One the harder things about being a stay at home parent has been not working. It’s seems odd to say that but I’ve always had a job; delivering newspapers in middle school, sealing parking lots in high school, giving campus tours in college. In addition to these things I’ve worked for a minor league baseball team, mowed lawns, shagged golf balls, taught college classes, and did a year of AmeriCorps service. Even since becoming a stay-at-home father I managed to teach classes at a few colleges in Ohio.
After this last spring semester wrapped up I began reflecting about what I wanted to do for the upcoming year. I finally admitted that my career teaching is limited because I don’t have a Ph.D., changes coming in education, and the climate of faculty attitudes is turning sour. In addition to this I began to feel limited on what I could offer the students. There were tick box requirements and there were real-life examples and the former was crowding out the latter.
One of the most important things I’ve learned as a stay-at-home father is the value of flexibility in our schedules. If you’re a dual income household it’s hard to explain the convenience of not waiting. I grocery shop during the week, we take trips as a family during the week, and our vacations only have to fit around one schedule. Each of these things means that we avoid the crowds. Being home with our daughters full time also means that my wife can focus on work. She never has to pick up sick kids, get kids ready before work, or worry about making dinner after a long day. I’d like to think that those small things add up to relieving a burden of stress her peers carry.
I became a stay-at-home parent in 2008 because limited employment prospects combined with a a small starting salary and high day-care costs made the equation between work and not-working a coin flip.
Teaching the little bit I did gave me some reward though. I felt good to be able to contribute to a group. I took pride in walking out of meetings knowing that while I may not have a Ph.D., I wasn’t in over my head. I am good at teaching and felt the sense of accomplishment that brought as well. Students have graduated and praised my class for my teaching style, energy, and outside influences. That’s something I’m very proud about. I wouldn’t be upset continuing it, but there is an opportunity cost I would be forfeiting if I didn’t explore other areas.
I’m relaunching my career. I, Michael Dariano, am a writer.
I’m not a writer and won’t be one until I become one just as Yogi Berra wasn’t a baseball player until he was one. This decision has been growing in my mind for about a year. The hardest part was looking at the writers I admire and getting over the idea about how good they were, especially compared to me. After reading The Up Side of Down I was reminded that those writers look good on the outside but I have no idea what formed that veneer. Maybe they get up early and work on writing for three hours before leaving for another job, maybe they are intrinsically talented, maybe they have been failing at writing for thirty years before succeeding.
Tomorrow I’m going to outline my plan.
//Photo is from a vision screening during my year of AmeriCorps.