Being a stay-at-home dad is a noble occupation, but one that takes a bit of explaining in certain social contexts. OHbaby! 'dad matters' columnist Richard Drake explains his job description and skill set.
I was sitting in a room full of people, and we had been asked to introduce ourselves.
In my head: “Oh no! Not this again, what will I choose this time?”
I have struggled with how to introduce myself for the last few years. You see, I have been working as a full-time dad, and while I love that role, it doesn’t always lead to the kind of conversation I want to be having when I’ve first met another adult. I spend a lot of time with small humans, so when I get the chance to meet the full size version, I want to make the most of that – to remember what’s it like to discuss grown-up things and issues and all that.
Sometimes I choose to say, “A full-time parent and a part-time student” – which is true, and the opportunity to study was a major reason in the decision to swap roles with my wife – but I also know deep down that sometimes I am trying to add something extra to ‘at-home dad’ and I feel ashamed that I want to be defined by more than that.
The introduction was getting closer, every person a domino of happy job disclosure, announcing their importance and then falling before the next.
It was a university lecture, on corporate governance, or something like that, and the guest lecturer was some high-flyer from a big corporate. What was I going to say?
Truth and a joke – my favourite strategy.
The reason I started the study was twofold – get a qualification to support my intended career shift; and pursue my interests in developing capability in people, and organisational learning. Developing and learning, learning and development. I was certain that was the right field for me, the problem being I didn’t have employment…
My turn. “Hi, I’m Richard, and I’m in Learning and Development.”
“…And at the moment, that takes the form of looking after my two pre-school boys full-time.”
Everybody laughs. Thank goodness. The truth-and-joke combo saves me again. For the rest of the session, the lecturer keeps finding ways to mention ‘Learning and Development guy.’ I guess I made an impression.
I love my boys fiercely, and am so glad I’ve had the opportunity to spend so much time with them – being with them at their best and worst. I would highly recommend it to any dad. But I’ve decided its okay to want to be known as more than a parent. We all have a wealth of experience, insight and viewpoints that are not limited to childcare. Wanting to have those things seen by others doesn’t mean our vital role as parents is diminished in any way. In fact, we all bring something special to our parenting because of who we already were beforehand and the ways in which we’re adapting to this new way of living.
Figuring out our evolving identity is tricky at times, but as you look back it’s a good ride. Who knew you would become so adept at interpreting toddler-talk? Or stalking through the house like a ninja, aware of every squeaky floorboard? We’re becoming really amazing at skills we had never dreamed of having!
I’m still figuring out the new me, but more and more I’m realising the ongoing change and challenges for parents keep making us better. Perhaps not everybody sees it that way, but it’s not worth worrying about, it’s all just a bit more learning and development.
Richard has spent the last three years as a full-time parent and part-time student. He has two boys (3½ and 5) and one more on the way. His passion is learning and development, and he loves that moment when something new emerges, or you see an old thing in a new way. He can usually be found building imaginary worlds with his boys, running, reading or hanging together in a hammock.