Becoming a Full Time Dad – Learning How To Do It

Fatherhood (c) 2002 ArtToday

by John Hadden

I’ve been a full-time dad for close to five years now. I’ve got two great
kids-Taylor, five, who just started kindergarten, and Emma who’s gaining on
two and a half. My wife Robin works full-time as a USPS rural letter carrier.
Like many of the dads mentioned in your newsletter, I fell into this
situation through serendipity. I was a professional
musician/songwriter/recording engineer making a meager living at my own home
studio while my wife pulled in the steady paycheck and benefits of a “real
job.” When Taylor came along, there was no question to who would stay
home-me. I thought then, “Gee, this’ll be great-take care of Taylor, write
music, work and perform evenings and weekends!” Little did I realize how much
time childcare takes and how much energy it drains out of you!

When Emma came along, my career as a professional musician pretty much dried
up and blew away. I no longer had the undisturbed blocks of time, not the
requisite mental energy to write music. I was too pooped at the end of the
day to rehearse, let along perform at gigs. It was with some regret that I
realized that John, the professional musician, was no more. Since then,
however, I’ve developed another at-home occupation-graphic design-that fits
more easily into the routine of care-giving. I work early in the morning (my
kids are late sleepers, bless them!), and during Emma’s naps, and in the
evenings. Sometimes I feel I’m burning my candle at both ends, but, on
balance, it’s a good set up. I get the twin satisfactions of being with my
kids every day and having a “job” that lets me be creative and productive.

Creative and Productive-yes, sometimes I wonder about this curse that has
beguiled our gender. Increasingly, our society dictates that a man’s sense of
self-worth should lie largely in what he does for a “living” and how much he
earns (women are finding this as well, I believe-one of the more dubious
fruits of equality). Taking such a nontraditional role as an at-home dad
required some soul searching and quelling of demons, and I went through the
process for several years. Funny how when my design business began to be
successful, I began to feel much more comfortable with my role…

One big help for me as a dad has been the support of the community in which
we’ve lived for the past ten years. Huntington is a small rural Vermont town
of 1400 people, and my wife and I established solid network of friends in the
area BC (Before Children). Though we were the first of our closest circle of
friends to have children, over the past five years it seems that all of our
friends have at least two kids. Now our parties and gatherings teem with kids
from newborns to nine-year-olds. Since most of our parents’ friendships were
formed before kids came along, our bonds are strong, caring and supportive,
and we get together often for playgroups or just to break the routine of
day-to-day alone with the kids. We’re indeed fortunate to live in such a
community at a time when, if the media are to be believed, a sense of
community is what is lacking in so many families’ lives.

This article originally appeared in Full-Time Dads, and is copyright 1995-1996 by Full-Time Dads. No reprint or other use of this article is allowed without express written consent of the author and Full-Time Dads.