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The Ups and Downs of My First Month As a Stay at Home Dad

star wars storm trooper standing with sonEven 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.

2. Distractions

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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Comments

  1. I learned many of the things you mention. From the start of blogging full time, I made a set schedule to follow. I knew if I didn’t do that, I would be watching movies all day long! As for the human interaction, I hit the gym during the day and sometimes go out to lunch, just to interact with other people.

    Lastly, I love the flexibility. I use Fridays as my research day to learn how to be a better blogger and have also gotten ahead with my posts. This lets me sneak out once a week in the afternoon while the weather is nice to play some golf!
    Don recently posted…Change Is Inevitable – Here Is How To Handle It EffectivelyMy Profile

  2. I find that I get lots more done on days when I work because I only have a limited amount of time to complete tasks, but that also leaves you exhausted and cranky. On days off, I try to get the things I have to get done out of the way and then if I choose to take a walk or read a book, it’s OK. Slowing down was a huge reason not to work so much. It is hard to adjust to having whole days alone. I like it now and miss it when I do have to work more during some months, but not working 40+ hours in an office has taken away so much stress. I should have done it long ago!
    Kim recently posted…Retiring on Social SecurityMy Profile

  3. I’ve experienced that before, but it was just only for a month. It was hard knowing your wife only worked and the thought I had to provide for the family. What I did id routinary: prepare food, clean the house, watch tv, sleep, and so on so forth. It was tiring and my only break was the time when I had to leave for a job interview.
    Jayson recently posted…Ways to Sell your Home FasterMy Profile

  4. Congrats on the transition to being a stay at home dad AND the youth pastor position. It sounds like you have had a very busy past few weeks. I’m also a stay at home mom and my two boys are younger than your children (my oldest is 4) and so our schedule looks a little different. My time revolves around the boys 100% with house work being done here and there throughout the day. I blog during nap time, and after my husband goes to bed.

    My oldest son will be starting Preschool next week so it will be interesting to see what it is like to be down to one kid again for a few hours every day and how our schedule will change.
    Tennille recently posted…How We Make Living On A Single Income Work By Stretching Every Dollar!My Profile

    • With two little ones I can see how its tough to get any meaningful work done during the day. I think you have it set just right to work during nap time and at night. Family time shouldn’t be pushed aside for blogging, imo.

  5. My mom was a SAHM for most of my childhood. She said that the hardest part was the loneliness. She said that it also felt like people judged her for “not having a job”. Now that I’m grown up, I can see that she likely had the hardest job.. She pretty much did everything from housework to finances and taking my sister and I to all of our classes/practices/appointments. It’s not easy!
    Liz recently posted…My Frugal Fall Bucket ListMy Profile

    • “She said that it also felt like people judged her for “not having a job”. ” I haven’t felt any of that yet but know it’s a stigma that is out there. I’m not going to worry about what other people think though. I know why I chose to take this on and am already feeling the rewards from the move.

  6. ha ha yes it’s very easy to start snacking when your office is actually your kitchen (well in my case it is), I just can’t buy anything “snacky.” I’ve been doing some side hustles at my friends office recently and I forgot how much I do enjoy the people aspect of it. Plus I forgot how most offices load their kitchens up with delicious free snacks and coffee. 🙂 I miss that!
    Tonya recently posted…So You Want to Move to LA?My Profile

  7. Congrats on the Youth Pastor position! It seems very fitting for you, and I’m sure you’ll have an amazing impact on those kids. I’ve experienced many of the same unexpected downsides as you have! Not having a set schedule has really thrown me for a loop. I’ve been thinking of creating a spreadsheet as you have, kind of like how it used to be in college. I’ve at least figured out which times I’m most productive with certain tasks.
    Erin recently posted…Being Grateful: Forty-Third EditionMy Profile

  8. Congratulations on the exciting new opportunity, Brian! I’ve been trying to make to do lists and socialize as much as possible since I’ve been working from home. I’ve also enjoyed being alone too, though. The gift of time is invaluable.
    Addison recently posted…#FinCon14: Experiencing New Orleans on the CheapMy Profile

  9. You’re going to make an amazing Youth Pastor, Brian. Those kids are lucky to have you. I think everything you mentioned as downside would hold true for me as well. Especially after years of a 9-5, we get used to that rhythm, even when it annoys us!
    Shannon recently posted…How To Find Your Money BalanceMy Profile

  10. As much as I want to work from home, I’m pretty sure I’d also struggle mightily with the distractions and the lack of structure. I’m pretty solid when I’m booked from sun up to sun down, but if I have hours to do one task, it will probably take me the whole time.
    Ben recently posted…Having a Date Budget is a Must for CouplesMy Profile

