The Adventures of a Stay-at-Home Dad

As I sit down to write this, I imagine a dramatically lit hourglass perched on the desk in front of me, the slipping sand warning me that shortly they will awaken — ravenous, pulling books off shelves, turning electronic devices on and off at random, climbing everything in sight, and tearing open any package of food they can get their hands on.

Nap time, after all, only lasts so long.


I should be cleaning. There’s fried rice all over (and under) the kitchen table and chairs. The sink is piling up with dishes; the floor I just mopped two nights ago is developing an unwholesome texture I’d rather not describe; and it’s a quarter after two in the afternoon, and I’ve not even begun any preparations for dinner.

Welcome to another day at my new job: stay-at-home dad.

How it happened is a bit of a mystery. One minute, I had a nine-to-five in Washington, D.C., that almost paid the bills and let my lovely wife be at home with the kids; and the next, I was squinting into the Arizona sun, trying to figure out how long it would take to remove melted gummy bear vitamins from an outdoor carpet with only the aid of a standard, leaky garden hose. The journey was a bit fuzzy, but at the end of the day, a seemingly sensible plan to move cross-country to take care of an ailing family member and start our own business went rather . . . awry. In the midst of the tornado disguised as the past year, I realized I’d have to start over, having left any semblance of a career path back East. I decided I’d turn my burgeoning photography hobby into a business, but when my wife got a great job offer before I even had a prospect, I found myself instead dealing with oatmeal-splattered walls, loaded diapers, Dora the Explorer, and sugary bribes for good behavior.

Not the new start I expected. I worried I’d be chastised by my fellow Catholic men, who’d say I should be out in the world, bringing home the bucks for my lovely bride, barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. I’m the head of my household by vocation and God’s design, after all, and as one friend joked when he heard I was home making dinner, “If my woman made money, I’d steal all her shoes and hide them so she’d stop.”

The fact is, my wife is a far better breadwinner than I am. Shrewd, intelligent, and wildly attractive, she was born to do business, and runs circles around most men, myself included. She’s a get-stuff-done, kick-butt-and-take-names kind of girl, and to be honest, that’s one of the things that attracted me to her.

Me, on the other hand, I’m a dreamer. I’ve always got my head in the clouds (or somewhere else) and am about as practical as a tuxedo t-shirt (and not nearly as cool.) I’ve got the artist’s curse: I believe I need to make my living doing what I love or I’ll never be successful or happy. To her credit, my wife has always supported me in this quest despite many setbacks. But when the bacon needs bringing home, she’s out grabbing a meaty handful before I’ve even gotten a hickory-smoked whiff.

 

Luckily, I have some domestic skills. You won’t see me on Iron Chef, but my parents called me “Chef Boyar-Steve.” My gastronomic aptitude has not only considerably expanded my waistline, it’s keeping my family well-fed and happy. This morning, I was flipping three kinds of pancakes (regular, strawberry, and chocolate chip) without even breaking a sweat. Tonight, I’ll be knocking out an ahi tuna sashimi appetizer followed by eggplant parmesan.

I’ve also got a handy knack for singing babies to sleep. Laundry? You put it in the machine, you add soap. When it’s done, it goes in the dryer. Bam! (Things get a little dicey when it comes to folding. There are a few baskets of clean, unfolded clothes stacked up in the living room. I’ll get to them. It’s only July. )

Baths are down to a science. I can have three toddlers shampooed, scrubbed, and running naked and screaming, trailing water from their discarded towels to whatever furniture they’re jumping on, in five minutes flat. Stories? Nailed. You want character voices? I have dozens. And at bedtime, my kids get visits from the “sleepy-time fairy.” That’s right: Fall asleep fast enough, and she leaves a little cold, hard chocolate under the pillow.

Of course, I have a lot to learn — patience being foremost. (If I go a day without yelling, I get a gold star on my chart.) I’m about as organized as a Kansas trailer park after tornado season, so the fact that I’ll be tackling homeschool this year for the first time is a little intimidating. And I still space out sometimes, checking e-mail without noticing the wee ones are running amok with sharp knives. Thank God, no blood yet.

