What do you picture when you picture a dad with kids? What does that man do? What does he look like? How does he behave when he is around his family? What are his hobbies? Does he have facial hair? Does he drive a minivan?
Over the past 3 months we have moved our family away from the coast. We did this in an RV and made one hell of a trip out of it. We landed on my parents farm in Kansas, and are starting over. We threw it all on the line in the name of quality and family and boy, was this a great move. I have never seen my girls so happy. Busy schedules along with the hustle and bustle of a town like LA were just not for us, anymore. We felt people were stressed and just didn’t care for one another, and this really began to weigh on us. I noticed that the stress was starting to show up in our girls. Our tired became their tired. Our stress became their freak outs. Our struggles became their regressions. We all were suffering. We just had to take the time and look at how we were living. No money at the end of every month was terrible to live with. Those rent checks began to cut like a knife. By the end, we couldn’t leave sunny California fast enough.
Throughout the first 3 years of being parents, I worked and Raff stayed home with the girls. I always felt guilty for this, but due to the need for Mama, this is how we did it. We repeatedly discussed the route we were going to take, but this didn't make it easier. We found that this time spent away each day, was very hard to reconcile. I was out with people all day, and Raff was home with the girls. All she wanted to do was have a break, all I wanted to do was have some energy when I got home. The rubber really met the road in the evenings. Everyone was tired as hell. We all needed to bathe and eat, and we needed to spend some quality time together. Evenings usually looked more like freak outs and dinners huddled on the floor around a communal bowl. I would’t trade these years for anything, and I wouldn’t change them either. They were just quite the experience, our experience.
Having small children wears you out, and this really isn’t a shocker. But having your head on straight, and communicating with your lady can make a huge difference. Who works? Is it simply a money conversation? Or does quality of life matter more than money? I can tell you that there is not one answer to this question, and it's easy to get into emotional, heated conversations. We have definitely had our share of these.
We decided in our move that Raff would look for jobs, and I would take some time home with the girls. WOW, what a change! This is gonna take some serious re-wiring. I still panic when it's time for food. I panic when it's time for me to feed myself. Now, add two wildcard curtain climbers and I am a fish way the hell outta water. Changing diapers and naps are easy. These have never been a big problem for me. Activities? I am also quite challenged in this department. I also don’t do very well when our 3 year old is an a**hole. Damn, that girl is mouthy. All of these challenges, while personally and professionally, I feel the looming sense of standing still. When you have 2 mobile children to look after, you can’t get shit accomplished. I shouldn’t complain, I have very well mannered and sweet children. I just want you to have a picture of what goes down.
There is a real safe space to working, it is a huge outlet. You get to talk with adults, you get to feel some independence, you get to go to the bathroom by yourself. When you are corralling the beasts, it's full on, all the time. They want you to run and jump, and push the swing, and play with blocks, and play dress up, and everything else all the time, and they never want to put things away. I thought I had a real accurate picture of what my wife was dealing with, but that has become increasingly more clear and more daunting and today is day 7 of full time Daddery. Thank the good Lord for naps. I have been having some luck syncing them up lately, so Papa gets a rest too.
I am ok with all of the change, but I still care about the things I want to do. I still want to do "man" things, like build stuff, and tinker around the farm. I refuse to trade my beard in for a laundry basket. Choosing to stay home with your children is a very valuable and challenging proposition. It will test you in ways that your not ready for. It will make you grow in ways that you cannot imagine. You know whats really cool about staying home with your kids? There are only a few years that you can do this. When they start school, its over Pops, you missed your chance. Establish bonds. Be there for them. Lay the groundwork for some epic humans to build their lives. You know what you have the rest of your damn life to do? Work. You can always work. Put yourself to the side a bit, or just have the forethought to understand that you have a higher purpose, than your own wants and desires.
This pursuit of switching who stays home with the kids, takes constant shifting. I need to accomplish things for just me, or my psyche plummets. Literally half a day goes by and I haven’t had some time, it's like a time bomb starts ticking. Currently, I get up early and get in some fitness. I come from a place professionally where all I did was fitness for a long time. I needed some space from this setup for a while, and I happily took it. Now, fitness is just my personal time. Some days its a run, some days its burpees. I don’t want it to be my business any more. This is very new to me. I need time professionally to find myself again. It's like starting a whole new relationship. I also need some personal time, this can be a variety of things. Building things is always at the top of my list. I have always loved laborious tasks, so the farm is my haven. Remodeling our RV, working with the alpacas, horses, and goats, all fit the bill. These are all things that need to be fit in my week, or I am terrible at the most important role. Being a husband and father are where I soar. But having these other pieces in place allows me to be fully immersed and at peace.
Yes, it is important that you do the things that make you feel fulfilled. But, don’t kid yourself, your most important role is right in front of you. There is no need to hide, or divert. You know. All of the times I am happiest and feeling like I am the man I aspire to be, is when I have time for me, so I am present for them. Break the F*ckin Mold. Fatherhood is what you make it. There is no defining occupation, there is no look, there is no way to be. If you have to wake up early to squeeze time in for you so you can be your best, for them, do it. If there was a thing to aspire to its Present Fatherhood. An engaged father is a father that inspires his children. Lighting the fire of inspiration in your kids should be something we are given awards for. Our future is our children.