Today I depart from writing about my upcoming novel and talk about how I’d like to be a stay at home dad.
If my manager ever reads this, and I doubt he will, perhaps he’d be surprised to hear me say that I prefer to be at home with my children. I work at the Lockheed Martin Skunkworks. The Legendary Skunkworks. Stealth came about here. We are amazing at integrating technology. Even better, I am part of a group within the Skunkworks that identifies and develops cutting edge technology.
Why would I want to leave?
Simple. I miss spending time with my children. When I was writing my PhD thesis I stayed at home from the lab and took care of our daughter during the day while Alefiya worked. Back then, Isabella took one or two long naps a day, during which I wrote my thesis. When Isabella was awake we played together. Hung out. She was just learning to crawl and I created obstacle courses in the living room for her. I built Lego towers that she then tore apart. We had fun together.
Now, I work full time. During the week I am gone the majority of my children’s waking hours and am with them only in the evening. And we all know how toddlers and babies are in the evening. It’s their witching hour. Plus, I lament that I haven’t had the chance to spend the same amount of quality time with Conor as I did with Isabella.
Don’t get me wrong. I have a great job. I realize I am lucky to have a job in our economic environment. At times I am frustrated by the bureaucratic nonsense at Lockheed, but the company is good to me.
What I would like is more of a work-life balance. Alefiya is a very good nurse. Has her MSN. She has loads more career experience. She’s good at what she does. More importantly, she loved her job at Children’s Hospital in Seattle. But, we want to have one parent at home with the kids. We are fortunate that we are able to do that, but we’d like to split the time at home more, but because I am in a field that seems to have no concept of part time, and since health insurance is tied to employment, I am the one that works full time.
Like I said, we’d much rather split the hours. I would work half the week. Alefiya would work the other half of the week. She would like to resume her career as a nurse educator, but unfortunately we live in a world that is not set up to support families.
Research has proven that children with caring, involved dads have higher IQs, more confidence, and do better in school, but as a society we do not look long term. Imagine how much better the world would be if family and friends (community) were the center of life, and not jobs. Now, I’m not saying that I can’t be caring and involved with a full time job, but already I am missing out on preschool activities, field trips and playground time. Just imagine what I will miss in the long term.
I realize that each person needs their own space. Own time. Any parent knows that you will go crazy if you can’t get away from time to time. The job and career can serve as a distraction, but they shouldn’t be the focus, unless a person chooses so, and even then the person should not be rewarded for making that choice.
What I find interesting is that the one job that adds the most value to society, caring for children, is looked down upon in the professional sense. Oh, people will say that staying at home and caring for children is hard work. Noble work, but do we truly value what stay at home parents do? There’s perception. And then there’s reality. Even taking into account the work I did for my PhD and the work I do at Lockheed, I never work harder than when I stay at home and care for my children. The difference is the personal reward. In the spare, quiet moments when you see your child learn, or do something magical, that’s when you realize the enormity of what you are doing. How beautiful they are. That’s when you know all of the hard work is worth it.
Ask yourself this question. Which impresses you more? And be honest with yourself. Don’t tell yourself what you should say.
“I am a research scientist at the Skunkworks.”
“I am a stay at home dad.”
There’s what should impress you and what does.