Monday, April 26, 2010

A brief history of my life as a SAHD

Now that I am getting back into blogging I thought it might be nice to share a little history of my journey and why I am a SAHD.

In late Nov. 1999 my first son was born. At the time my wife was in residency and I was woking at the University of Louisville. If you know anything about residency you know that your life is not your own. I primarily designed and maintained web sites, so my bosses were gracious enough to let me work in the office in the mornings and telecommute in the afternoon.

Those were both exciting and tiring times. I would take my son to daycare in the morning and go to work. At lunch time I would leave the office and go pick him up. I would juggle taking care of him and getting work done. My wife would often have to spend the night at the hospital or would be so tired that she was mainly sleeping when she was home. So I learned how to do things like shower, get dressed and work on the computer while taking care of an infant. My hat goes off to parents who have to raise children by themselves.

When my son was 18 months old my wife finished residency we moved to Illinois and I became a full-time SAHD. We lived close to my parents, had a church family we loved and made friends quickly. I knew what I was doing was not the "traditional" family structure, but I had a good support systems in place.

This was the rockiest time in our marriage as we both developed our roles and the expectations for those roles. It took some time but we both settled into our roles.

After a year we realized that the job in Illinois just wasn't going to work out. So after 18 months in Illinois we moved to Minnesota.

By this time our son was 3. After about 6 months we started to settle in. My son and I spent a lot of time at the community center and the started going to preschool a couple of afternoons a week. We found a church and I poured a lot of my time into volunteering.

While we were a long way from family we were developing lots of relationships. My wife was a beloved part of our community and I was a regularly working at our church and my sons school. During that time we had our second son and my role as SAHD expanded.

Then my wife came to a point where she was getting burned out on call. She received a job listing for a position in St Louis that wouldn't involve call. After 5 years in Minnesota we packed out things and moved to St Louis.

For one of the first times in my journey I really felt isolated. We found a church but a combination of volunteer burn out and my nagging questions about the role of the church kept me from becoming heavily involved. I tried finding some play groups, but they were all moms. While I appreciate their willingness to welcome me into the fold I never really felt connected.

I had heard about the at home dad convention before and played with the idea of going, but it was never really a priority. In 2009 I decided to attend and in October I made the 6 hour drive to Omaha to attend my first convention.

So here I was in a town I've never been to before with a group of people who I never met and I wasn't sure what to expect. But here I am hanging with 50 guys, all the primary care givers for their families. There were instant connections and after 3 days I was exchanging email addresses and facebook info and making friends that I may not see every day, but I know will be friends for life.

But more than just making friends I felt like I was part of something bigger than myself. Bigger than my triumphs and struggles as a SAHD. I wanted to support it. I wanted to be part of the group working to normalize the option for dads to take care of their kids.

There are two kinds of SAHDs: those who make a conscious choice to stay at home and those that have it thrust upon them. While it can happen to either group, especially the later group can feel overwhelmed. If their families, their communities, even their churches are telling the it's wrong, if they say you're going against God or nature, you cannot do it, it is easy to feel dishearten and demoralized.

So for those dads, for any dad who stays at home and has felt isolated, who has been told they cannot raise their kids because of their gender, who feel overwhelmed and under appreciated: it is because of those dads I have become active in our at home dads group. It is because of those dads that I want to share my story, my struggles and successes and say, "you can do it." It is for those dads I have decided to blog again.

If you are one of those dads I, and a bunch of other guys, want to support you. If you cannot find a dad's group near you I encourage you to join the online community. If you need someone to talk to send me and email or friend me on facebook. If you want to talk by phone I will send you my number. And I encourage you to come to the at home dad convention. Spend an October weekend in Omaha with me and a bunch of other guys doing the same things. Some are just starting their journey as an at home dad and some have years of experience to share. Take a weekend to be part of that community and make some friends you will have for the rest of your life.

And if you are one of those dads who is comfortable in their role and has a good support system, then I encourage you to come to the convention and share your story with other dads. Become part of the community not because you need the other dads but because there are other dads who need you.

10 comments:

Al said...

Very well said brother. As men, we often believe we can do anything on our own without anyone's help. You explain how that is not true. We all need help, especially in a role society believes is not ours to have.

