Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Real Life Mr. Mom and Other Stay at Home Parents

This is a bit of a different topic for me to blog about. Typically, I write about all things pertaining to Christianity, church, etc. However, I have found myself diving more and more into mental well being, spirituality. My last blog was written in February and had to do with male postpartum depression. It has become one of my most read blogs first being about wedding etiquette from a pastors perspective

I would like to clarify that I have found myself to be the accidental stay at home dad. Never in a million years would I have pictured myself in the role I am now. When my wife and I first moved to Waupaca, I was told this new church I was a part of would require us to have our office at home. The main reason being the church building is small and we did not want to use space for offices. I came from a church in Milwaukee where we had to be there at a certain time each day. 

Fast forward a few years from the time we arrived in Waupaca and we found ourselves saying “yes” to a mom asking us to adopt her children. After 6 years of being married with no children we found ourselves saying “yes” to having two children. Our oldest son, James came to live with us at 9 months old on two weeks notice. He showed up at our door with some of his biological family and many totes filled with his stuff. We had no bed and an unfinished bedroom for him. Only a couple of weeks after receiving our son, my wife left for a missions trip to Argentina. I was signed up to go but decided to stay back to be with our son. I was instantly thrusted into having a teething baby while doing a major remodel to our home so that I may surprise my wife when she got home from this trip with her parents. Was I ready for this? I better be because there was no turning back. From poopy diapers to severe teething, I was hit with it all. 

Only four short months later our son’s biological sister was born and we brought her home directly from the hospital. I am so thankful for the FMLA leave my wife could take to acclimate our new daughter into our house. Both kids are a joy but going from a family of two to four in four months can really challenge a person. I still believe God saw something in my wife and I that I did not (and still don't) see in myself at least. This was quite the blessing and challenge at the same time. We were a young couple struggling to have our own children when God decided to do things differently. 

Fast forward 12 weeks from bringing my daughter home from the hospital. My wife goes back to work and here I am with these two kids, both in diapers running around (Emma was more of a roll around the floor kid at this point) the house leaving me to wonder what I am going to do. I must admit that I caught on pretty quick and in no time we were having picnics, going shopping, doing the day to day tasks including dishes, laundry, changing copious amounts of diapers and making meals on the days my wife had to work. I am forever grateful for my in-laws. They helped out when they could which was a lot. This was all stacked on top of the fact that I was/am the pastor of a church with my office at home which presents itself with a few interesting challenges. Being with kids all day, it is nice when my wife comes home. On average the kids will be up for another 2-3 hours but now my work day is just starting. Onward to appointments and all the things a pastor from a smaller rural church contends with.

I realize all of that was quite the setup for the heart of this blog (could be the longest one I have written to date) but with now having an 8 and 9 year old and starting over with our own biological child who is 17 months old, I find myself reliving many thoughts and feelings that I would like to share as an encouragement to other dads (perhaps stay at home parents in general) who find themselves at home. I have simply numbered my observations. Perhaps this could also be insightful to stay at home moms or moms that work from the home. 

So…here we go.

1. It’s a blessing to be at home! I could not possibly begin to figure out just how much money we have saved with not having to send our kids to daycare. Tracy works during the day (mostly) and I have my office hours including appointments during the evening. Not only is it a blessing financially but there is joy in knowing that some daycare is not raising our children. This is not a slam against daycares but who wouldn’t want to say the majority of their children’s time was spent with their parents? 

2. Around kids all the time. The joy of being at home with your children can easily turn into a real life Groundhog Day movie. Day in and day out you wake up, feed, nap, change diapers, feed, nap, etc. One would think when the spouse comes home that life would change. This is not always the case. With an office at home you can be in your room and still here the kids laughing, screaming, pounding (my eldest son hit the floor so hard above my office last night that it killed a bulb in my light fixture), etc. In the earlier years it was met with many knocks on the office door. How can you turn them away? That little knock would usually end with a silly question or a favor. For a person whose office is at home there is no jumping in the car and driving to work. Believe it or not many stay at home parents would be grateful to have that peaceful drive time to and from work. No one crying, barfing, pooping, whining, etc. just peace and quiet. Perhaps I should jump in my car and drive around town for a half hour before returning home to my office. This thought has potential.

3. Family day. When a spouse is working outside of the home it can obviously be difficult on that parent not to be around their kids all the time. The stay at home dad (parent) however is around the kids all the time as mentioned above. When a stay at home parent is around kids all the time, sometimes the last thing they want to think about is having a family day. Many stay at home parents go through a phase where they are drowning with land in sight. That precious hour nap means no one needing them. That ten minute extended stay in the bathroom means peace and quiet before heading out to the front lines of parenting once again. Family days are nice and ever so necessary but a single day or weekend of being left alone would be even more beneficial at times. I can say when my wife takes the kids because I am on the brink of melting down, it pays huge dividends as I am able to find myself once again. I can breathe, relax and gear up to spend more time with the kids. It is easier once kids are in school to think about family day because during the summer or those long holiday vacations…us, stay at home parents, are around the kids 24/7 and every day seems like a family day.

