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.