First off if you are in the States, Happy Thanksgiving!
Now I could have written an article about how I am thankful for this or that, but that would be boring to read and probably to write. I am abundantly thankful, but instead, I thought I would give you some insight into how I operate as a stay at home dad (SAHD). I view it as a job.
Let me be clear, this wisdom comes from a SAHD who has 1 two-year-old and another kid on the way. So, if you are further down the road than me feel free to comment on where I am mistaken. Save me and other readers from faulty wisdom. Regardless, here is how I survive, and maybe even excel at being a SAHD.
Standard Operating SAHD
I only know one way to constantly engage a kid as a SAHD, maybe you are better at it than me, and I am sure there are other ways out there but this one works for me. I view being a SAHD as a job. That’s it. That mindset enables me to view everything I do through the lens of it’s my turn to work. I get to do this or that because it’s my job. Yes, I don’t get a formal paycheck, but I do get to save us on groceries, gas, and daycare. Most importantly of all my son gets all of me during the day. Why? Because it’s my job.Yes, I don’t get a formal paycheck, but I do get to save us on groceries, gas, and daycare. Most importantly of all my son gets all of me during the day. Why? Because it's my job. Click To Tweet
For some reason, when I view my family as my job I care a lot more about how they are doing. Maybe that’s a messed up man thing or a messed up me thing but it’s the truth. When I care more I am a better husband and dad. Don’t forget being a SAHD means being a great husband too. It means doing the dishes, mopping the floor, cooking dinner and every once in a blue moon dusting or cleaning the bathroom.
Consequences of viewing your parenting as a job.
Here are some of the benefits and pitfalls of this mindset. The benefits kind of build off of each other because I haven’t figured out all of the answers to the pitfalls.
1. Motivation –
It gives you that extra oomph that you would have at work. You are not a babysitter. You’re a parent. It’s way harder and far more important. If you don’t engage like a parent your kid gets messed up. You have to look your child in the eyes every day and turn off the screen and play. You have to teach, talk to and cry with your kid. The babysitter just has to keep them alive. You have to make them into a functioning human. If you approach parenting like babysitting it will not go well in the long run. For me viewing being a SAHD as a job gives me the motivation to get beyond just being a babysitter which trust me is no easy job either.
2. Purpose –
While linked to motivation, purpose is what gives your life meaning. When you view being a SAHD as a job, it is more meaningful. You get to take charge of your kid. You get to mold them into an awesome human being who is kind and smart and helpful and beautiful. Making your kid into the best human you can is a purpose to rally behind. It challenges them and challenges you. When you have a bigger vision of what you are doing beyond changing poopy diapers, the poopy diapers can be fun. Purpose, for me at least, can make the mundane and terrible enjoyable because even the little things are building to a bigger thing. Oh and let me pray for everyone out there that your child sleeps, eats and potty trains well.When you have a bigger vision of what you are doing beyond changing poopy diapers, the poopy diapers can be fun. Click To Tweet
3. Continual Growth –
When you are motivated and purposeful, you will want to grow. Grow better as a parent and better as a husband. Growth is important to sanity. Without continuing to grow we will have nothing to talk about. Our kids will surpass us in knowledge and we will be left behind. We have to grow because our kids grow. Growth is what continues to give you job satisfaction when purpose and motivation dry up. Trust me they will at 3 am when you have already cleaned the sheets three times for throw up. That’s when its best to grow. You learn to always be running the washing machine so that the original barf clothes are now clean and the special blanket or stuffed animal is clean again too. Always be washing that special thing you never know when your kid is going to really need it. Growth is that added challenge aspect we need.
You know what, you are always getting promoted too. My kid is growing up and I am growing with him. Next year, I get to be a full-on manager. I will have two little ones. That will be a huge promotion, double the salary, double the responsibility. The clock is ticking on my oldest getting potty-trained.
1. Too Uptight –
I was (am?) known as the schedule Nazi. I read Babywise. Babywise suggests putting your child on a schedule that follows a pattern of eat, wake, sleep. I took that to the extreme. Forcing my wife to hold off for you just a few more minutes to feed our child. Or worse yet, wake up our child from naps. This extended to our parents and anyone else who dared into the schedule Nazi zone. I was way too uptight because I was new on the job. I wanted to make our first child a success and I had no idea what I was doing. Babywise taught me how my kid could be sleeping through the night by three months. It was right my kid was sleeping through the night by 2.5 months. Just in time for my wife to go back to her paying job.
What was the cost? Driving everyone, including my wife and probably child, nuts. Hence the nickname, schedule Nazi. As my son has gotten older, I have learned what it is to be a parent and I am far better about the schedule. It’s something that I have grown out of because kids get messy and sometimes that is the best thing for them and for you.
2. No vacations –
This is not a job you get to leave or slack off on. There are no days where I can bring my F game or call in sick. Vacations are not vacations they are extended periods of stress where all hell will break loose and you will lose your mind at least twice over 4 days. Vacations are no longer vacations because your job, i.e. your family comes with you. This sucks the fun out of a lot of things. I am still figuring this one out. I have recovered from my Nazi-ism. My ability to do a vacation, big failure. I will let you know when I figure that one out. If you have suggestions let me know in the comments. I am sure there are some moms who have felt the same way and could provide some advice.There are no days where I can bring my F game or call in sick. Click To Tweet
3. Stressed-out –
Because you are too uptight and there are really no breaks, ever – seriously I totally get why SAHMs just want the kids to leave for a few hours with the husband, you get stressed out. This is the most important job you will ever do really. You are paying into retirement every day. You can’t mess up your kid, right? That will lead to decades of problems, DECADES. I am not even three decades old right now, and I know if I mess up this kid I will spend the next 5 cleaning the mess up. The pressure is unrelenting when you view being a SAHD as a job. This means you have to find an outlet. For me, I write and I play video games (more writing than video games these days).
Max Lucado, during a season of burnout, learned that you have to find something you can be ok with failing at. For him, it was golfing. For me, that’s video games. I wish I could keep up and play all the latest and greatest games, but I will settle for just blowing off the occasional steam here and there. Destiny 2 was free for the past few weeks. Bungie makes a great shooter to blow off some steam.
Writing, on the other hand, is a great way to process. Processing is really important too. I do not process while playing video games. I do not want to fail at processing, but processing also helps remove stress. Something I am going to pick up next week is journaling. I have never journaled before so we will see how it goes. I am going to try Michael Hyatt’s journaling techniques and I will get back to you on how that worked out.
View it as a job
It has been incredibly important to view my SAHDom as my job. Without it, I would have just been a babysitter. I don’t know if I would have taken the initiative to be the parent I am. What do you think? Am I monster for viewing my natural duty as a job? Will this perspective inspire you to re-engage as a parent? Somewhere in between?
Let me know in the comments.
Also, my first book, From Our Fall, is in the final design phase. I have been pouring over the proofs and should have them finished by Monday. If all goes well, I should be able to release the book before Christmas and we will do a launch party in January.
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