However you slice it, I’m spending the kind of time with my munchkins most dads miss out on. In the past, I’d see them for maybe an hour after work before I was tucking them into bed to get ready for another day. Now I’m there for every hilarious remark, incomprehensible drawing, or unexpected question. The other day, one of them started crying for me when I left on an errand, something they only used to do for Mommy. It was both sad and satisfying.

I don’t know how long I’ll be doing this. Is it what God’s calling me to? I’d love to see the day when my wife and I can switch places again, because I believe there’s no mother like a mother. And yet, for the moment, things are working out just fine. Whatever happens, one thing’s certain: This chance to be with my kids while they’re still little is something I’ll never regret.

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.

  • Mike

    Steve, you’re an inspiration to men everywhere. It looks like you’ve got a great family, and I really admire the way you were able to overcome traditional gender roles and be pragmatic about your family’s needs. Even if you wonder whether or not your wife would be better suited to the task of managing the household during the day, there can be no question that having A PARENT at home is better than NO PARENT, which is the reality for most young families today. Congratulations on making it work.

  • David

    What a nice article. You have beautiful children too. Did you take the photos? How did your little guy climb up on that bookshelf?

    I also admire you being the at home dad. I’m not one now, but I wish that I were. THe rest of us will live through you, so I hope you write more about this. I’ll check out your blog.

  • Steve Skojec

    Thanks, guys.

    Mike – I agree. One parent is better than no parent, even if it’s ideal for that parent to be the mom. That’s why we decided to do it this way. Hopefully, I can start working from home and build up enough business to swap back some day. But until then, we’ll take it as it comes.

    David – Thanks, I of course think my kids are the cutest ever. And yes, I took the photos, with one exception – when my son Ivan wanted to get to the DVDs on the top shelf of that bookcase, he pulled everything off and climbed up…and got stuck. My wife came in to see why he was crying, started laughing at his predicament, and grabbed my camera (I wasn’t home at the time) and grabbed the shot. He was not amused. smilies/wink.gif

  • Subvet

    I can readily identify with your post. The wife and I switched roles a few years back. So far, so good.

    Three different flavored pancakes at the same time? You are the man!

  • Kevin

    Steve, keep up the good work!

  • Steve Skojec

    The secret to the pancakes, Subvet, as you no doubt are aware – you’re just adding whatever filling to the same old batter. I included it only because it sounds hard. If it really was hard, I would have burned the house down.

  • Arianna

    Thanks for the insight into your life as a SAHD….It is so important that both spouses recognize and support the others life….Before I became a stay at home mom, I thought it would be boring, easy, full of spare time, that I could “work from home”. Ha! Hats off to you and to Jaime. Keep the humorous perspective and you’ll do fine…..One thing that has helped me become more organized (and not that you are asking for advice!) is to write down your daily schedule hour by hour and post it on the fridge or somewhere you can see it, and keep it fairly consistent from day to day…..Kids do so much better with a daily routine! Also, keep a list of things you must do everyday. Mine are a make the beds, do the dishes after each meal, sweep the kitchen and dining room floor and one complete cycle of laundry a day- down to folding and putting away….If you can stay ahead of dishes and laundry you will be less overwhelmed. I have said too much already.

  • traditionalist

    You don’t know me Steve, but I’ve been reading your stuff off and on for several years. We have at least one friend in common; he is the reason why I began reading your stuff in the first place. So I feel like I kind of know you, at least a little bit.

    I’m one of those traditionalists you would worry about and who might say you “should be out in the world, bringing home the bucks for [your] lovely bride, barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.”

    In your essay you said “I believe I need to make my living doing what I love or I’ll never be successful or happy.” But you know the truth that St. Paul teaches–“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church and delivered himself up for it” To do this you must do what Christ does. You must take up your cross. You must take it up becuase you love your wife and you love your children. You must give up your wants and desires for them. You must lay down your ambition, your desires, your success, your happiness and even your life if called for. This is the vocation of a husband. Husbands don’t need to have a job they love, they just need something that pays the bills and isn’t immoral. Husbands need to love their wives and make sacrifices for them–that’s the essence of being a husband.

    I will keep you in my prayers.

