if I said I had been perfectly happy with it. As well as not contributing the the family finances during straightened times I was the largest expense as I have the biggest appetite. That’s just an example. What got me was the feeling that I was a burden on the family.

Raising a family presents a lot of challenges for modern parents. Housing costs mean most families have to have two working parents. Childcare costs mean that the second income is often almost completely taken up with that. The newspapers are filled with dreadful stories of various forms of dangers to children. There aren’t many safe places for children to play. Many people, like me and Dot, have careers that required they move away from where they grew up, so they don’t have all the support that comes with being rooted in a community. And then there is the fact that working parents are also paying for everyone else through the tax system. In some ways, my being out of work has spared the family a few of these difficulties and we’re fortunate that Dot’s job kept us solvent.

Life is a series of compromises. It is not possible to ‘have it all’. When I go back to work, it will mean I see less of the kids. I hope, on the other hand, that the time I do have with them will be better because I won’t be morose or gloomy anymore. I don’t want to have it all, anyway. I’m content now to have some. To have a job and a place in society and to be able to set a good example for my children.

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3 thoughts on “New Job; or reflections on a spell as a stay at home dad

  1. Mairi Jay

    A beautifully honest summing up of the difficulties of being a stay-at-home Dad. I’m sure there would be many who would share your feelings: of the sense of being a burden, of not pulling your weight and the sheer difficulties of being a parent in the confinements of urban life.

    Your mix of feelings reminds me of the time my mother lived with me in Hamilton for the last three years of her life. She was physically, emotionally and financially dependent on me. She needed my time, my support and my companionship. It was a very difficult period because although I loved her and felt great tenderness for her, I also felt tied down and guilty for being so resentful and selfish. I was very afraid she would live for years – the years of my life when I was free of parental responsibilities but still young enough to go into the world and “flap my wings”. The comparison with your situation is that dreadful tension between selfishness and selflessness.

    I think you’ve shown great courage in not giving way to despair. You did your absolute best to contribute to the family welfare and to keep trying. I’m proud of you.

  2. Jeremy Stocks

    One of the best posts I have seen on our role as at home Dads. I didn’t realise how hammered my self-esteem had been through serving the needs of my two children and wife in a domestic capacity, until i found a small gardening job for an older lady here in Bavaria last summer. I have seen my confidence soar, just from strimming grass away from blackcurrant bushes, and the old confidence I used to have before I took on this role has been flooding back quicker than I realised.i have a job interview in the next few weeks as an English teacher.

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