Even though I announced in May I was leaving my 17 year career in education to become a stay at home dad, it’s only been one month since the kids have gone back to school and I’ve been truly alone.
Boy, the house is eerily quiet from 8 am to 4 pm when Kim and the kids aren’t here. I don’t know how the dog has done it the past few years being cooped up in the garage when we were all at work. Sometimes I turn on the radio or the TV just to create some background noise.
Despite the quiet, I’m loving my decision to this point. But it hasn’t all been perfect. I’m finding some things challenging that I didn’t expect.
The Downside of Being a Stay at Home Dad
1. No set schedule
You may be surprised to see this one on the “down list.” Freedom to choose activities and not be tied down to a schedule is often sighted as a reason people quit their job or retire early. So why am I listing this as a negative?
Schedules force us into a reliable pattern. We know that “Activity A” will be followed by “Activity B,” then “C” and so on through our day. That’s why children love them so much…they know what’s coming next.
I’ve had one of those pretty much for the past 17 years. Get up, work at school, come home for evening family activities and go to bed. Repeat every day of the workweek.
Now all that repetition is gone. My schedule is not predetermined, so that requires me to plan for myself what I want to accomplish. It’s been more challenging than I anticipated with so many options to choose from.
I’m confident that I’ll adjust eventually and get into a rhythm. I simply haven’t yet.
When you are at work, it’s easier to stay focused. There are tasks to complete and deadlines to meet. Plus, you are pretty much working in a controlled environment where the external stimuli that might distract you are limited. It still exists but the nature of work environment always pulls you back into work mode.
Not so at home. It’s easy to take breaks!
Want to take a nap? No problem.
Snack at the top of every hour? The kitchen is right there.
Waste an afternoon creating a silly meme or beating your high score at Mario Kart? Go for it.
I’ve found all these things around the house tug at me in an instant when I’m least expecting it. Next thing I know, I’ve wasted two hours.
Part of my solution for this is to seek out an environment less conducive to distractions. Last week I went to the library several times to write. That helped and will probably be a practice I continue. But I can’t live there 8 hours a day, so I’ll have to summon some more will power when those distractions around the house come calling.
3. Lack of people contact
This was a surprise to me. I miss being around people more than I expected, even the annoying ones. (Haha…just kidding former students and colleagues.) That feels very odd knowing the introvert that I am. Perhaps I’m not so introvert-y as I thought.
I haven’t really figured out how to solve this one. Of course, I have my online community of bloggers and readers to interact with. That’s nice but is not the same as in person one on one. Perhaps finding places to go (like the library) or activities to do during the day will help alleviate this issue.
The Upside of Being a Stay at Home Dad
Despite the challenges I’m facing, the positives Kim and I anticipated happening from this move have all come true in a big way. They far outweigh the negatives and have energized our family life once again.
1. Loving the Blog Writing
All the bloggers out there know how time consuming running a blog can be. This is especially true if it’s done on the side, in the evenings or on weekends. It’s tough to find uninterrupted time to write, which leaves one feeling behind, rushed and lacking the time to really put quality into your work.
With my new found time, I have the ability to take my writing to the next level. Of course, this includes things like writing longer articles and doing a bunch of guest posting, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve also considered becoming a freelancer and offering my writing for hire in the right circumstance.
But I’ve also been able to pace myself and get ahead. I’m now working a week ahead in completing my posts (meaning I have next week’s posts already done). That hasn’t happened ever in the two years I’ve been blogging. It’s a great feeling to say the least!
In addition, I’ve started to read more about how to become a better blog writer period. Things like how to write better for SEO, how to keep the reader engaged, how to write better titles and opening paragraphs all interest me. I can devote time during the week now to studying from the master bloggers out there, something I just wasn’t able to do before.
2. Stress free evenings and weekends
The end result of my writing occurring during the day when my wife and kids are gone is this – our evenings and weekends have been freed up.
I won’t kid anyone…I didn’t look forward to our weekends because they were more stressful than the week. Everything that we couldn’t get done during the week because of our work and school schedule, we crammed into Saturday and Sunday. Laundry, grocery and other shopping, house cleaning, yard work…the list goes on and on. Couple those necessities with all the stuff you want to do on the weekends like watch sports, go out with friends and attend church and you have a recipe for craziness.
That’s no way to live.
To me the evenings and weekends should be devoted to family activities, worship and rest. We need to recharge to get ready for what the next workweek has for us. We weren’t getting that and it caused a good deal of emotional tension in the home.
Now though I’m doing all the family task stuff during the day. Which leaves the evenings and weekends wide open for whatever we want.
3. New Opportunities
With the availability of time comes the chance for new opportunities.
I had been wondering all summer about the direction my life might head next. Of course, I’d throw myself more into writing, building my brand and maybe earning some money through my blog. That’s still a goal I’m hoping to slowly unfold.
Two weeks ago I got an unexpected call from our pastor. He asked to meet for lunch, which immediately got me intrigued. (Hint: Whenever a pastor does that he’s going to ask for something.)
So over lunch he asked me if I’d consider becoming the new youth pastor for our church. Wow! Didn’t see that one coming when I stepped away from my full time job last May.
After a week of prayer and discussion with a few important people in my life, I accepted. I have two kids of my own in our youth group and the opportunity to impact them and the other teens spiritual was too much to pass up. Plus, I have the time.
So I’m starting that position on the 28th of September. I’ve already put together a team of 6 adult leaders and 6 college age leaders to help me manage and minister to our group. Even though it’s only a part-time position, I’m looking forward to the interaction with these kids. They need and deserve someone who will help them grow spiritually and build connections with God and others that leads to lasting change in their life.
Think Your Scenario Through
For those considering quitting your job or being a stay at home dad, I’d strongly caution you to weigh your options. Make sure you think through the potential issues that you may encounter. Although my “Downs” have not been devastating for me, they were unexpected. The adjustment has been more difficult than I thought.
If I was counseling you on whether to quit a job or not I’d want to see some immediate benefits from the decision. You can’t be hoping that something will happen just because you freed up more time. All the upside I mentioned came to be realized in my first weeks of being home. I didn’t have to wait for them to unfold over one or two years.
I’m throwing out this ending disclaimer just to make you think about the consequences of moving too swiftly. Yes, my situation might look great but realize my wife and I spent years getting our financial house in order before we made this move. We were intentional with our planning and only through that are we now reaping the positive results.
Any thoughts from you stay at home people? How do you get people contact? What do you do to stay focused and remove distractions? Is it difficult for you to stick to your own schedule?
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