  • Zoe

    You rock, Steve! Great article and precious kids. Hope your wife is not too miserable missing the kids during the day.

  • georgie-ann

    i think i was trying to ask that question in another discussion (the “New Year’s Resolutions in July” one),…thank you for this perspective,…it IS very traditional,…and i appreciate its implications and scriptural frame of reference,…

  • Steve Skojec

    Traditionalist,

    I understand your perspective, believe me. But I’ve done that already, and I’ve seen it in action. It brings misery to many families, and it rarely provides the grounds for the kind of financial success that can support a large family.

    To make a good living, you need to be really good at what you do. In the modern world, that typically requires specialization or ownership. If you don’t have the money to own something, you have to specialize. If you don’t care much about your specialization, you’re not going to compete with the other guys, and you won’t advance.

    It’s a vicious cycle. It’s what I was doing, before we had to leave to take care of family obligations. With that job gone, I have no clear road back. Eventually, we’ll make a return to the way things are supposed to be. For now, we do what we must, because we have to pay rent, pay bills, and so on.

    Unfortunately, my strongest skills are in very underpaid areas – I’m a writer, after all. I’ve gotten lucky in the past and translated those to positions that paid better than what I would have otherwise made. Right now, those opportunities don’t exist.

    Either way, I’ll go where God leads me. Right now, He’s got me at home, and it’s no doubt for good reason.

  • Ann

    Kudos to you and your wife for finding a situation that, well, pays the bills! Not an easy feat these days.

    The curious thing about SAHDs that I have met in my journey as a SAHM is that they always have some sort of side business going. When you meet them and start chatting, they’ll introduce themselves as “I have a business at home doing….blah blah blah.” I’ve never met one that actually just said, “I’m home full-time with my kids.” If one is in charge of a couple of kids as the primary caregiver full-time, that is one’s job. I can actually predict this response; if I know that a guy is a SAHD, and I start talking to him, I can count the seconds until the description of the home-based business comes out, usually less than a minute : )

    I do agree with the traditionalist above. Even though this might be the situation that works for you all now, I don’t think it is the optimal one. I think it is hard enough for a mom to give up her paycheck and professional identity to stay home full time with children in our culture, I think it is near impossible for a man to do so. This could explain why SAHDs cling to the home business identity I mentioned above.

    SAHMs are more likely to say, “I used to be/work in….but now I’m home with the kids.” They are much more willing to slowly let go of that primary identity and transfer it to full-time motherhood (although they still do like to add that they “used to” be something once, which is a whole other topic I won’t get into.)

    Another observation that I’ve made is that SAHDs are usually there for financial reasons, not out of conviction. For example, they are home with the kids because whatever job they have chosen doesn’t pay enough to make sense for them to work. It’s also staged as a temporary solution, that if they get a job that could pay the bills they would be out of there! And often their wives would be more than happy to come back home too.

    The SAHDs I’ve observed are different than the SAHMs, in terms of their function. Yes, they can be good daily caregivers, and make fancy meals or whatever else, but they still aren’t the chief executive of the household. The wife will still retain that title, making sure that all of schedules etc. are followed (things like doctors appts, sorting through the children’s clothes, researching schools, etc). In other words, the working mother still retains her chief domestic officer title, and the man becomes, well, a good babysitter.

    One more thing, but this usually happens in liberal circles. When a dad announces he is a SAHD he gets kudos galore from the women in the room! How wonderful that he is staying home so the woman can go out in the world and fulfill her professional dreams! On and on. SAHMs never get this type of accolade.

    Anyway, enough of my blathering. Good luck to you all.

  • trad2

    I’m a “Trad” myself and I am going to have to come to the author’s defense here. Yes it would be ideal for Mom to stay home and Dad to work – I don’t think anyone is disputing that. But certain circumstances require creative solutions, like the above. Yes we have our gender role models, which are guidelines not commandments. The temporary lack of ability of the husband to support his family in depression-like economic conditions is not equivalent to a call from God to move to a tent city and feed on grasshoppers. God has generously provided the means for this family to support itself without neglecting or outsourcing their child-rearing duties and I am sure this family thanks Him for it.