4. We don't take you for granted. It is important for the spouse working outside the home to know that they are not taken for granted. For those that are from a single income home, it would be safe to say that your household probably wouldn’t be what it is without your spouses income. One ought never forget that though you, the stay at home parent may have a hectic day, it is just as hectic for the one leaving the home as well. They may deal with the emotions of wanting to be with the kids. The added benefit is that they get to leave the home ha ha (was that kind of snarky?). 

For those of you in my boat where you work full time from your home office while taking care of the kids, it is just as important to not take your spouse that leaves the home for granted. You are both working to make a great life for you and your kids so a mutual respect is both needed and necessary. Even though life is busy, I still make it a point to take my wife Starbucks, lunch, etc. Just this morning I ordered an array of flowers to be delivered to her office. Dates with your spouse are really important to keep in tact. 

5. Yes we do post a lot.  There can be an easy observation about those stay at home parents. Whether you are a dad or a mom, we tend to post a lot on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. I humbly admit there are days where I post way to much. However, for those of you that get to leave the house or are simply not in this situation wondering what is going on, I would like for you to consider this. How many conversations can a stay at home adult have about poop, farts, Minecraft, chores, relentlessly repeating ourselves and more in one day? It’s no wonder when an adult night out with friends is scheduled that we get a little squirrelly. Unfortunately, those times are few and far between and many stay at home/work from home parents long for some kind of adult conversation/interaction. When none can be had we resort to social media. For myself during the down times I never watch TV. Partially the reason is that the only television we have is in our basement and I am to lazy to walk down there to turn it on. So, instead, I spend time on social media. It’s an outlet to engage in some conversation even though social media can be filled with depressing things.

6. We don’t need psychiatric help. As a guy, and I would like to believe I speak for most guys. We don't need something more on our schedule like another trip to a doctor. What we do need is the occasional day or weekend alone. Perhaps this is why so many guys (and a few women) look forward to hunting season, because it is there time to leave. I have not yet found my niche in the fall which is why I love camping, biking or simply tinkering in my garage. It always amazes me how a toddler can scream, fuss, etc. and women can just deal with it. Meanwhile, the man is ready to blow his stack. It is the culmination of constant talking, noise, questions and screaming that makes a man completely in need of some peace and quiet. I have no doubt men are wired differently and this is just one of many examples that provide proof. There is no need to worry and inquire about a counselor but time alone once in awhile pays huge dividends for the guy and his family.

7. Family vacations. Who doesn't like a vacation? I personally love loading up the car and going. Sure, having a screaming toddler can add stress, but we sure make some great memories. I can safely say my family made some great memories this summer. I will admit in years past I felt bad for the kids because it seemed we did not do much with them. We probably did, but it was my perception of how the summer went. This especially stands true for last summer since Noah was a newborn. Something to consider is that when the family vacation is over, and your significant other returns back to work...us...the stay at home parent continues to be around the kids 24/7. I have witnessed many parents grateful for the work week to begin after a long family vacation. Please use some consideration when you realize one of those parents will remain home with the very children you are looking forward to getting away from for a bit.

8. Electronic babysitters. It is every parents dream to provide a fun filled day...each and every day. Those days filled with playgrounds, splash pads, picnics, etc. but then one gets in the others space. The baby decides to discharge copious amounts of poop and you are left wondering will this day ever get started. It does....for a few minutes and then it is back to siblings getting on each others nerves and more. Don't even get me started on what it's like on a rainy day. With that said...yes...yes indeed they play on their tablet. I will go out on a limb to say their may have been a day or two during summer break where they played the day away. It happens and they are content. This certainly isn't a habit but I/we are thankful for these electronic babysitters. If you are going to judge, I would simply ask if you have kids? If so, are you a stay at home parent? If so, and you have the perfect house...I don't like you. Okay...actually I do. Teach me. 

So there you have it. It is a titan of a blog but I hope you were able to stick with it until the end. It was my hope to help you understand why stay at home parents and work from home parents that are around kids all the time seem to be a few steps off the main trail. Does this mean we love our kids or spouse any less? Absolutely not, in fact for as much barking as we do at our kids...society would do well not to poke the bear when it comes to his/her family because that bond is so tight. It is amazing how stay at home/work from home parents do get that time to themselves and within a day they miss those kids like crazy. We love our families very much.