BRANDON — To be honest, I have no idea how it happened.
My degree was in journalism, not full-time child rearing. I always wanted to be a dad, but I certainly never envisioned being a round-the-clock caregiver.
Yes, I'm a stay-at-home dad.
Prior to my son, Justice, being born, my wife Jenn and I batted around the idea of me staying home with the baby. As usual, we both shared a number of the same views that led to our decision.
Jenn has a great paying job that she loves and her income would be, with some part-time support from me, enough for us to live comfortably. More importantly, neither of us liked the idea of day care. I cringed at the thought of Justice being "babysat" rather than taught. I'm sure there are plenty of fine day care centers out there that do a good job, but I knew I could do a great job.
For us, a classroom of one trumped all and I wanted Justice to begin learning in these critical years.
It was the right decision for the family as a whole and family comes first.
Men have always been thought of as the breadwinner and women the caregiver, so naturally our decision raised plenty of eyebrows. Many of the moms I meet out in public always strike a curious look on their face when I tell them I'm a stay-at-home dad. Some people would crack the Daddy Day Care or Mr. Mom jokes.
And plenty of misconceptions existed. Most of my friends thought I could just sit at home on the couch now and drink beer all day.
When Jenn wrapped up her maternity leave, the training wheels came off. There is no test drive, especially for a first-time parent. It was nerve-racking initially. I knew how to fix a misplaced modifier but intuitively reading a child's cries was another story.
But I dove in headfirst. I wanted to maximize this opportunity and give Justice the best possible head start in life. I browsed SAHD forums. I asked questions of friends with kids. I never doubted my self-worth or felt like "less of a man" for being a SAHD. To me, it just became my new job.
Was it awkward at times? Sure. I felt uncomfortable setting up play dates with moms, apprehensive about them thinking I was hitting on them. Most places we went together, I was the only dad around. And when I would run into a SAHD, that almost made me more uncomfortable. They always seemed to try to hard to be friendly. It was almost like they saw a guy with his kid and felt obligated to make small talk. Weird.
But teaching him something, anything, every day proved thrilling Watching his eyes light up when he figured out shapes or counting or the alphabet served as a greater reward than any superlative a boss ever bestowed on me. It had gone from the great unknown to the best job ever.
I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. I know there is only a finite amount of time I have with my son at this age and I've had a front row seat for it all. I love being with him full time and embrace the role of cleaning the house, doing the laundry and having dinner ready for my wife when she gets home. It's not for every dad or family, but it's perfect for us.
I don't expect guys who don't do this to understand. I'm sure I get some stares out in public and I still get into awkward conversations with people about the whole thing. But honestly, I couldn't care less. I'll never have to look back years from now and wonder what I missed.
Brandon Wright is a father and husband who lives in Seffner.