When I think back, I don’t remember saying, “I want to be a stay at home dad when I grow up.” I guess it just kind of happened that way. I had all kinds of different careers in mind that I thought I could do. Teaching was something I always considered. At one point I wanted to be a personal trainer or work in a gym setting. I was never terribly ambitious. I knew I wanted a good job so I could live comfortable enough. I was always more concerned with having free time to hang out with family and friends. I guess you could say “being content” was one of my many qualities.
After I turned 16, I always had a job of some sort. For the most part, I usually averaged about 3 years at most of my jobs. There were a few that I spent shorter stints at, but all and all, I liked staying with what was familiar. There were even times that I had 2-3 jobs at a time. By no means have I ever been scared to work. So from age 16-33 I always had a paycheck. The big question when I decided to stay at home with the kids was, “What is the value in this and how will this pay me?” Little did I know the amazing return I would get from being a stay-at-home dad.
I had been working as a teacher for five years when we decided to move to the Austin area. I had four great years as a teacher, but my last year was absolutely awful. I was burned out and feeling abused by my students and the administrators. To be honest, I should have done us all a favor and quit. But that’s a story for another time. When we moved, I made no real effort to find a new teaching job. I looked into other options, but no doors were opening.
Grace was going into kindergarten at the end of that summer. We had no desire to send her to public school, there were not any openings at the private schools, and by no means did we have the talent or patience to home school her. By the grace of God, we were introduced to a great Catholic family, the Mesichs. They had seven kids that they homeschooled. After meeting with them and talking about what we wanted to do, we decided to have Grace start home schooling with their family. It was perfect. They had girls that were four and six years old, so Grace fit right in the middle at five years old. Over the next couple years, we became like family. The Mesichs have become a huge influence in our lives. They supported us when we joined the Catholic Church. They are Godparents to our son Luke and all their kids treat Grace like she is one of their own.
This is important, because it was the determining factor that made me an at-home parent. I couldn’t find a job that would allow me to drop Grace off at 9 in the morning and pick her up at 3:30. And with Abby on the road often, we didn’t want her with a babysitter all the time so I could work.
It was a little rough at first. I felt a bit worthless. I felt like everyone saw me as a lazy husband that let his wife take care of everything. At first, I mostly just did normal household chores while Grace was at school. It didn’t take me long to get bored. I didn’t want to spend all my spare time in front of a TV, so I started finding projects. I started repurposing and building small furniture. If Abby needed me to do something she would ask. But for the most part, I still didn’t know my value.
I started to think Abby might resent me. I didn’t know if my family and friends had much respect for what I did. There were times that I questioned what kind of example I was setting for my kids. Were they going to see a father and husband that took care of and protected his family, or was I just the maid/driver? It took a lot of prayer and talking to other good Christian people for me to start realizing my role. The most important thing I did was force myself to reevaluate my definition of the word “provider.”
There was a day when I had an epiphany. God had called Abby to do a huge job for Him. He needed her to get the truth out there. It was time for the prolife movement to evolve and Abby was going to be part of it. God was guiding Abby and keeping her very busy. With everything that was going on, I realized I wasn’t just along for the ride. God had called me to take care of Abby and our family. God needed me to make sure everything at home was ok while Abby was on the road. It was my job to keep her happy and healthy so she could do God’s work (which meant, as a friend of mine pointed out, that I was also doing God’s work). If I didn’t remind her to relax or take a break and eat, she would forget. She needed a partner, someone bounce ideas off of, calm her when she was frustrated, defend her when she was attacked, and provide her with much needed breaks from her work. Like it or not, I was what she had. So it was time for me to grow a little confidence and man up. No more worrying about appearances. Just move forward and take on the job as it is.
Once I figured that out, I began to love my job. And I think Abby did too. She has made it very clear that the best way for me to provide what our family needs is for me to be at home. Since then, we have had three more babies. To say the least, I work harder now than I ever did. But to be honest, it doesn’t feel like work. Every day, God reveals the value of my work to me. Instead of getting a piece of paper with commas and zeros, I have the assurance that I am exactly where God wants me. I have learned that what I provide is stability. I am here to welcome my wife home from long trips, make macaroni and cheese for Grace, hold Alex up to stick his hand in the Holy Water font at Mass, comfort Luke when his brother knocks him down, and rock Carter at 2 am when he is gassy. It’s my job to show my my boys how to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” and to show my daughter what to look for in a man. I may not have it down to science, but I know my role, I know what I need to provide, and I am willing to take on the challenge that God has given me. This job is full of laughter and tears, spankings and hugs, busy times and slow times, but most of all, every moment is a quality moment. In trying to figure out my value, I realized that stay-at-home parents are invaluable. Giving up that paycheck has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.
“Dear, I always say, a flawed husband is better than none at all.”
Robin Williams, Mrs Doubtfire