Sunday, August 15, 2010

I'm a stay at home dad...by choice.

That's right.  My official capacity since August 17th, 2009 has been to be a stay at home father.  No, I wasn't laid off nor am I incapable of finding a job.  First off, this choice was one of pragmatism.  August 17th meant that our firstborn was 3 months and that my wife had to go back to work from maternity leave.  At the time, I was wrapping up my residency as a chaplain at VCU Health Systems MCV Hospital.  Essentially, this meant that I would have completed an educational program that provided me the training and skills to get a job as a chaplain.  While not laid off, I would find myself unemployed as my contract with VCU Health Systems came to an end.  Since we needed to have food and shelter and one of us had permanent employment, the pragmatic piece indicated that I would stay at home and she would return to work.  Especially since childcare for a newborn is in the $800/month range and we are experiencing the worst job market in decades (no link, just plug it into Google and search the term).  Awesome!  Now don't get me wrong this was a fairly tough decision to make for me.  That whole male instinctual "hunter-gatherer" thing kicked in and I had to wrestle with my testosterone and be okay not being the "bread-winner."  That was somewhat tempered with the, "I'm not going to work just so I can make a check that enables me to pay someone else to raise my child for me."  Yet, I'm not even going to look for a job was daunting.  Especially since I'm learning as I go on how to be a good father.  I have only one chance to get this right for her and that's some pressure.

Now that the pre-amble is over, I have much to say about this past year.  First of all, I ended my residency the most physically, emotionally, and spiritually spent of my life.  Much of this was due to negligence of self-care, and the fact that when I was not on shift at the hospital, I was on shift figuring out how to be a parent to a newborn, maintain as a positive supportive influence for a post-partum new-mom who was facing the imminent arrival of returning to work, and figuring out how to process some highly difficult situations that had arisen daily at a Level 1 Trauma center.

Once again, I was spent.  I spent the next few weeks (read: months) recharging.  This involved much sleep, much basking at the inherent divinity of a newborn, and much wondering how I survived chaplaincy placing God on the backburner in such a spiritually demanding role.  (Needless to say, God is faithful even whe we are not.)  After feeling much more rested and recharged, I began the true and honest reflection of my time at the hospital and began to appreciate at much deeper levels the work God allowed me to do in His creation. I sat with uncountable families as they lost loved ones, hearing the most magnificent stories about strangers' (to me) lives.  I shared stories with people who just needed to talk and saw a glimpse of what it meant to be them.  I was able to be with many families hours after welcoming new life to their own families; and I sat with inmates who wanted to talk to someone and share their own stories to someone who would listen without judgement.  (For one gentleman who was incarcerated at a supermax, I was the only person not affiliated with the penal system nor medical staff that he had contact with for years.)  I was able to see the many blessings the Lord allowed me to share in with these people and am forever grateful for my year and couple of months at MCV.

Recently though, I've had the itch to go back to work full-time.  Somedays its just hard being a stay at home parent and I lose that instinctual battle of "I am the man of the house, I need to be contributing financially."  Today and yesterday, though, I am happy in the moment.  My wife and a good friend of ours have both mentioned to me about being happy in the moment.  I am happy and grateful.  I remember telling my father, when I was in high school, that I would like to retire when I'm thirty.  Well, I retired when I was thirty.  I'm not living off an annuity coming out of the vast fortunes that I made in my twenties, but I'm retired and happy.  My wife, the Lord, and the choices in my life have given me the rare chance to be at home for a year with my daughter.  I have learned much grace from her, much love from her, and much peace from her.  I am a better man as a result.  I'm not completely emotionally crippled anymore, like most men in our society.  The choice to be a stay at home father, while initially pragmatic, has become the most important decision I have made in my life after my faith/decision to follow God, and marrying my wife.  Sometimes I struggle internally with the desire to return to work, figuring out what my next career move will be, or just wanting a change of scenery, but....

Every morning I am awakened at least an hour before I want to be awake by some babbling, maybe and thump or two, and always a "Hah Dah! with a hand in the air, a laugh, some bouncing, and a good hug...then after a few chugs of some milk, the best conversation I could hope for the whole day.  So there you have it, my 3 followers and any other random perusers. I am a professional stay at home dad.  It was by choice.  It is still by choice.  I wouldn't change it and you may not know it, but you are jealous of it.

Shalom, Grace, and God Bless.
J.Rat.

And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? Matthew 6:27 (NRSV).

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow... so much to comment on! First of all, YES! It is wonderful that God is truly faithful even when we are not!

    I had moments where I wanted to go back to work. Especially after baby #2 came...I had essentially no contact with the outside world for days on end and I was get rag-ged. It was always on my path to be the "career" woman and to lay down what everyone else thought I should be doing was kind of hard. Now I am content and very, very busy.

    I think it is awesome that you chose this. I believe it is so important for an infant to have a parent by her side. There is a nurturing that takes place that I don't believe a day care can provide. (In most cases anyways.) I usually say this about the mother, but you have challenged my thinking. I know that my husband would be just as nurturing if not more than me if he were here all day. I say more because he wouldn't be conerned about the image our home is supposed to have since I am a SAHM. He would put so much more energy into just loving our kids and not worry as much about all the "homemaking" stuff. You should read Desperate Housewives Passionate for God. JUST KIDDING!

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