Tuesday, September 21, 2004

I Coulda Been a Contenda!

I've discussed mostly nice things about being a stay at home dad, so I suppose its only fair to consider some downsides as well. Or at least potential downsides.

At all but the most toxic of workplaces, you have a group of friends you can commisserate with. You go to lunch, you occasionally have a few beers after work, stand around the coffee machine, that sort of thing. Naturally, no workplace, no circle.

Granted, there are these sorts of groups, where dads can get together to recreate that workplace socializing. And some guys seem able to break into and be comfortable in the "mommy club" (for lack of a better term).

The other possible downside is a bit more tricky, and also, I think, a lot more insidious. Let's call it the "mid-life crisis". Most of us have something that we're good at. Some of us even know what it is. And most books about getting the right job try to find a combination of things you can do and things you enjoy doing.

While I think most people enjoy parenting, I would hazard a guess that relatively few think they have a flair for housework (for lack of a better term) or that their talents run in that direction, or that they truly enjoy sweeping the floors and folding laundry.

At some point, sooner or later, I think for a fair number of people the question has to arise: "Is this the best use of my abilities? Am I wasting my talents?"

There is a distinction between someone who "works from home" and someone for whom home is the work. And sometimes figuring all that out can be relatively easy. In his entertaining book Housebroken, writer Dave Eddie quickly realized that he was not a good fit for almost any kind of typical job, and that his wife was better suited to be the family breadwinner. He became a writer/stay at home dad.

For Dave, it was fairly easy. But if you read Po Bronson's excellent book What Should I Do With My Life?, we find a lot of other people, some of whom did not find it so easy.

No one wants to wake up ten years later feeling like they made all the wrong choices, and stay at home types are as vulnerable to that as anyone else. It's a truism that no-one facing death ever seems to say "I wish I'd spent more time at the office" but somehow I don't you'd be human if you didn't sometimes wonder if you would have been happier or more useful to society doing something else.

Certainly this is a feeling anyone can get, but I bring it up because I think stay at home dads are likely to be particularly vulnerable to it. There is a tendency, I think, for people to sort of "end up" in careers they had neither expected nor planned for. Sometimes this works out great, sometimes its neutral, but it can be disastrous.

Some SAHD's have already thought about it, and power to them. I'm thinking about it now myself, wanting to be sure whatever I choose to do is what I want to do and what will be best for my family. You be sure and think about it too.


Justa Dad said...
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Justa Dad said...

Amen Brother!
I find myself praying this is a new and exciting chapter in my life. At the same time I am desperately hoping I don’t screw up. Make the wrong choice. I think we tend to define ourselves by our accomplishments. The trick is what accomplishments do we give priority. What is worth our while? What are the decisions our children will appreciate, maybe not now, but years from now? More importantly what will they learn from watching us?

Jammer said...

Quite so, Justa. I confess the germ of this post came to me while listening to my lovely and talented wife describe the various fires she fought and issues she dealt with during her day. Somehow, saying (again) that I had posted a blog article, dealt with the laundry, and kept our son from setting fire to the cats seemed pretty lame.

But while the accomplishments of the home may lack a certain drama most of the time, life would surely suck without them.