My biggest fear as a stay-at-home dad was that I would fall behind my peers. I was afraid of being in a meeting, having someone ask me a question and not know what they were talking about. I was afraid of looking stupid. I was afraid of falling off a linear career trajectory. I was afraid of not having the right titles or lines on my resume.
During the first three years of stay-at-home parenting I was terrified of this, trying almost anything to have some metric of success in my life. It’s why I taught at a local college at night and at least in-part, while I still do. It’s why I started 27 Good Things and why I’ve tried to start many other websites. My identity hinged on being more than a parent. I needed to show people that I chose to be a stay-at-home parent, rather that being someone who didn’t have a choice.
I’m not afraid of this anymore.
My mental switch came after reading The Alchemist, the parable of a shepherd boy and his journey to find great treasure. Along his path, he too questions the journey, wondering why he gave up his sheep for a chance to chase something he doesn’t know exists. Each time he doubts his journey, he remembers that he can always go back to being a shepherd but the opportunity to pursue a treasure is only now.
In my journey the treasure is my daughters.
I can always go back to being a teacher, start at the bottom and become a great one. I can always go back to school, start at the bottom and earn another degree. I can enter sales, start at the bottom and become a top seller. I can do these things because like the shepherd who remembers how he started with one sheep and grew it into a flock, I too remember my successes.
But there are times when I doubt myself and wonder if anyone will hire me or if they would see me as a glorified babysitter. I feel some anxiety about the Fall of 2016 when both of my daughters will be in school full time and I’ll begin the next phase of my parenting career. I sometimes forget my successes and only see my failure of a career, staying home with kids.
Then I remember that I’m a failure in career the same way the shepherd was when he had no sheep. He was pursuing something greater than being a shepherd, I’m doing the same with something greater than a career.
This post won’t share the inadequacy I felt at times as a stay-at-home parent. Times I felt like a failure because I was looking at the wrong metrics. I was watching people on a different path and marveling how far along they were, rather than seeing how far along I was my own.