Steve Chatterton
Will Write for Food
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How I Became a Stay-at-home Dad

May 14th, 2014 by Steve

A lot of men ask me, “Can I be a stay-at-home dad just like you?”

The first thing I do is start answering their questions with a bunch of other questions, knowing full well how much it ticks people off.

“Are you sober right now?” I ask. If they reply yes, I ask my follow-up, “Have you been dropped on the head recently?”

You see, I need to know they are not making a rash decision, that they have thought this through, and that they are of sound mind, for being a stay-at-home parent is not to be entered into lightly. Gingerly, perhaps, but definitely not lightly.

This job is not for the faint of heart, it is not for the squeamish, and it is not for people coping with a temporary brain injury; eventually the swelling will go down and they’ll realize they’re in way over their heads.

Most guys think this job is all monkey business. They imagine themselves watching TV, eating bon-bons all day, and maybe even playing with their kids once in a while. If you are foolish enough to think this way, mark my words, there will come a diaper change when you’ll be wrist deep in doo-doo and your infant son will choose that moment to go number one in a golden arc that soaks you from chin to crotch. You will throw your feces-covered hands to the sky and wail, “This isn’t what I friggin’ signed on for!” But it is. And you did. Welcome to the club!

Allow me to profess love for my profession in a professional manner without giving you a snow job.

It was my wife who offered me membership in the stay-at-home dads club shortly after the birth of our son. Her maternity leave had almost run out, and we weren’t sure what to do next. Then one day she got an idea.

“You’d make a great stay-at-home dad,” she said. “You love our kids. You hate your job. You should quit.”

“I don’t ever know the meaning of the word quit,” I said.

“It’s a verb for giving up on something, a conscious decision to stop doing so.”

“In that case, sign me up. I’m all in. Make mine a double.”

It was a life-long dream come true. I did hate my job; it had a boss. Even though I liked my boss as a person, I hated having her, or anyone else, as a boss. The only time I liked having a boss was right after high school. My manager was always showering me with compliments. He said, “You’re just not KFC material!” Nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.

I had worked for a company recently acquired by The Substantially Huge Corporation, and I found myself working for one of the biggest tech companies in the world with no particular skill set. I built websites, setting the bar real low skills-wise. When I first applied for the job they asked me to turn on a computer. When I did, they said, “You’re hired!” Then I offered to turn off the computer, and they said, “No one likes a show off.”

By all rights, I should have been laid off after the buy out – they outsourced my job for pennies on the dollar – but somehow I got by under the radar. I worked from a home office, so I was quickly forgotten about. It’s much easier to get paid for doing nothing if you can’t bump into someone from accounting at the water cooler.

Eventually I was found out, right before I planned on giving notice. My boss said she could lay me off immediately with only two weeks severance, or I could go into a three-month internal job search program that would give me a six month severance package if I couldn’t find another job within the company. That would be a total of nine months pay, so I agreed, knowing full well there wasn’t much I qualified to do for them anyway.

For the next ninety days I worked my fingers to the bone pretend-looking for work. This involved typing up a new résumé, doing a few phone interviews for positions I would never want, and hanging out with my little boy every day. You see, I was already exploring my new career path in my spare time.

Work kept pushing me toward a position in sales. In fact, when the guys in sales heard about my skill turning computers both on and off, they thought I had serious management potential. But I kept resisting, knowing I had this predisposition toward honesty that might get in the way of the job.

You know that old, borderline-racist joke about the sales rep so good he could sell snow to Eskimos? Put in his position I’d be hard pressed to sell long-johns. “Yeah, they’ll keep you warm; so warm your package will get sweaty and stick to the side of your leg. The chafing will be unbearable after a while, but you’ll be nice and toasty.”

In the end, The Substantially Huge Corporation had to concede defeat and declare me unemployable, but they threatened to hold onto my résumé for another year just in case the company did a complete 180 on its corporate philosophy, somehow creating a job for me that was no work and all play. “Good luck with that, and all your future endeavours,” I said, “and thank you for your interest in me.”

Since that day, it’s been family first all the way without a single regret. That’s the only way to do this gig right. If you’re actually going to miss wearing ties and explaining things to middle managers like they’re six years old (out of necessity, off course), stay-at-home parenting isn’t the job for you. Just keep doing what you’re doing and keep your nose out of my business.

Me, I have no regrets. I love my new career, and I’d jockey for this position any day. I never miss working for The Substantially Huge Corporation, but I must admit, every once in a while I wish I could still answer the phone, “Substantially Huge, Steve speaking!”

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Posted in Family, Memoirs

 

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