    Also, I don’t understand why traditionalist seems to be concerned that this family is not sacrificing enough. It seems like they left their secure and stable lives in one city for the unknown of another in order to care for an ill family member. Now they make the sacrifice of living in reversed gender roles in order to support themselves. Clearly the spouses are not rejecting their usual roles for selfish reasons. This is just what they have to do.

    Also, the wife’s role is a helper to her husband. I help my husband in whatever he needs. Sometimes that requires doing things that are outside the normal activities for females. What would traditionalist have me do? Tell my husband I won’t do something that is clearly within my ability? Wonder why my husband isn’t all-powerful and can’t always prevent me from having to do things I would rather not?

    This article is just an amusing set of reflections on the unusual situation in which this man finds himself. He’s trying to make the best out of it. He’s trying not to take himself too seriously. These are good things. What do you think family life would be like if he were doing anything other than that? I certainly wouldn’t want to live in that household.

  • Barbara

    It seems to me that the wife of Proverbs 31 does a lot of bacon-bringing of her own and is roundly praised for it. I don’t think it’s outside the realm of a Christian marriage for a wife to support her family economically. As long as the family is the center of her actions, and his. (not self-gratification, pride, greed or prestige)

  • Ben

    A husband “sacrificing for his wife” and “laying his life down for his family” may look just like Mr. Skojec’s life… a man willing to be at home with his kids and allow his wife to do the bread-winning for a while. I don’t agree that it’s better for a family to be in the poor house just so the man can be working, rather than to be able to pay bills and work towards a more viable future with the wife working. This couple could stick their kids in a bad daycare and both go out to work; but instead they have chosen the best route that allows one parent to be at home with the kids. Tough times demand creative solutions. We should support and applaud, not criticize. Thanks for sharing your story, Steve.

  • georgie-ann

    i think it matters most that our “hearts are right,”…moreso than the particulars of the outer roles that we “play,”…submitted to God, in love for each other, desiring the best for our family members, and willing to “lay down our lives” to bring this to pass (with God’s help)–understanding that the world has its own problems and challenges, as well as opportunities for discovery and even adventure,…

    i only posed the questions about accepting a certain amount of “duty” as a traditional aspect of the human family situation, because i noticed (in retrospect, from days of yore) that it had added a surprising “ennobling quality” to the willing human participants, which i think was VERY reassuring to the children,…at least it was to me,…appreciated now even more, in retrospect,…(thanks, willing ancestors!),…

  • Joy

    To the “traditionalists” who maintain the ideal of woman staying home w/kids – dad out working…really? Throughout history, including in more “traditional” societies today, there was no such division of labor. Family lived and made a living from home, for the most part, in whatever way they could which might involve making or growing things at home, going out and selling them, taking work in, going out seasonally to do work – sending the kids away, leaving them with extended family while one or more parents went off for a while to make money. I love historically short-sighted traditionalists. Or maybe I don’t.

    PLEASE. Get real.

    And kudos, Steve.

  • georgie-ann

    a lot of the historical traditional situations referenced here, involved extended family living “on site,” which i would consider to be a BIG blessing in many situations like this one these days,…this makes a lot more branching out possible, without that “crunchy” feeling,…although “crunchy” can be very very “fun” for a season,…enjoy,…all too soon these will become “the good old days!”…

  • Jay

    …favour women over men for jobs.

  • R.S.Newark

    Hey, make it easier on yourself by giving your children the gift of discipline. It truly works…for everyone not just yourself.

  • Bacon-earning wife

    Steve,

    I laughed out loud! We have 4 kids including 4-year-old twins. And this post could have been written by my husband. I feel SO blessed and incredibly grateful that my husband can stay home and care for our family!

    I know that I could do it, and I would have enjoyed it, but I can also admit that my husband is better at it than I would be. He has a higher capacity for chaos than I do, and a true gift for finding the joy in any situation.

    And like your situation, he is the dreamer, the big thinker. I call him “idea-guy.” I am the practical one. I agree with the traditionalist on his point that we don’t have to like what we do, we still have an obligation to fulfill our responsibilities. I just disagree that those responsiblities are defined by our gender.

    My husband takes care of me and I take care of him, and we both take care of our children. Just as it should be.

