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Monday, September 22, 2008

218

When Emily went back to work last September I began a new career: I became an at-home dad. I was reluctant to even consider it as an option when Erin was born, because I feared derailing my academic career, interrupting my pursuit of my vocation. But in the weeks leading up to Emily's return to the workforce I came to like the idea more and more, and I embraced it by the time her first day arrived.

It has been one of the least-regretted, most joyous and rewarding decisions I've ever made. My doubts seem ridiculous now.

Not because my career hasn't been derailed, the pursuit of my vocation interrupted, because this has absolutely happened. But I don't feel the tragedy of it.

On Emily's first day of work I began writing e-mails to Erin. At first I'd write them every day, just short or long notes, summing up a day or letting her know about what new milestone she reached, or just using her as a sounding board for whatever was in my head. Eventually many of those thoughts were turned into other kinds of writing, and the pace of e-mails slowed. But it never stopped. In this past year I've written two hundred and eighteen e-mails to Erin: Mundane, inane, boring, silly, sappy, funny, advisory, confessional e-mails.

And now I bookend them.

Not because I'll cease writing them. But because I'll no longer be writing them from the same place.

My year is up. And today (because I'm up after midnight, unable to sleep for thinking about it) I resume my former life, insofar as any life can be resumed in any form resembling itself once your child makes her presence known and felt. In a few short, too short, hours I will be heading back to campus, back to classes, and papers, and advisors and students and professors and bureaucrats and textbooks and ancient thoughts.

Erin won't be going into full-time daycare for another week and half. I'll be keeping my days on campus short this week, and Emily will be staying home for a couple of hours in the morning until I return. But today is the official end of my year as a stay at home dad.

Here is the final part of Number 218:

I am not ready to go back to school. I'm not ready to shift gears from full-time dad, or Stay-At-Home-Dad, as we SAHDs call ourselves :}, to student. I've been away a long time, and I'm not sure I have the enthusiasm or the academic chops for this anymore.

But I'm going back to finish what I started. I have a vocation, a calling, to be a teacher. To teach philosophy to kids who are ready to ask those questions, and to incorporate the philosophical method into their lives as a way of holding the insufferable, agonizing stupidity of much of the world at bay. Your tota, and your grandfather both want me to go back and finish. Your mom wants me to go back and finish. And I want to go back, even though I don't feel up to it.

You will probably run into a situation like this in your own life, in which you feel inadequate to a challenge, or that you don't have the stamina for an especially long task or commitment. So I'm going back for you, too. So that you will always have that example in your life of someone who did finish what he started, even when he doubted himself. I'm Luke, returning to Dagobah (I hope you understand this reference, because if you don't I have utterly failed you as a Geek Dad.)

Good night, folks. I'll see you in the morning. After class.

50 comments:

Kelley said...

Three times I have been where you are. Three times I had to say goodbye to, while living it felt that the days were long and drawn out but in reality flew by, days of just me and that child.

It will take a while to get used to your new kind of normal but you will never ever regret either decision.

Oh and dude, the philosophy teacher at my eldest's school quit, you think you can be qualified by February when the school year starts here in Oz?

Gina said...

this post came at the perfect time. I just started going back to school and am right this moment feeling nervous/ worrying about a paper i have to do.Your words have made me feel a bit more positive about it :). Good luck to you!

SciFi Dad said...

Losing:
- food thrown at your head
- Yo Gabba Gabba on endless loop
- poopy diapers

Gaining:
- spending all day with 18-21 year old co-eds
- keggers

Yeah dude, I feel for ya. It's a rough life, but someone has to do it.

iMommy said...

Congratulations and good for your, BP Dad -- it's tough to get back into the "game".

I'm sure your daughter will be proud of you one day :)

Goldfish said...

You've kind of summarized the whole staying-home-with-the kids thing pretty well. Good luck!

Black Hockey Jesus said...

Yeah but what are you taking?

Mandy said...

good luck going back to school.

i love school. i contemplated going back recently.

i think the email idea is lovely. maybe a new tradition to start over here.

