New Year’s Resolutions…In July

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Steve Skojec, and you might remember me from such blogs as: Inside Catholic, or even, if you didn’t loathe every thought I committed to writing, my old blog at SteveSkojec.com (it’s now the site for my as-yet-in-the-idea-phase photography business, about to undergo changes of its own soon, so no pithy words there.)

Yes, I used to write here often. Back in the day, I even penned a column just about every month. Then I fell off the face of the earth for a while, for which I apologize to a handful of you and offer a warm “you’re welcome” to the rest.

For reasons too complex and, frankly, boring to summarize here, writing and I have been estranged lovers for far too long now. The last year or two has been a real whirlwind, and while it’s finally showing some signs of abating just a bit, I don’t think the freight train of fate (and faith) that my family and I are on will be slowing down any time soon. 

In the past 12 months, I’ve gone from being a long-term lacky at a boutique PR Firm in D.C. working with big-name clients to taking care of a sick relative and trying to help get a family-owned trailer park in the worst part of South Tucson, Arizona back on its feet, to finally winding up back in the city I never seem to fully escape – Phoenix – where I’ve just become a full-time stay-at-home dad…a topic I’ll be talking about more in depth in a near-future column. The changes in environment have been drastic, and are perhaps best explained visually. Suffice it to say that my family and I went from this:

…to this…

…and finally to this:

Now that I’m back in civilization, and the police helicopter flyovers are naught but a noisy memory, I have some time to reflect. God no doubt has His reasons for why we endure the things we do, and while I admit that my faith and my fortitude have taken one heck of a beating on the midnight train to weirdville, I’m going to try to stop using train metaphors (suitable mostly for their anachronistic imagery and connotation of inevitable momentum, I assume) and get back to doing what I do: writing.

One might think that because I’m a stay-at-home now I’ll have loads of time for this sort of thing, but if you think that it’s only because you’re clearly a guy and are as absolutely clueless as your wife/girlfriend/mother have always told you you are. In addition to lacking those essential feminine instincts so essential to managing several rambunctious toddlers and an adolescent, I am completely disorganized and always playing catch-up. I went to the store this morning to buy toilet paper and dish soap with an impressive case of bed head, a completely mis-matched outfit, and a shirt smeared with flour and dough from last night’s bout of cookie-making. I also have little doubt that right now, as I write this, a fire is being started in this very house, and several valuable items are in the process of being completely destroyed. Luckily, we don’t have many items of value left, so the damage can only be so bad. See? I’m learning to be an optimist!

At any rate, I’m using the new blog design here at IC to give me an excuse to jump back into the fray. It’s like making New Year’s resolutions in July, and if I keep them as well as other such resolutions I made, you should be hearing from me again in about 2013.

I can only say that I will make a valiant effort to post here, and I have a couple of columns in the hopper. Until then, if you’re interested in keeping up with the antics in my new domestic role, you can catch the updates at my brand-spanking-new blog, Robots & Recipes

By

Steve Skojec serves as the Director of Community Relations for a professional association. He is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he earned a BA in Communications and Theology. His passions include writing, photography, social media, and an avid appreciation of science fiction. Steve lives in Northern Virginia with his wife Jamie and their five children.

  • Austin

    Steve, I would be interested in your observations regarding the new Arizona Immigration Law. Since you are literally “on the ground” there, you should have some good insights. I am of mixed mind on the whole thing, and have not decided which side I am on yet, thus I welcome your observations on this subject.

    You are a braver man than I, staying home with toddlers. Good luck!

  • Brian Saint-Paul

    …is going up this Friday. It has been the source of great laughter and mild Schadenfreude for the editorial staff. You really don’t want to miss it… or the photos we’ll be running inside.

  • Irene Lagan

    Steve,

    Great post! I can relate to some, but not all… but love the image of the midnight ride to weirdville… I think I may have taken that train once or twice. At least once, but here’s where I love a dull memory (as long as the lessons learned stick)…As for being a stay-at-home-Dad, I bet you and my brother could share stories. Preferably for him over a beer and somewhere far from the homestead. At any rate, welcome back!

  • Steve Skojec

    Thanks, everyone. You know, I was following SB 1070 pretty closely, but there’s been so much chaos with the recent move that I feel completely removed from the news cycle.

    Hopefully as things settle into a rhythm here I can offer a more first-person analysis. One thing I will say is that the law seems likely to have a much different impact in Phoenix vs. Tucson. My experience here is vastly different than it was there, and while I have nothing statistical to offer on immigration numbers here, I never run into a situation now where I have to speak Spanish to get by. In Tucson, it was a daily occurrence. There was a much larger immigrant community in Tucson, and I think that’s where the rubber will really hit the road on this law.

