By: Danny Thomas
So, I’ve spent the last year or so a stay-at-home dad. In that time my children have turned two and five, my wife has finished a doctoral degree, and we have moved across the country, among other things… it’s been tumultuous, to say the least. It has also been, alternately, totally fulfilling and somewhat demoralizing…
I’m starting to think about going back to work.
I had this weird thing happen some time in February. I was in a Hallmark with Lil’ Chaos, musta been looking for valentines or something. As we were leaving we passed a snow shovel just inside the door. I had this strange compulsion to pick it up and shovel the sidewalk. If you know me you know that I am no stranger to manual labor, and don’t exactly shy away from it; however, I am rarely the first to volunteer to shovel a sidewalk.
As I pondered this compulsion I started to realize that what was appealing about it was the idea of a job that had a beginning, a middle, and an end. Parenting, homemaking has no end. You finish the breakfast dishes and boom! there is lunch. You finally get the laundry folded and put away and boom! there’s a load of towels and a load of kid clothes staring you down.
It is a strange dichotomy. I have worked many, many jobs with amorphous and immeasurable job descriptions. Hell, most of my jobs over the last ten years have fallen under such descriptions, but working as a full-time parent is more gratifying and at the same time takes an immense toll on me physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is never-ending. There is no fiscal remuneration, the feedback is like the schedule, catch-as-catch-can, and there is endless room for improvement.
I think the snow shovel looked attractive because the idea of shoveling a sidewalk, seeing the finished job and knowing that my contribution was well done and appreciated, is a satisfaction I have to eek out as a homemaker.
Don’t get me wrong: there are countless ways my family and friends acknowledge my day-to-day work. I get my strokes. Just looking at or being with my kids is a satisfaction in and of itself, but it’s different than a paycheck, or an approved final draft, or a happy customer…
But we have gotten comfortable with all the benefits of having a full-time, stay-at-home parent. We are struggling, as a family, to figure out how to get me back to work, what kind of job will fit best. I need the structure, the sense of completion, and the money won’t hurt either. I am nervous about re-adjusting to being in the workforce too, re-acclimating…
I have a gig right now DJ-ing proms and weddings. It has the potential to be a good fit in that it is flexible, does not alter our schedule too much, and is fun! But it is long, hard hours when I do work, and I wonder if working a few days a week for a few hours would be an easier alteration to our lives. It’s hard to know. I really don’t know how parents who work full time or single parents manage it at all.