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Posts Tagged ‘Stay At Home Dad’

It was over 12 years ago that I sought out the advice of a friend of mine.  I was about to start a new “job” – Stay At Home Dad/Homemaker.  This friend had done it for several years (an incredible story for another time).  I trusted his judgement and advice.  He started with 2 words – “Embrace It”.  I remember cocking my head as if to ask, “what do you mean?”  He told me that too often, whether or not a father had chosen to or had been forced to due to circumstance to become a Stay At Home Dad, men would brush off the title as a “temporary gig”.  They would always follow up “I’m a Stay At Home Dad” with some kind of qualifier – “but it’s temporary” or “but I’m really a salesman, actor, lawyer, construction worker, businessman”, etc, etc.  He told me that if I didn’t jump in with two feet, I would be unhappy and as a result, so would my kids.

“You’ve got to completely embrace that this is what you do.  Yes, you are your kid’s dad, but you’ve got to understand that this will be the hardest, most rewarding job you will ever have…but only if you embrace it,” he said.

It sounded like sage advice to me, and so I did – and I have thoroughly enjoyed myself.  What I have discovered years later it that the advice, when truly boiled down to its essence was not about child-rearing – it was about being happy with one’s self and embracing the choices made.

***

Recently a friend of mine, knowing that I am this close to getting my CSCS certification asked me for some advice.  This person wanted to lose some weight and do some body sculpting by a certain date for a big event in the late Fall.  After an intake interview, I drew up a plan that included both nutritional and exercise goals.  Both started off very easy, practically guaranteeing early successes at small tasks requiring very little time that would serve as a foundation for the more intense and difficult work ahead.  Although this person asked about specific exercises, I made it clear that we wanted to start easy to make sure there was a foundation in place when we introduced specific exercises later on.

From the start though there were excuses – I’m going to a party.  I didn’t sleep well last night.  It was a busy day.   I pushed back a little bit with encouragement and a reminder of what the ultimate goal was and the fact that the current time demands were minimal.

Change is hard.  I get it.  It’s easier for some than others.  Jess will tell you that I will change, but like a huge super-sized steamship on the ocean, it takes me a while to make a turn in a different direction – I’ll get there, but it takes a little while.  I truly understand that making a change is scary, difficult and most of all, overwhelming even when the changes are small.  After consecutive days of excuses, I stopped talking as Friend Luau and brought out Trainer Luau – I told my friend that change wasn’t going to happen simply by thinking about it.  In order to achieve the stated goals, work was going to have to be done on a regular, consistent, daily basis.

“Fortunately,” I said, “there is a specific goal, both physically and chronologically.  It gives you an endpoint, a peak, a destination.”

And then I remembered my friend’s advice from so many years ago.

“Embrace it!”

I then said, “in order to achieve the stated goal, you’re going to have to embrace the program, make it a priority OR embrace where you are and be happy with that.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  But if you half-ass it, you’re not going to be happy with the results because you’ll feel like you are over-sacrificing for less that optimal returns.”

We’ll see what happens.

I understand that not everyone is gung-ho about fitness and/or running like I am.  I understand that embracing the vehicle of change is not easy for most (including myself).

I’m not sure what it is I am trying to convey in this post other than this – if you have a fitness goal and you are presented with a choice between immediate gratification that works against that stated goal and the goal itself, take a moment to think about what it is you really want.  There’s nothing wrong with a day of debauchery every now and again – in fact, I highly recommend it to keep yourself sane, but at some point, a consistent choice has to be made, especially when there is a time aspect to your stated goal – am I happy where I am?  or do I want to achieve this goal?  And if you consistently choose the immediate gratification over the fitness goal, don’t beat yourself up for it.  Perhaps you didn’t really want that goal in the first place.  Perhaps that goal was placed there by others or by society.

Choose the spot where you will be happy and then embrace it because ultimately, happiness is beautiful.

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I Am

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There are all kinds of different reasons to run – health, sanity, competition, escape…

One of the reason I run is because I am a stay-at-home dad. No, I don’t run a business from home. I am not a dad who lost his job and is temporarily at home. No. I am a homemaker, I AM a stay at home dad.

Years ago, Jess and I decided that we wanted to have one of the two of us taking care of our children during the day. Fortunately, one of us made a salary that would allow us to do that. It wasn’t me – my salary at that time would have put us in a studio apartment in a bad neighborhood.

And so my journey as a homemaker and stay-at-home parent began.

That was over 10 years ago.

In very short order, I gained a new respect for the millions of women who had given up careers (voluntarily or not) to raise their children and take care of their homes. Homemaking is not an easy gig. I was quickly accepted among the moms I would regularly cross paths with – for which I was grateful. Not every stay at home dad is readily accepted into the stay at home community.

Still, despite the acceptance of the moms, and the feigned/ignorant jealousy of my male friends, I knew I was still a strange man in a strange land, an oddity, a curiosity (years ago, a store clerk, unable to wrap her brain around the fact that I was a stay at home dad insisted, INSISTED, that I must be a nanny).

