Yes, I’m a parent. And not just a parent, but a 52 year-old man who has been a stay-at-home father for the past 11 years.
When I first started on my personal journey of being a stay-at-home father, I was open to the prospect, but subconsciously reluctant, the feeling of which came out slowly, subtly, and destructively. Five years into being the primary care giver to my kids was when I started to recognize that I was actually resentful of my wife, that she had a career and I had foregone mine to concentrate on raising our boys.
Here’s the kicker. I really didn’t have an established career, so there was nothing that I was really foregoing, which is what made our decision to have me stay at home so easy. Something, however, nagged at me for the years that dragged on through elementary school, middle school, and now high school for our sons.
When I first stepped into the stay-at-home parent role, I truly felt the job was a gender-agnostic position, creating universal struggles for any parent with average or above intellectual capabilities. There’s a reason for the helicopter parent of the past two decades. Educated parents (notice how I didn’t say mothers only) who give up creating a vocational identity for their kids still need to have a personal identity, one which brings that parent personal satisfaction and a sense that she, or he is making a difference in her, or his world. That’s why I coached Little League, and coach-pitch baseball, and was a cub master, and PTA president, and director of the neighborhood recreational swim team. My identity was stay-at-home parent. Over 11 plus years did I recognize some general differences between how many stay-at-home moms, and the small handful of stay-at-home dads I knew handled certain issues? From this man’s perspective, I actually did, but we’ll get into that more later…like a few weeks from now later.
Getting back to issues of identity, while the boys were young, and by young I mean up until the end of middle school, I could cling onto the stay-at-home parent identity and feel moderately satisfied about who I was, and what I was doing with my life. From other stay-at-home moms, however, including those who are now grandmothers, the affirmation that I had been “doing such a great job with the boys,” began to feel forced, like the encouragement given to a child who is losing interest in the one activity in which they have any innate talent.
This is totally my reading into those words of encouragement, but given the new phase I find myself in, there are few explanations that make any sense. That new phase I’m in is the “oh crap, I’m not going to be a stay-at-home parent forever.” When you’re in the middle of being a stay-at-home parent, there is little room for anything else, and at times it can be hard to see that there is a post-active-parenting era. Well, my oldest has been accepted to a college for September of this calendar year, and assuming he doesn’t make a knuckle-head decision preventing him from graduating from high school, as of September I will only have one child at home, who will also be a fully licensed driver.
I am face-to-face with a new who-am-I moment.
So, that’s the back story. Let’s call it the prelude to the new phase at Bent Spoon where we document one parent’s transition from stay-at-home parent to whatever this is next.