Everyone in that picture has a story like yours and watched their lives change like yours did the day they arrived at their first At-Home Dad's Convention. Meeting other at-home dads is a powerful, life-changing experience. I hope many more at-home dads throw off their bravado and their fears and attend the Convention.

It is not too often in life someone has the opportunity to make many new life-long friends.

Clark Kent's Lunchbox said...

A real nice post. That isolation really caught me by surprise. I didn't realize how much of an affect it had on my overall attitude which at time became borderline bitter. I draw a lot of energy from other people and without it I was just a lump. Having a community really is a great help. Thanks for a nice rundown on what the transition is like.

STLDADDY_SAHDAD said...

Great post Chad. As a black man my journey as a father has been very different. My daughter's are all three grown and in college and i've always been home with them but not SAH. With Mj i'm a full time SAHDAD and i can't honestly say that there was a transitinal period. As MAN, yes i know i can do this with no help, i have to my family depends on it and as a FATHER i cant let society or stereotype's lead me. I isolate myself at times to protect my family and i'm not alway's concerned with what the next man thinks. Everyone's journey is different and becoming a SAHDAD creates a new fork in the road that is really hard for some and not so easy for others. I'm 42 and i know i dont know it all so having a group of DADS and being a part of other group's that can relate to staying at home is great. I encourage all DADS active in ther children's life to look for a group or create your own you won't regret it.

Robb The Daddy Man of Twins said...

Chad,

Great blog post here my friend. You talk about a lot of things and express it very well for others to understand more about who we are. I hope that many will take your words to heart and join us all in Omaha the weekend of October 2nd. I know that I am looking forward to seeing you again and connecting a bit more.

See you then if not sooner,

Robb

Chad said...

@Clark Kent's Lunchbox - Thanks. I think community is important and I am like you, I draw energy from being around people. The isolation surprised me because, while there may have been moments, it was 8 years into that I really felt that isolation.

Chad said...

@ STLDaddy - Thank you for sharing. I feel bad that with the kids schedule I haven't been able to connect with the group more. I originally wasn't going to blog. There are a lot of really good daddy bloggers already. The it seemed to me that while I may not be the best writer or the wittest, etc. that having greater numbers of dads sharing their stories was another way to help normalize what we do.

Chad said...

@Al & Robb - Thank you both for your kind words and as a 10 year SAHD and first year convention goer I totally agree that attending the convention is very much worth the effort. You guys do a great job and I am happy to play whatever role I can in helping spread the word.

HOGAN said...

Chad, awesome job! I appreciate you sharing your honest thoughts with other dads. A message from a person’s heart and soul carries more weight than his/her writing skills.

In 1991 it was natural for me to be a little gun shy about coming out of the pantry for the very reasons you noted. Once I did it was very liberating. Unfortunately, it took six years because at the time there was no at-home dad network or convention.

Then in the spring of 1997 I turned on a talk radio show. The host was interviewing an at-home dad, Casey Spencer. Casey shared his love, passion and revelation for being an at-home dad. He also informed the audience about the birth of the At-Home Dad Convention in 1996 and the upcoming 2nd Annual At-Home Dads Convention in Chicago.

After I attended the 2nd Annual (my first), I returned home with a boost of confidence that empowered me to stand up to all the naysayers and inspired me to be the best at-home dad I could be.

Every at-home dad I’ve met since my first convention has not only been an inspiration in my life but also confirmed that I made the right decision.

Thirteen years later I still have a desire to attend the convention because I want to pay it forward. I take great pleasure in welcoming and being there for the other newbies who attend every year and of course reuniting with the other wonderful dads I’ve met over the years. To paraphrase Will Rogers, “I’ve never met an at-home dad I didn’t like.”

Together we can all make a positive difference, one dad at a time.

Keep On Daddying

Hogan, Proud At-Home Dad

Chad said...

@Hogan - Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate that before me there were men like leading the way.

I have been very blessed in my journey and like you I am looking for ways to pay it forward. Whatever I can do in those efforts I am thankful for the chance.

Hogan said...

ur welcome. see ya in October