  • Mary

    This modern economy has wrought some very strange bedfellows. TraditionalDads and liberated women! My husband is working but I have also had to work to support our familly (of ten) with some time at home and some in the office. I would have never believed it of myself and stayed home happily barefoot and pregnant for 20 years. But property taxes don’t get paid with homemade jam, quilting, garden vegetables and artisan bread. I also don’t think it is accidental that it is easier for women to get well paying jobs than it is for men. Troubling and most intentional I’m afraid. Personally I don’t know how anyone is living on one income anymore. We did it for a long time and have the credit score and debts to show for it!

  • Selkirk

    Actually you are a “traditionalist” in the sense that you support the “traditional” or as it’s sometimes called or ridiculed as, “the 1950’s, June Clever” model of one working and one at home. That’s the model you are living, and it is monumental hypocrisy for the “anti-traditionalists” to praise you to the sky for doing something that if a woman does it (stay home) she is criticized, ridiculed, and demeaned. I wonder how many of you “anti-traditionalists” are raising your daughters to be stay at home moms? Yeah, right.

    All of you “gender doesn’t matter” people are such hypocrites. If gender doesn’t matter, you would be condemning a man staying home the same way you condemn women. Instead your judgements are entirely gender based: men at home=wonderful. Women at home=tragic, miserable, dependent, unfulfilled, depressed, economically vulnerable, wasting their education, etc. Like I said, total hypocrisy.

    Oh, and as for the crime of being a “traditionalist”, is heterosexuality still acceptable? Or is that just another case of gender based relations that are forbidden in the modern world?

  • Beth

    Good to hear someone writing outside of the box. I knew it would not be long in the combox before a traditionalist let you know how wrong and selfish you were. Listen to God not the ones beating you up about what you are called to do.

  • Elizabeth

    As a mom who works part-time, I totally get this. You do what you have to do and always keep in mind that God and your family are the most important things. The reality is, part of raising a family is paying the bills! After my son was born, I was lucky enough to be able to retain my well-paying job part time, and we look at it as a blessing. More than one Catholic acquaintance has given me the barefoot and pregnant ‘it’s so wrong that you work outside the home’ speech and it gets very old – sometimes the best you can do is not ideal, but it works and God always shows you the upsides. For our family, a definite upside is that my hubby is more involved with the family than he would otherwise have been. I love your story and I love that you so clearly love the time you get to spend with your munchkins – keep up the good work!

  • Bacon earning wife

    You sound very angry about “anti-traditionalists.” There are some people who misunderstand the point of gender equality… It is about making the choices that are right for your family, regardless of gender.

    We don’t condemn women who stay home. We do have a problem with a tradition that requires the wife to stay home and the husband to work, regardless of whether or not that works for their family. I’m sorry that you have encountered people who criticize a woman for staying home. I can only say that every point of view (even yours and mine too) will have some ignorant, hypocritical jerks. That doesn’t invalidate the point of view. It just requires more effort to weed out the hatred and anger.

    I have four daughters. Am I raising them to be stay-at-home moms? No. I am trying to raise them to be capable and flexible, so that they can stay at home if that is what God calls them to do for their family. But if God wants them to be the primary financial support for their family, I want them able to do that too.

    As far as your comment about heterosexuality… I hope that all of my children are heterosexual, in a large part because I believe it is much easier in our society. However, if one of them happens to tell me she is a homosexual, I will still love her, and I will still support her.

  • C

    Awesome article. smilies/smiley.gif

  • nickkri

    # years ago, both my husband & I was working in our respective office so the kids were left at home with their yayas. In 24 hrs, only 8 -10 hrs were spent with the kids and that includes sleeping time from 10 pm – 4 pm so only 2-4 hrs was really spent with them. The rest of the hours was with their yaya. How we wanted to spend quality time withe them, but circumstances do not allow us.
    When we encountered Pragmatic Outsourcing
    we decided to make a leap of change, At first it was totally hard but when we got to used of the system of outsourcing, got many projects, we were able to work at home while being with the kids. It’s been almost four years and we are developing a close relationship without children plus our relationship as couple has grown into more intimate one.

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