  11. Quit your job and more opportunities come about, that sounds about right. Have a blast with the youth pastor gig, I’m sure you will influence many.
    Even Steven recently posted…Interview with J. Money is FINCON Sexy?My Profile

  12. Congratulations on accepting the new part-time Youth Pastor position. Working from home is something I did get used to with time but I prefer the silence of when no one is home as it helps me to focus more. I also still try to schedule time each day to accomplish certain tasks and stick to it. I don’t usually have the TV on but I do often play music at a low volume for ambiance. You have time yet to create your own rhythm as a month in is still early in this new stage of your life.
    Kassandra recently posted…Sunday Sweetness Vol. 3My Profile

  13. Haha, it didn’t take you long to fall into another job, did it? I just started my funemployment this month and I’ve had some similar observations to you now that I’m “working”/playing from home full-time. I definitely want to get more of a routine schedule going. I’m partway there, but I want to add daily writing goals to keep progress moving on my big long-term projects. I find the distractions to be a bit different than you, though – at work, my distractions were timewasting websites or chatting with people, and at home my distractions are chores, which feels much more productive!
    Emily recently posted…What to Do About a Large Reimbursable ExpenseMy Profile

  14. I find that the lack of structure of working at home can make it even more stressful than the typical office job, simply because then the work is ALWAYS on your mind.
    Stefanie recently posted…The Unbelievers: Financial Lessons from an Evidence Based PhilosophyMy Profile

  15. Two congratulations are in order. One, on being able to quit your job and be a stay at home dad. Two, on being the new youth pastor. That’s great.

    Being able to quit your job and stay at home is a great problem to have, even if there are downsides. The good thing is that it opens up new opportunities like it happened to you.
    Aldo recently posted…Fun Weekend, Only $6.50 Spent!My Profile

  16. Congrats on the new youth pastor gig Brian! I can relate to all of these and I’ll tell you that I still struggle with the scheduling issue a little over two years out. I’ve gotten a lot better at it, but it’s still a struggle at times. I remember when I first quit I was wasting all sorts of time and finally got myself on track by going to a list of things I want to accomplish each day. As silly as it sounds, I want to cross those things off so it gives me another motivation to stay on task. The human interaction is another one that surprised me as well. I’m still working on that one. My wife and kids are home as well, but still proves to be a challenge for me.
    John recently posted…My Favorite Way to Make Extra MoneyMy Profile

  17. I definitely experience a number of those downsides when I am working from home. For me, I have found that when I put my noise canceling headphones on and play music out of my computer, I get instantly focused. It’s wacky. Congratulations on your new role!! When I lived in Atlanta I was a youth leader for my church and taught Sunday school. This was 13 years ago, and I am Facebook friends now with a number of those kids and it is amazing to see how they have grown and watched what they are doing. It is such an important period in a child’s life and making a difference during it is a gift.
    Shannon recently posted…Music Mondays – PhysicalMy Profile

  18. It’s so neat to hear about your progress and experience so far. I’m glad it’s going well overall. For me, lack of people contact gets me if I’m working at home. I really enjoy that interaction. If I worked from home, I think I would sometimes go to a coffee shop and work there if possible. I did this while studying for the bar exam. Even just the white noise helped.
    Natalie recently posted…Your Financial Health is Not SetMy Profile

  19. First and foremost, congratulations on the new, part-time gig. God opened a door you didn’t even know about when you stayed home and this is an awesome way to influence young minds. Excited for those kids!

    Second, uber jealous that you are so far ahead with your posting. We’ve had a bunch of illness and stressful situations at our house and I’m just barely staying on top of my own blog! Hoping to turn that around this week…
    Kirsten recently posted…Confessions of a Crazy NASCAR FanMy Profile

    • “…so far ahead with your posting.” That’s been a welcome development. I know the pressures managing the full-time work/family/blogging schedule can bring because I’ve been there. My encouragement would be to always err on the side of taking care of your family. There is nothing wrong with skipping a post day here or there to relieve the pressure. Family should always take precedence.
      Brian recently posted…8 Important Questions to Ask When Setting Up An InheritanceMy Profile

  20. I am also a person who thrives with a schedule. I can see how it would be difficult to adjust to the absence of a regimented agenda for each day and I’m sure that with time, a schedule will evolve for you. I would so be distracted by the kitchen…. snacks!!
    Mrs. Frugalwoods recently posted…How We Manage Our Household FinancesMy Profile

    • I’ve been working on putting a schedule together the last few weeks…simply a spreadsheet in Excel. I’m loosely following it but am just finding it hard to stay on task. Especially with blogging…so many activities (writing, reading, learning, etc.) to pull you in different directions. You can start out writing a post and the next thing you now a thought pops into your head or an email crosses the wire and your reading about SEO tactics for 30 minutes.
      Brian recently posted…An Amazing Offer From the Coolest Inheritance Story in the BibleMy Profile

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