  • Dale Price

    I mean, the opener has to be a Simpsons reset…

    smilies/grin.gif

  • Ender

    Steve – I hope your life settles down sufficiently for you to keep your resolution to contribute more here. I look forward specifically to hearing from you about the impact and effect of SB 1070. Given that you are now living in precisely the right spot to observe (and hopefully, report) it will give the rest of us a good understanding of how this controversy is playing out. Even if some federal judge issues a restraining order to delay its implementation I suspect that there will still be fallout. Given that school should be about to start it will be interesting to discover what happens to enrollment numbers. They should be the first real indicators of whether the law is having its intended effect.

  • JustaMom

    I am very interested in hearing about your new position as a SAHD and how you got there. I remember distinctly your comments about women in the workforce and Sarah Palin’s non-eligibility for public office because she had young children at home.

  • Steve Skojec

    JustaMom:

    It’s a valid question, and one that I don’t, due to space constraints, spend too much time on in my article, so let me touch on it briefly here.

    I had to quit my job to fulfill a familial obligation, and I did so only because certain promises were made that we be given the means to start a business of our own, through which we could provide for our family.

    When those promises turned out to be nothing but a ruse, there wasn’t anything that could be done. The risk was big, and particularly so in this economy. When things went badly, my wife was offered a very promising position almost immediately, before I’d even found any strong prospects. We needed something fast, and decided that it would be better for me to be at home, with my wife having the option to work from home on a semi-regular basis, while I tried to build my own business from here.

    We found ourselves in this position out of necessity. My wife has always had a more marketable skill set than I (my background is in communications/theology and hers is tech, legal and real estate) but we’ve chosen over the years to have her be at home with the kids, with all the sacrifices that entails. When push came to shove, and we were against the wall, we adapted.

    I still believe that kids – any kids, mine included – would be better off with a stay-at-home mom than a stay-at-home dad, as a general rule. I also still think it’s generally not a good idea for a mom of young children to go pursuing a more-than-full-time career when she has young children at home, provided she has a choice.

    But I’m growing more flexible as I come to terms with the gifts God gave to my wife and I, and the situations we find ourselves in. We’ve tried hard to fit the traditional roles that Catholicism has always commended to us. That said, I have never had any question that my bride is one of the most competent, competitive people I know, male or female. I’ve come to recognize that mothering alone, although her top priority, does not make full use of her many talents, and that staying solely in the domestic role would keep her from giving all she has to offer and deprive her of a great deal of personal satisfaction. Even if I had my old job back, she’d still be a major contributor to our family’s bottom line.

    At the end of the day, while I’m not a fan of Palin as a political candidate, I’m sure I’d be less outspoken about her decision to run now than I was then. My wife was just as strong of a critic at the time, if not moreso, so I’ll have to ask her what she thinks now.

    I know for a fact that today, I’m more outspoken about the need to prepare Catholic young men to not only remain chaste before marriage and seek a good wife, but have a plan on what to do when they find one. If I had been better prepared, and had clear career goals before I was married, I could have alleviated a lot of problems down the road.

    But hindsight is 20/20, and that’s another column. Let’s just say we’re coming to a better understanding of a woman’s role in a Catholic family in the modern world. I won’t claim to have a lock on the answers, but truth is truth, and if it leads me to new positions I’m always willing to evolve.

  • The commenter formerly known as R.C.

    …but welcome back, Steve!

    – Cord

  • Steve Skojec

    Thanks, Cord. Glad you’re finally on board. I think I’m only one of many advocates of your official status here.

    Now you can really get back to reasoning circles around the rest of us. smilies/wink.gif

  • Austin

    Steve, your situation is becoming more common and it is creating a new host of problems, for both husband and wife. The old family model of the husband going off to work, with the wife at home with the kids had its problems, but did seem to work in most cases. I have known several couples in the new situation of the working wife and stay at home husband. Often the husband feels less masculine and the wife feels resentful, and there are problems. It can work, but it is difficult.

    Also, I think women are hard wired to deal with small children better than men. Young children can be very difficult, if not impossible for many men.

  • Steve Skojec

    Austin,

    Completely true, all of it, and certainly not an ideal situation. The pragmatic reality that my wife is in a better position to earn a higher income than I in no way mitigates the fact that we both feel our roles should be reversed. We deal with it because we have to, rather than embracing it because we want to. I’m doing better at dealing with the little ones, and my patience is increasing, but I am not by nature a nurturer, and that certainly shows in my parenting.

    And we hope that in time, we can put things back to normal.

    It’s anecdotal, but I’m finding that many men of my generation (I’m 32) are directionless, for lack of a better word. They work, but they don’t work with purpose. They’ll say “I don’t know what I want to be doing with my life” and are thus not particularly successful, even if they’re providing. The women I know from this same generation seem to be much more clear, whether they desire to be stay-at-home mothers or career women. They know what they want and how to go get it. I’m still picking at why this seems so often to be the case. No doubt feminism plays a role here, but I suspect there may be more to the story than just that. There’s something here about the deconstruction of masculinity that’s creating less assertive, more confused men who lack a clear path, and I’m afraid I count myself among them.

