Am I lucky?

My choice to be a stay-at-home dad

My neighbor said something interesting to me the other day. We were chatting about how I’m a stay-at-home dad with my 7-month-old son.

“You’re really lucky you get to stay home with him,” he said.

“Thanks,” I said. “I’m really glad I’m able to do it.”

Later, the conversation struck me oddly. Was I really “lucky”? Certainly it’s a privilege to be able to do it. And I realize not everyone is able to do it. But was it luck?

Nearly a year ago I quit my soul-sucking job to finish updating our kitchen and prepare for the arrival of our new baby. My wife and I were both home with him for the first four months. It was tough when my wife (significantly younger than me) had to go back to work. But we adjusted and both agreed it was best if one of us could be home with him. Given our situation it made much more sense that it be me.

My neighbor is now just a few years from retirement. He’s been commuting to the same company for decades now and certainly doesn’t hate his job. Their family has nice cars, their kids are gearing up for college, they have a vacation house where they spend much of the summer. His wife was able to stay home with their kids when they were ¬†growing up. By almost any measure they have the perfect, traditional American life. And they seem quite happy overall.

But what struck me about the conversation was the subtle envy in his voice. I can’t say what he was thinking. Was he wondering what he missed out on? The joys and challenges of every day at home with a young one. A million mini-dramas a day all leading slowly, surely to that little child becoming a self-confident, independent adult. Was he thinking about all those purchases that kept him chasing the paychecks? Was he pondering his pension and what it cost him?

No, I don’t feel lucky. It was my choice. I know I’m giving up wealth and a comfortable retirement. But I’m getting something even better in return: My life.

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10 Thoughts on “Am I lucky?

  1. I think you can be at peace with a choice but still wonder “what if” on the road not taken. Your friend may have romanticized what staying home is like, but even if he knows it wasn’t right for him/his family, he probably still wonders what it might have been like.

    I’m a new reader and will be back!

    • Pretired Nick on April 2, 2013 at 7:16 am said:

      Glad to have you as a reader! I think my friend is getting a little wistful now that has kids are nearly grown. But they did fine. His wife stayed home and was able to volunteer at their school, etc. But I still think he wonders….

  2. I feel lucky to be able to make that choice. I’m sure many dads would love to stay at home too, but they aren’t able to do it.
    Being a stay at home dad is great and I love it. It’s much better than working in a job that I hated and our family is much happier now.
    Enjoy it while he can’t walk yet. :) Our guy is a crazy monkey now at 2 years old.

    • Pretired Nick on April 2, 2013 at 7:14 am said:

      Thanks, Joe! I’ve been reading your stuff for a little while now. I was shocked how close your story is to mine!
      I’m loving being home with him so far. Right now I can’t imagine going back to work full-time, but I might want to round up a little more cushion cash at some point.
      Our guys is about to crawl any day now. I wonder how hard that’ll make my part-time consulting gig!

  3. I think my wife and I are discussing that choice right now. She currently stays at home with the kiddo but I don’t plan to be working until the kids are grown and gone. Is staying at home what you ‘dreamed it would be’ or are there challenged that you didn’t anticipate or anything that you miss? I stayed home a few months after our baby was born but I got incredibly antsy after a few weeks. I like the idea of having that option.

  4. Pretired Nick on April 2, 2013 at 9:18 am said:

    He’s only 7 months old right now so it hasn’t been that long. But I haven’t missed working for even a minute. It’s pretty tiring. Yesterday I was up early and the well-past midnight dealing with him so it’s a lot of work. But way more rewarding than any job I’ve had. The only real negative is I find I have to come up with ways to get more adult interaction. Tonight I’ll be heading out to happy hour with a buddy so that’ll be good. Other parent groups are nice, but you find all you talk about is poop. (:

  5. In my experience, people tend to be pretty judgmental about the topic of early retirement or stay at home parents. But all that matters is what you think and what works for your family.

    • Pretired Nick on April 3, 2013 at 10:18 am said:

      Thanks, Holly! That’s definitely how I try to look at it. The interesting thing to me is how it never even occurred to so many that it’s even a possibility. It’s easy to be caught in a mental box and not even know it.

  6. I’m not sure it’s good or bad by definition. I think it depends on the family. Good for you though Nick, make every day count!

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