People quit jobs for a wide variety of reasons: relocation, a new job offer, returning to school, poor management, etc. The decision to leave a job is not usually something done without extensive deliberation (at least when one has a family to help support) and typically comes with a healthy dose of anxiety, trepidation, and some reserved excitement. I’ve quit a few jobs for a variety of reasons but I’ve usually been energized by the move as I thrive on change. The only job that I truly miss was my previous one: stay-at-home dad.
I was a SAHD by default. After relocating to Toledo, I began seeking employment only to realize that the job market here was tougher than I had imagined. Amanda’s mother took the boys two days a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays), and on those days I fired off enough resumes and cover letters to annihilate a small forest, assuming they were ever printed. The other days, however, were filled with caring for our boys and attempting (and often failing) to keep up with the multifarious household tasks.
I would be lying if I said I treasured every moment. I developed a far deeper respect for my mother and the grace with which she performed her SAHM duties day in and day out. While I know the SAHP edict is to never discuss just how bloody hard the job is, let me assure you that I often felt overworked and harried. These feelings were compounded by the emotionally isolating nature of the stay at home business. It is tough to find a community in a new town and tougher still when you have no real connections outside of the home. Toss in the fact that every SAHP organization in town is exclusively female and you have a recipe for extreme loneliness. Let me also assure you that I am fully cognizant of just how privileged I was to have the chance to have the domestic sphere as my primary domain. While I might not have treasured every moment, I did treasure every day.
Quitting the SAHD job came in stages. After about six months, I went to part time. I found a truly terrible temp job, but it seemed important to get back into the work force in some capacity if I had any intention of finding a non-terrible position. The boys began daycare, a uniquely gut-wrenching experience for all parties. Amanda telecommutes but when she is working she is most certainly at work. However, when things aren’t as intense she could come out, say hello to the boys, occasionally have lunch with us, etc. Now the house was occupied only by her and the animals for hours at a time. She found it painfully quiet. For me, the most difficult part was dropping them off for the day. Those morning wails tore my heart from my chest. After a couple weeks the morning wails stopped; the boys simply meandered over to their friends, sometimes affording me a cursory wave goodbye, and began playing. This wrenched my heart out anew, accompanied by much stomping and rolling it in the dirt. This flippant form of a goodbye was but a preview of what was to come.
After a considerable length of time I finally landed an interesting, full time position with a reputable company. I enjoy it but my commute requires me to leave early. As such, my wife now delivers the boys to school. In fact, we’ve switched roles in many ways. She gets them ready in the morning, takes them in, picks them up most days and then makes dinner most nights (by choice cooking was almost exclusively my domain previously). I have gone from being the domestic one to being, well, the far less domestic one. It has been extraordinarily difficult to relinquish that domain. It isn’t a control thing—or at least I hope it isn’t—rather it seems to stem from the feeling of purpose and utility that performing a specific set of duties for my family brought. Perhaps the most difficult transition has come from the boys’ reaction to me. While I still get a pretty jubilant greeting when I get home most days, they rarely come to me for comfort when they are hurting, tend to cry when Mom leaves, and they have unquestionably relegated me to the second tier. It used to make Amanda sad that they sought me for comfort, so I guess this is only fair. Still, it sometimes makes me pretty sad to know that I’m a welcome addition to Mommy, but I’m no Mom.
Yes, I still contribute to the household and yes, especially given Amanda’s non-existent commute, this makes the most sense but… I sure do miss my old job. While my current one is far more financially sustainable, the time with and love from my boys was far, far better pay.