    For my part, I spent three years at my last job because it paid the bills. Barely, mind you, but it did. But there was no advancement. I didn’t like what I was doing, so I did what I had to to maintain, but I never saw myself getting ahead. There was no personal satisfaction, which put a big damper on ambition. I’ve always assumed most men out there are in the same boat. They may hate their jobs, but if it feeds their families they keep doing them. It’s the lucky few who enjoy their work, and find that it puts their talents to good use. I am open to being corrected on this.

    One thing I’ve noticed that’s different between my wife and I – she’s nearly always more utilitarian and practical than I. Whatever the most effective means of providing, that would be what she gravitates toward, even if it holds no particular interest to her. She seeks the good of her children first and foremost, at whatever cost to herself. I don’t know if this is a maternal instinct or simply a more noble one. Personally, I’m a firm believer that as men, we find a lot of our personal identity in our work, and thus need work that satisfies. Without it, we become miserable grunts. We can do work we dislike, and often must, but I will never do as well at a job I hate as my wife does. This could be my own shortcoming, or perhaps its an essential difference between the sexes. I don’t claim to know.

    Just thinking out loud. Interested in hearing more speculation on this.

  • Austin

    Steve, many of the men of your generation may lack direction, but many of the men of my generation [age 59], myself included, were stuck in jobs that we really didn’t like, but had to grind it out, due to having to pay mortgages, Catholic School tuitions, etc. You see the years roll by and you don’t end up career wise, where you really wanted to be, so you try to focus on other things, such as your children’s success, perhaps a hobby, etc.

    I have resigned myself to the fact, that I will never be a bigshot CEO, so I try to find good things where I can. Even simple things like listening to a good CD on the way to work, enjoying a couple of beers with friends, etc. help soften the realization of the lack of professional success. I actually think that most guys my age feel this way too. You make choices and sacrifices and try to make the best of things. By the time you get to your 50′s, you realize that life is not fair. If life were “fair”, I would be rich and handsome and I am neither.

    A good sense of humor is very helpful as well, as life is full of absurdities. it helps to be able to laugh at the stupidities of bosses and other authority figures as you come to the realization that most of them really don’t know what they are doing and are faking it.

    Keep the faith and have a cold one after the kids are in bed. it helps a lot.

  • georgie-ann

    Steve, you are the same age as my younger son,…i think he feels exactly the same way about his job situation and opportunities as you have described for yourself,…i have felt for a very long time that taking most men away from their direct hands-on connection to the source of their work and livelihood–as in farming, carpentry, masonry–has had a very bad effect on their enthusiasm for and positive identity with what they engage in,…i don’t think that this has anything to do with feminism particularly, but our modern technology,…and i’ve always found it to be very sad,…

    the effort to reach the higher salaried ranks has left some disappointed at not ascending to a level that is satisfying, or the work itself doesn’t have that independent rewarding manly zing! quality to it,…my son likes to be a self-starter, with freedom to evaluate and make decisions, and he certainly would like to be well-paid,…but he has neither,…

    and the restructuring of hiring, where many more people are put in part-time positions, without honor or benefits, has been very devastating,…when IBM down-sized near here, it was a disaster for many of an older formerly confident and very competent generation,…always tragic in real human terms,…you certainly are not alone!,…

    a concerned mother’s prayers go out to you,…

  • Austin

    And when you get the kids through college and established in life, and have paid for the weddings, buy a sportscar and on occassion, have some fun. The two weddings cost me $55,000, which could have been a a slightly used Porsche 911, but that’s OK. Settle for a used BMW. Just don’t drive a Buick and watch TV like other old guys.

  • georgie-ann

    i’ve been wondering what men think of these verses in Genesis with regard to their obtaining-a-livelihood situation here on earthly terms:

    Genesis 3:17-19

    17 “Then to Adam He said,

  • georgie-ann

    underlying that question, i think, is the dim memory that i have of people (grown-ups) who did not seem to resent “doing their (daily) duty,” even if it involved what could be categorized as drudgery, including some boredom,…in fact, it actually seemed as if everybody took some drudgery in life completely for granted, expecting it,…we rather uncomplainingly “shouldered our burdens,”…perhaps it was pretty obvious that if a man did not work, that he and his family would not eat, and if the woman did not cook, ditto,…our sights weren’t set too high,…and it seemed a little easier to be content with “making-do,”…in fact, survival was even kind of an adventure,…the present day dynamic has changed very much since those days,…it seems harder to be content/satisfied,…

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