More than just as a chronicle of my own experiences as an at-home dad, or outlet for my opinions, I really love it when this little blog helps dads want to be more engaged in parenting, and in the wider conversation about parenting.
One of the things I have learned though is that a dad doesn’t have to be doing what I am doing, the way I am doing it, for the reasons I am doing it, to be a highly involved, heavily engaged, active and loving father.
I’ve been thinking recently that it would be nice to open the floor of the Daddy Doctrines up to more guest posts, to bring a wide range of perspectives, experiences, and opinions — not just from other at-home dads, or even just dads at all, but from anyone with something to share that helps engage more dads in the parenting conversation.
Kicking things off is my friend Neil Newman, one of my fellow Lehigh Valley Club Dad dads. Neil has written a nice piece about his transition to being the primary caregiver for his kids, how it has challenged him, and how he is learning to appreciate the challenge.
Neil A. Newman
I used to be one of those guys. I was raised to be one of those guys.
Not intentionally, but it was in the genetic make up of the sub-culture that I was in. I was raised to be the provider, to make sure my family was financially sound, to work hard, make a living, and be the best father I could be when I was not assuaging the desires of the career I chose to follow. In the end, however, this did not work out.
I was a “Man’s Man.” I lettered four times in Varsity Football, including being captain for two of those years. I wrestled, was a thrower in track, bench pressed over 300 lbs, and was a great student, including being part of the National Honor Society and National German Honor Society, among other things. I continued on to college to play football for two years, and I graduated in four years with a double major, thus making my way into seminary. During seminary, I worked 10 to 20 hours a week as a Nursing Assistant, while taking a full load of courses and volunteering at my church. My usual week included approximately 80 hours of work. I was working my way to be the bread winning patriarch that I was groomed to be.
Continuing on, I applied to PhD programs, as well as jobs. At the same time, I was introduced to a wonderful woman who was a Physical Therapist. We were married with the understanding that we wanted our children to be raised by us, not someone else. We were intending on it being her, but it was 2009, and my ability to find a job that would support our financial needs was far from bright. So my wife and I found ourselves in a rough spot. We were having a child and I could not support the family.
We are blessed. My wife makes plenty of money to support our family, and so the decision in my eyes was an easy one. I would stay home to take care of the kids. We had a son first. Then 14 months later we had twin daughters. In under a year and a half, I went from caring for myself, to caring for three children.
Now what to think about all this? I have become the ultimate stay at home parent (if there could be one). We use cloth diapers. I cook. I clean. I do laundry. I do the grocery shopping. My life is wrapped up in caring for our three children. It is amazing. It is the best thing that could have happened to me. Yet I struggle.
Why do I struggle? I struggle because I grew up with the understanding that men who stay at home with the kids are usually beer swilling, pot smoking low lifes who end up on Ricki Lake. They spend their time playing video games while their children go unchanged and unfed, or with Mountain Dew in their bottles and Fritos for dinner.
Unfortunately this stereotype is still being purveyed by many in our society today, some even attempt to do it while citing Biblical criteria.
While having struggled with that Biblical criteria myself, I have also realized in my short 31 years on the earth that often God does not make nice little lines that we all follow. I can point to countless Biblical examples where the norm was bypassed for something different, and it was at God’s direction.
This does not make it right in all cases, but it does not make it entirely wrong either.
I have thought long and hard about a lot of this. Why is it that I am staying home? I wanted my wife to stay home. I wanted to be the breadwinner.
I, I, I, I!
It is apparent that there was something else working in the mix that had nothing to do with what I wanted. Sure, I could put my children in daycare, and go out and get a job. My children will spend most of their awake hours being watched by someone else. They will learn things that I would prefer them not to learn. For all intents and purposes, financially it would be pointless. My entire paycheck would go to childcare. And then there is all of the running around, the need to do housework for the few hours a week that we are home, etc. etc.
So basically, I have to swallow my pride.
I have to realize that there must be some greater reason for this period of my life.
It is not what I had planned for, nor is it what I prepared for. It has taken some time for me to swallow that heaping pile of pride…
But I have enjoyed every gulp! I have savored the flavor as my pride is taken from me!
Neil A. Newman, M.Div, lives in Allentown, PA with his wife Janeen, 2 year old son Mattathias, and 13-month old twin girls Karis and Irenae. He wishes he had time to read, workout, ride his bike and go hiking. Instead, he listens to the incessant babbling of his three bosses, none of which speak English (or even speak coherently in any language), attempting to foresee their wants before they make them known. His daily chores include laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning, shopping, and counseling.
Interested in writing a guest post for the Daddy Doctrines? Please contact me.