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

I've been a SAHM for three years and it's time to go back to work. I hear you loud and clear.

for a different kind of girl said...

You've spent the past year teaching one of the best students you'll ever have the pleasure of teaching. Maybe you even learned a few things about yourself this year, too. Your return to school will go off great.

Just do as I tell my son - Write all your assignments down, don't be afraid to ask the teacher questions if you don't understand, and if you forget your homework in your locker, I am done bailing your ass out.

HappyHourSue said...

Aww that is the sweetest post - Erin will always have your emails to her - that's a real gift.

anna said...

Best of luck to you in finishing your degree. I finally finished my dissertation after my son was born--I found I was a lot more focused and kept my eye on the prize. But I also felt it was not my path anymore, so after finishing I decided to stay home with him indefinitely (permanently? who knows?).

Here's to hoping you figure out what's best for you and your family too.

seadragon said...

What a moving and insightful (honest) post.

However, I have to say that although you say that you are not feeling "up to it", the fact that you are doing it suggests to me that there is a part of you that believes you will be able to get back into the swing of things. You've done this before, and although you might be out of practice, you're the same smart person as before. And now that you've taken a year to be with your daughter full time, I think you've got an incredibly solid foundation to which you're adding this new (old) part of your life.

Good luck with all of this!

Jenni said...

"You will probably run into a situation like this in your own life, in which you feel inadequate to a challenge, or that you don't have the stamina for an especially long task or commitment."

This really resonates with me right now. And also, the Star Wars part.

Momo Fali said...

If anything, Erin will learn that you finish what you start. You're a great example of how NOT to be a quitter...and that's a damn good thing to be teaching your kid.

BretCB said...

Good luck!

Swirl Girl said...

You had not spent a year delaying your vocation. You've been teaching Erin this past year...

here's to continuing education!

Miss Grace said...

I went back to work over a year ago, and I STILL wish I could spend more time at home.

Cindy and Co. said...

Good luck and Gods Grace. I don't think I could go back at this point (I also think I am a lot older than you...lol.)but the one regret I have is not going back when I could have. Your doing a wonderful thing for you both. Embrace and enjoy the new parts. And just think of all the things you will be able to do...compare notes on classmates, teachers, and snacks.....

Ali said...

i am so jealous that you are going back to school.i really want to, but i fear i'll stand out like drew barrymore in that movie...never been kissed. heh.

THopgood said...

Your daughter is one unbelievably lucky little girl.

Jennifer said...

wow what a monumental occasion :) Congrats on surviving 1 year of SAHD-ness! And good luck with the transition back to school.

Trish said...

I know how hard it is to go back to work or school (or both) after spending a year at home with your child. But it's important to your future. And therefore, it's important to her future. I'm glad you recognize that.

You'll adjust. It just takes some time.

Don Mills Diva said...

Wow - this is huge.

Good luck today.

Blessings From Above said...

Someday Erin will treasure those emails with all of her heart.

Best wishes to you in this next chapter of your life.

Elisa said...

Oh, wow, so no more SAHD? That's a big adjustment, no doubt. But I think it's great that you want to "finish what you started", as you put it. Best of luck!

Corina said...

congrats on going back to school. I long to do so, to further my skills ( I was a teacher, but i don't know if I am staying there). I will most likely be going back next year, and I look forward to it completely.

Maura said...

You could look at the last year as an internship. Like someone said, you've been teaching Erin, so it's not like you weren't still pursuing your calling; it was just in a different setting.

Congrats on leaping back in!

greg said...

try returning to the work force after almost 8 years as an at-home dad.

that's where i'm at and it's making me crazy, from the HR folks who say things like "how were those 8 years at the beach?" to other possible employers who won't hire you out of pure guilt on their own part for not answering the challenge of being an involved parent.

sometimes you just can't win...

blissfullycaffeinated said...

