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Being a Stay-at-Home Dad Changed Who I Am

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It goes without saying that having a child is a life-changing experience. I had no idea how much it would transform mine. I say this because…
…I never wanted to be a father.
That idea had been burned into my brain for as long as I can remember. I had no desire to take care of or raise another human being; I was very content with having everything in my life be “about me.”
Even after I met and married the girl of my dreams, to some extent our life together still (selfishly) revolved around me. 
Inevitably, the day that I had skirted around for years came: my wife told me she wanted to be a mother. I agreed, I admit initially it was to accommodate her wish to be a mom more than my desire to be a dad.
In 2006 our son was born, biologically on schedule but much sooner than I was prepared for psychologically. I did my best to be proactively involved, but I still felt I wasn’t the father I could or should be.
It all changed when he turned one. 
My wife planned to go back to work. Rather than arranging for a nanny, I asked her if I could instead become the stay-at-home parent. I truly felt I needed the opportunity to establish myself as the father our son deserved.
I will forever be grateful to my wife for giving me her blessing to do so.
And so for the next two years, I was a stay-at-home dad. Hour-long backpack walks, hitting up every park, playground and mall in a 30-mile radius, and reading books—lots of books—were part of the daily agenda.
Moreover, at every parent-tot swim, tumbling, and music class at various rec centers, the experience of being literally the only father there was both enlightening and humbling. I wasn’t aware of any at-home-dad groups that I could join, so my opportunities for extended socializing with other parents were very few and far between.
My son was an inconsistent napper; every time I put him down, it felt like I just shut the lid on a Jack-in-the-Box and began cranking the handle…I had no idea when the little bugger would pop up. As the only opportunity I’d have to myself during the day, every minute was precious and slipped away far too quickly.
When my wife would return home from work, the promise of a stimulating conversation between adults was as welcoming as a Oskar Blues IPA and Monday Night Football (I probably could’ve used a better analogy than beer and sports for this audience).
youralternatemeWhen our son turned 3, he went preschool, my wife transitioned to part-time and I went back to work.
To have had an active role in his early-development years was the most difficult yet rewarding job I’ve ever held. And the biggest life-changing lesson I learned is that “it’s not about me.” 
Ten years later, I can truly say that the bond I share with both my son and my wife would not be possible had I not been a stay-at-home parent.
And I thank God I am now the father I never thought I could be.
Ty Ono is a graphic designer/digital-media editor/Broncos & Buffs fan living in the Denver-metro area with all the respect and admiration in the world for stay-at-home moms. He recently wrote and illustrated his first children’s picture book that’s designed to help kids become more mindful thinkers. You can read for free here:
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  • comment avatar Amber Johnson October 5, 2016

    You’re awesome, Ty! Being a stay-at-home mom is tough but a stay-at-home dad would be tougher. There just isn’t the same support system.
    I was a part of a mom’s hiking group and I was so impressed with the SAHDs who’d come.

  • comment avatar Saren October 5, 2016

    What a cute little guy! My husband stayed home with our kids before they started school. He had gotten laid off right before so what started out as a short-term thing saved us a lot in the long-run because he was home for about 8 years. My kids loved it.

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