To the moms, I am a nice guy who works hard (and isn’t it sweet), but I can’t ever share what they share. I didn’t carry Katie or Brooke inside me for 9 month. I can never know the emotional ups and downs nor the emotional bond mothers have with their kids. I can’t share in the more intimate conversations they will have with each other because, well, I’m a guy.

To the dads, I am an enigma, a riddle. How does this guy do that? But I don’t share the burdens of salary and employment that they do. I cannot know what it means to be the sole bread-winner – “the man” of the house.

It is a lonely place – a toe, if that, in each world, but not fully accepted, respected nor understood by anyone in either.

The truth is, as a stay at home dad, the economy scares me as much as the next man, but I have the added insult of knowing that my skill set is over 10 years out of date. I cannot suddenly be “the man” should Jess lose her job. Go back to school, you say? When, is my response. Were Brooke your typical child, I might be willing to bring in a baby sitter or a nanny or put her in after school care, but she is not. Move, you say? So that we don’t have to depend on Jess’ sizable salary to live in this neighborhood? Where, is my response. Were Brooke typical, we might have moved long ago, but, as much as we complain about the school system, unfortunately, it is still one of the best in the nation, IN THE NATION, for children like Brooke. No, we cannot move without putting Brooke’s future at stake.

It is depressing to know that I cannot cleave the chains that bind us to our situation and location. Despite all the good I know I do – and believe me, I know – I know my chosen vocation raises eyebrows, and at times leaves me feeling powerless…

***

Which is why running is so important to me. Through running I can exert my strength. I can look at 80 – 90% of the men on the planet and say, “I am stronger, I am faster, I am better at something than you.”

It is a male thing. A man thing.

But it is not for them, those other men, that I run.

No, it is for me.

It is to remind myself that I am still a man…still strong…still capable…still powerful…

I am…

…still a man.

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So I have come to realize that I suck at housework. Wait, I take that back – I have known all my life that I suck at housework. The problem is that as a Stay At Home Dad, part of my responsibilities are, you guessed it, keeping the house clean. I’m pretty good at the other stuff. I feel like I’m a pretty good dad, I think that the wife is still happy she said, “I do”, and I can hold my own against most people in the kitchen.

What in the world does this have to do with running?

Here’s my problem: I stink at keeping the house clean.

No, that’s not the problem (though the wife might argue otherwise).  The problem is that in the last year, if the sun was out and it was a choice between cleaning the house or going out for a run, the run almost inevitably won.  I’d tell myself, “Oh, it’s only a quick 5 – 7 miler.  I’ll be back in an hour and then I’ll clean.”  The truth being I’d also warm up for 5-10 minutes, cool down and stretch for 5-10 minutes and then take a shower for 10-15 minutes. Suddenly that hour run would stretch itself out to an hour and a half – and that would be on days where I decided not to tack on a mile or two for no reason.   By the time I dried and dressed, it would be time to pick up the kids.

“Oops! Sorry honey! I’ll get to the cleaning tomorrow.”

The thing is, the cleaning needs to get done. The floors aren’t going to sweep themselves. The dishes and laundry aren’t going to walk themselves over to their respective washers and take their little bubble baths. So something has to change. I’m not about to give up running, but I am reminded of a phrase my dad’s cousin Teddy said to me on my wedding day. He said, “Son, there are two phrases that you will have to learn now that you are married.  The first phrase is ‘A happy wife means a happy life.'” Truer words were never spoken.  I’ve lived on both sides of that equation.  Consequently, the second one was, “let me check with my wife.”   Another phrase that I’m always telling my girls is “do the things you have to do so that you can do the things you want to do.” We can sit here and argue the finer points of whether running is a “want to” or a “have to” (and believe me, if you want to keep me in a good mood it’s more of a “have to”), but the truth is, in the bigger picture of my family, we have to have a clean environment not only for my wife but for my two daughters as well. Disorder can play particular havoc on my younger, autistic daughter.

So I’m not about to give up running, but the housework needs to get done. A few days ago I read a post by agirlrunsthruit.  It was a tough love post to people who complain about not being able to find time to run or exercise.  She essentially called “bullsh*t!” on these folks saying that if you make exercise a priority in your life, you will make time for it.   I found myself nodding at the screen in agreement.

So earlier this week, I decided I would try a new routine. I decided to get up early (5AM) and hit the treadmill. Based on the mileage I’ve been able to get in, I may try a little earlier next week, but so far so good.  Do I like getting up that early? No Frakking Way!  I am a night owl by nature.  I have a hard time going to bed before midnight, but I have to set some priorities. I was encouraged yesterday when I read pigtailsflying‘s post on her early morning runs.  As the snow starts to get cleared away, I will probably venture out for some pre-dawn runs on the road.

There will still be days where the pull of the sun and the road is just too strong, but for now the plan is to do these early morning runs at least 2 or 3 times a week so I can focus on getting the house right.

Will it last?  Who knows, but hopefully it will get to point where I will have done the thing I have to do so I can do the thing I want to do.

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