Being a Stay at Home Dad

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.

The Skunk Works logo as seen on one of Lockhee...

The Skunk Works logo as seen on one of Lockheed Martin’s hangars. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

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11 thoughts on “Being a Stay at Home Dad

  1. Chris, this is so awesome!! I got teary at the end. You are such a good dad. Your cute family is lucky to have you!! 🙂

    You are so right about everything you said too.

  2. I agree with Katija, 100%.

    I also agree that in this country the parenting job is not valued by the society as in other developed countries. One of the explanations about this phenomenon was that the positive population growth in the U.S. is achieved by immigration (it was given by the very free-market oriented economists and I suppose it would be on the very right side end). I come from the place where paid maternity leave is up to 3 years (when I was born, it was only 2), so it is hard for me to swallow 🙂

    I like your idea of splitting hours. This sounds like a better choice than a full time SAHM or SAHD (from my own experience). Again, in economics, there is a concept of “scarcity value”, which basically means we tend to value something more when we have less of it. As your children contact hours are limited within your work day boundaries, you tend to value them more, just because they are in a relatively limited supply. Economists are strange people and not everybody agrees with their idea of applying their approaches to every aspect of life, but when you look at your hours this way, you probably will realize get to enjoy every minute with your children more, just because your time with them is not abundant. It is almost like parents vs. grandparent, not exactly, but at least on one level 🙂

    Or to look at it differently and to appreciate sometimes invisible results of a job of a SAHM, somebody just needs to stop doing everything what they are doing around the house for several days and see the difference 🙂

    I really like that you think raise these questions, but as a 100% SAHM, I think I would say that I am very impressed that you are a research scientist who thinks that the opportunity cost of his work hours is quality time that he would have spent with his children. I am sure your children feel and appreciate it, now and in the long run 🙂

    • I don’t think the scarcity value applies in relationships. If that’s the case then maybe couple should spend more time apart so that they value each other more? Absence does make the heart grow fonder, but then you end up with a shallower relationship. Time forges bonds.

      As an economist I wonder if you think that an economic system can work if individual people cut their hours to 20 hours a week? The loss of hours to the global economy would be mitigated by more SAHMs and SAHDs entering the work force.

      • Like I said before, it might sound very strange when people outside of economics area hear what economists say when looking at life and relationships 🙂 people need to be introduced to “economic way of thinking” first and then look at things thru that lens to understand what it is implied 🙂 What i said probably sounds like it is taken out of context (you need to visit my first day of classes :))

        BTW, I think SAHM job is valued at around $23,000 a year..

        I am sure there a lot of studies that look at these questions. Western Europe where work weeks are shorter and vacations are longer is a good example how “mixed economy” system you are wondering about works very well. Happy employees are more productive ones 🙂

        Maybe you will find this article interesting:
        http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jun/03/opinion/la-oe-hochschild-free-market-and-family-values-20120603

  3. “The loss of hours to the global economy would be mitigated by more SAHMs and SAHDs entering the work force.” This would need to happen if it is assumed that the current level of production can be achieved only when everybody employed puts in 40 hours a week and that SAHMs and SAHDs are perfect substitutes for the working ones (possess same skills), which I do not think is the case 🙂

  4. i was lucky and had both my parents home with me… and it does mean a lot… i’m extremely close to them but i have to say i’m a daddy’s girl… and i think it’s great that you want to be home for your children… so many in society are still so stuck in their gender ways… that the woman can stay at home but that man’s supposed to go to work… and i think that’s terrible… families should do what works for them but in the end kids do better if they do have both parents active in their life… so i hope you get things worked out and are able to get the life you want…

    • Both of us want to be at home with the kids as much as possible, and we have aspirations of being professors at a small university, where there isn’t as much of a demand on our time. I have a PhD. I just have to find a university that suits me.

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