When I got home, I was happy, I was relaxed and I was ready to be "Dadda" again. But while on my trip, a few of my stay at home Dad friends were texting me to ask me how I pulled it off. Specifically, how I got the Mrs on board with such a thing. That's when I realized that maybe I have it even better than I thought and that maybe I can help shed some light on why some extended time to oneself is priceless and necessary.
When I left my last job in sales to be a stay-at-home Dad, my boss told me that while he thought what I was doing was stupid and that he'd be surprised if I lasted a year, that I must make sure to take time to myself. To get away from the family and just have time to and for me, be it with friends or solo. That just 4-5 days away could be the difference between straight-jacket-cushion-walled-room insane and triple-bond-in-your-underwear happy, not just as a Dad but as a husband too. He couldn't have been more right. We tend get caught up in the things we feel we have to do, or should do, far too much and we forget about the things we want to do. We plan family vacations and weekend trips to spend together. We have to have babysitters, back up babysitters and backups for our backups, just to get a date night out with our spouses. There is always an itinerary: a go time, a nap time, a bed time, a lunch time and a snack time, and that can be taxing. I feel that I get to a point in the year when I start becoming a less effective parent, that I give in or blow up more easily, and I know then that it's time to get away.
I took my first SAHDcation two months before the Taz was born. The Mrs was not pleased with me, not even a little bit. She was fairly busy at work, feeling very pregnant and I was about to leave for four and a half days to NY to see friends, drink and eat like a king while she had to juggle everything at home. Now, before you start calling me an asshole. I did do a ton of proactive work to ensure that back up day care was secured for three days, sitters were notified that we may need them and were more or less ready to help if called, pet sitters were hired to take care of our animals and I left the fridge fully stocked with anything the Mrs could need so she did not have to resort to her specialty, cheesy toast (melted cheese on toast, in case you were curious). But when I say she wasn't happy with me, I mean we fought about it. Her argument was that I should wait until she was on maternity leave in two months, but I was certain that she would need me more than ever at that point, with a two year old and a newborn. When she said goodbye to me the morning that I left, it was not a happy one. I don't think we even kissed.
Aside from the icey send off, the trip was great. I did what I wanted, when I wanted. It was great to have adult conversations with all adults and no interruptions besides waiters asking how the food was (delicious) and if we needed another round (I am feeling parched, so yes, by all means). While I love the guys in my Stay At Home Dad groups, we naturally talk a lot about our kids. And while this can be therapeutic, sometimes it's just nice to talk about something else. Above that, there were no nap schedules to follow, diapers to change, baths to be given or bed times to be fought over. It was wonderful. Of course, I stayed in touch with the Mrs and the Little Man by calling every night to say hello and to see how all was going.
And as it so happened, the Mrs' work schedule relaxed over these days as well, by pure luck, but nevertheless her work schedule was not as hectic as she originally thought it would be. She was able to enjoy the weekend with the Little Man and no extra help besides the pet sitters were needed. I remember when she picked me up from the airport she immediately mentionned how happy and relaxed I seemed. And I was relaxed. I was happy. But more importantly, I was ready to get back to being "Dadda."
I became a stay at home dad almost three and a half years ago. It's one of the best decisions we have made as a family. Sure, it has had some ups and downs and still does. Sure, the Mrs and I have had spats over whether it was the right decision as I would be melting down from the sometimes seemingly never ending solo hours with the boys when she is working 80+ hours/week (and weekend) for five weeks on end. But at the end of it, I do love my time with the Little Man and Taz. Though just like any job (and yes, being a stay at home is most certainly a job), you get tired and need a reboot. As a stay at home, we wake up at work and go to sleep at work. When we go on family vacations, we are in essence, at work while our spouses are getting away from their jobs. Just as our working spouses need to get away from their bosses, coworkers and daily grind sometimes, so do I. I'm not looking for sympathy, I'm just laying it out there.
Some parents I have spoken to about this say that being a parent means giving up yourself and your interests until your kids are old enough to take care of themselves. I'm sorry, but that's a load of bullshit. Sure, you have to put some things on hold. You can't stay out until all hours of the night anymore. And you have to watch your mouth (luckily my kids can't read yet). But parenting isn't about what of yours that you must sacrifice, it's about how you balance everything; and the time away is like hitting the tare button on the scale.
Solo vacations are not just for stay at homes. Working parents need it just as much. I often encourage the Mrs to get away from it all and do something with her friends. She hasn't yet, but I am hopeful that she will soon; she deserves it. And so do you other working parents and stay at homes. So find the time, pick the place and just go. If you get back and don't feel new again, I'll eat your road map (paper maps only, please...Garmins make me constipated).