Last week I walked onto a college campus for the first time in 7 years. It was exhilarating and disheartening ('cause I'm so old). I'm kind of excited to go back.

Best of luck on your new / old path.

Undomestic Diva said...

Good for you though... It will be an adjustment, but you sound prepared... I love the email idea, btw.

(Psssst! You can still twitter in class can't you?!)

RookieMom Heather said...

Wow, man. Good luck. Give yourself a couple of weeks of pain and anguish and then it should settle right down. Especially if you are doing what you really want to do...

Jerri Ann said...

You will love it and will probably make it look easy to outsiders. It may even be easy for you, if you have that burn in you, it probably will just seem like part of the steps of life! Enjoy!

The Stiletto Mom said...

Congrats. That is a big decision. You will get used to the new routine quickly enough...I went back to work three years ago after 4 years as a SAHM. Tough at first but then I started to enjoy it. I would think going back to school would be amazing....good luck!

TheFunkyFeline said...

What a lovely post! My DH just went back to school after 'lo so many years, so this seems especially relevant to our lives right now. Plus, I just got Lego Star Wars for my birthday, so there's that too. :-D
Congrats...

AEA said...

Not to worry, you're going to do superbly, friend.

Mike said...

Good luck at school...I too will soon likely be forced to stop being a SAHD and go back to work. I don't want to do it, I want to stay here with Maddie, but we have to do what we have to do.

AMR said...

Best of luck and congratulations to you as well. You wouldn't be going back to school if you weren't a curious and smart mf -- fantastic.

Aunt Becky said...

I'm dying to go back to school. Once kidlet #3 is old enough, I AM SO THERE.

Congrats, my friend. That's rad!

kittenpie said...

Hope it went well! If it's any consolation, I found it a bit strange how easy it was to slip back into the old routines and habits once I went back. it will likely be something the same after a bit of adjustment and finding your feet again.

Tami said...

First of all ... the going back to school thing. It's the right thing to do..no matter how hard it is for you. And you know that.

But more importantly...HOW COOL IS THAT THAT YOU HAVE 218 EMAILS TO YOUR CHILD?!?!?!? Seriously...I'm such a reader that if email would have been around when I was a small child, and one of my parents did that (particularly my dad...you know the dad/daughter thing is just so precious)...I would cherish it like I'd cherish my firstborn child.

You are going to be Erin's hero ... now, and in the future. That is so incredibly awesome.

Redneck Mommy said...

Erin is so very lucky to have you as her father, her hero and her mentor.

And so will all the students who have the good fortune to land in your class with you as their professor.

It almost makes me want to go back to school to experience it for myself.

Almost.

Happy learning dude.

Redneck Mommy said...

Er...I meant...so ARE the students...

gah.

let's just say I took a few volleyballs to the noggin' tonight.

Whit said...

Ah, bittersweet. Best of luck to both of you.

Anissa Mayhew said...

I wonder if you'll do what I did the first time I went back and listen for her voice all day, miss half of what everyone says to you because you're wondering what she's doing right that moment. It gets easier and just different, but you'll make it work. You'll be teaching her the wonderful gift of dreams.

heather... said...

No matter where you are, you're always a full-time dad. Going back to school is going to make you a better dad. I'm glad you're doing it.

disneyland_grandma said...

I'm so proud of you for being a great example to Erin (and to the rest of us). You'll love being back at school, and I'll bet Erin's going to love her "school" too!
I admire you for the way you love and take care of your family, and I know you will continue to do so in the future.

Tootsie Farklepants said...

I'm very impressed! I've debated going back to school. I stopped when I became pregnant with The Girl (our third). I keep coming up with excuses and you? You're doing it. Kudos!

Burgh Baby said...

Good luck, sir. I'm sure your next phase of The Student will be fabulous.

Schmutzie said...

You are being featured on Intrepid Tuesday!
http://www.fivestarfriday.com/2008/09/intrepid-tuesday-edition-2.html

Robin said...

you suck. i miss school & would luv to go back for my masters. best of luck..keep posting though..