This Stay-at-Home Dad Wants to Go Back to Work, But Feels Guilty About It

It’s just another average tag-team evening event in our household. My husband and I are trying to get the kids fed, clean and off to bed. Neither of us is very particular as to who does what, and we usually divide and conquer putting our toddler and baby to bed. Tonight I made an out-of-the-ordinary request to put the baby to bed. I felt I needed to. Tomorrow our sweet baby Nico, 9 months old, will have his first day at daycare. For me, tomorrow will be my first day back to work.

As I close the nursery door and start to snuggle into our bedtime routine, our toddler’s complaints about brushing teeth and PJs (he’s an expert protestor) begin to fade into a muffled blur of sound. Nico and I start off with a bedtime story, a warm bottle and some faint attempt at soothing lullabies. Sleep is beginning to take hold and I can’t help but reminisce a little.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have spent two of the last three years at home taking care of our young family. Luca, our energetic and chatty almost-3-year-old has been keeping all of us very busy and on our toes. Nico is our calm, easy baby who only recently started crawling and exploring the world around him. We spent many days at playgroups, parks, the pool, visiting family, neighbors, friends, and even taking road trips. Every adventure was grand and every day came with much preparation, packing, driving, hauling and eventual exhaustion. But this is what we stay-at-home dads do – and we keep it busy, we do it with pride, and we’re always planning the next outing.

My back-to-work date has been fast approaching and since this isn’t my first rodeo, I don’t have the crippling worries I had with Luca. I know the daycare staff will be exceptional in taking care of our baby and I’ve seen first hand the benefits of being around other kids. Nico is a super-social baby and I have no doubt he will transition smoothly and be happy in this new environment.

The one big difference this time around is that I’m actually looking forward to going back to work! There is no doubt that being home with the kids has been a most rewarding experience; I have no regrets for making the choice to stay home. But a part of me was beginning to resent my husband (and pretty much anyone else) for having a life outside of our home, for having the chance to turn off the “parent brain” for a few hours, for being able to drive the car ALONE and listen to music uninterrupted (*sigh*). I was longing for these exquisite moments away from my kids and as soon as I’d catch myself in these daydreams, I felt immense and incredible guilt.

I mean, having a family of our own was the one thing we wanted more than anything in our lives! We jumped through all the herculean hoops of egg donation, surrogacy, lawyers, red tape and IVF. We did our research, spent countless hours and a small fortune so that we could HAVE these beautiful boys in our lives and here I am swooning over some escape fantasy and delighting in the thought of being away from them?! What is wrong with me?

It’s true what they say, parenting really f*#ks with your head!

I try to take a step back and convince myself that what I’m feeling is normal. I try to understand that I am reaching a point where I need some of my own life back. I’m ready to dive back into the working world that I left behind. This time I’m going back armed with a new outlook on life, new priorities, and new lenses to see it all through. I know there will be a transition time and it will be challenging but I am confident I will find a new balance in life and so will the kids. As a family we are constantly adapting to change and at this stage in our lives, we are all ready for the next chapter. So I’m making a conscious effort to replace this grotesque guilt with elated excitement. Overall, this feels right and it will get better.

By the time I came to this realization, Nico is now sleeping peacefully in my arms. I look down at his serene face, feeling a bit more relief than I did a few minutes ago. His slow, sleepy arm reaches out in a mini stretch, his fingers connecting to the skin on my cheek with a sweet, unconscious caress as if saying, “It’s going to be okay, Dada”.

I whisper in response, “You’re right chiquito, thanks for the chat”.

Posted by Frank Emanuele

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