When I read through the blog topic suggestions my readers so graciously provided me a couple of months ago, there was a common thread found in most of them… what my future holds AFTER my time ends as a full time stay-at-home dad. More specifically, many of you asked:
What the heck was I going to do with my life when my teenagers grow up, spread their wings and fly the coup?
To be honest, I really hadn’t given it much thought before I read your suggestions. You see, right now I’m still very much the Uber driver for our family’s ample extracurricular activities. On top of the daily school drop-off and pick-ups, there’s high school basketball, hockey, piano practices and school musical rehearsals. And, in a few weeks, high school basketball and hockey will be replaced with club basketball and volleyball.
There’s still a very real need for yours truly to hold down the domestic fort, drive the kids around and keep this household running. BUT… there are big changes coming on the horizon.
My daughter will be sixteen this spring. (Wow, that sounds so very weird to say out loud!) Abby desperately wants to secure her driver’s license, buy a beater she can drive around and flaunt her newfound independence.
With one more driver in the house, the need for my personal Uber service will diminish by at least 50%. And, with another kid about to take his learners license test, it won’t be long before BOTH of them are driving themselves to basketball, hockey and rehearsals.
I always knew this time of transition was coming but it never seemed real. It never seemed like something I had to think about right away… or plan for. While I still have a few years before both of my kids are out of high school, I have been weighing my various post-child rearing options and the pros and cons associated with them.
OPTION #1: DO NOTHING!
That’s right, you heard me. Do nothing. And, just to clarify, I don’t mean do absolutely nothing… I mean keep running the household, but without the added responsibility of kids in the home. I’ve seen plenty of stay-at-home moms who have put in their time, nurtured their kids into adulthood, and then reaped the rewards of an empty nest.
At-home moms with more time on their hands may take up a new hobby, ramp up their volunteer activities, or simply enjoy their time with fewer humans to take care of. Why can’t I do the same? To be clear, the thought of me taking full advantage of this tantalizing option has definitely crossed my mind… a lot! But, to be honest with you, I feel there is a double standard when it comes to the stay-at-home dad who suddenly finds himself an empty nester.
Over the years, I can’t count how many times people have asked me when I was going BACK TO WORK. What’s even weirder is that a vast majority of the times I was asked were during my first few years at home! It was like people were still having trouble wrapping their heads around the concept of a MAN deliberately saying bye-bye to a steady paycheque to raise kids full time.
While I’m quite sure plenty of stay-at-home moms re-enter the workforce after staying home with kids, the societal pressure to do so has to be way less than a stay-at-home dad experiences. Remember, there is still a sizeable segment of the population that believes women should stay out of the workforce and stay barefoot and pregnant.
A recent poll released by Fortune magazine found nearly 30% of men would prefer that women stay home, this according to research by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Gallup. The poll found that roughly two-thirds of men and women worldwide believe women should work outside the home, while 29% of men and 27% of women disagreed. To obtain these results, researchers surveyed 149,000 different people across 142 countries.
I feel it’s safe to say that society expects me to go back to a paying job. For the record, I feel I’ve had a real job for the past fifteen years… just not one that I can file a real income tax return with. So, while OPTION #1 is out there and ripe for the picking, I think taking advantage of it would likely lead to me feeling judged by a world that didn’t really feel 100% comfortable with my choice to become a stay-at-home dad in the first place.
OPTION #2: WORK PART-TIME FROM HOME!
On paper, this looks like a great option. The only problem is… what could I possibly do from home that would actually pay me enough money to make my efforts worthwhile? Some people have said: just concentrate on your writing!
Sorry “some people”, but I have a news flash for you:
Writing stuff simply don’t pay! (Unless you are J.K. Rowling, then it pays real, real good.)
Honestly, a quick Google search of work from home jobs reveals a whole whack of get-rich quick schemes. Sorry, I’m dumb but not that dumb. I need a LEGIT job people!
OPTION #3: GO BACK TO SCHOOL!
Um, no. It just doesn’t make any sense.
My wife makes a good living, but if I can supplement it for five to ten years with a decent-paying job, maybe I can shave a few years off of her much-hated, working-like-a-dog-life… and get us BOTH to retirement that much quicker.
The biggest reason I would want to dive back into the traditional workforce would be to MAKE SOME COIN!
So, me going back to school would defeat the purpose and actually COST us both money and valuable time in my quest to deposit some serious cash-money into the retirement kitty.
OPTION #4: FIND A GOOD JOB OUTSIDE THE HOME THAT PAYS A DECENT SALARY
This could be easier said than done.
As some of you may know, I received university degrees in English and Journalism. I spent a little over five years as a reporter/news writer/producer before switching to a career in advertising and marketing. I must say, I really enjoyed my time in broadcast journalism and would love to reignite that passion.
I must also say that journalism in general is a dying industry that is hemorrhaging jobs each and every year. In Canada alone, the Canadian Media Guild reported over 10,000 journalism jobs lost in a span of five years. That number is tripled in the United States.
So, by the time I’m ready to hit the job market in a few years that profession will very likely be on life support and my chances of landing meaningful employment in it would be slim to none.
That leaves the advertising/marketing biz, and while that particular job market looks somewhat brighter than journalism, I’m still not sure who is going to take a chance on a guy who has been out of the traditional workforce for the better part of two decades.
Yes, it will be close to TWENTY YEARS at home by the time I’m ready to try working for a paycheque again! Wow, that also sounds so very weird to say out loud!
But wait, it gets better! According to a very interesting article published in the New York Daily News, stay-at-home dads can really get the shaft when trying to re-enter the workforce.
“Men, long thought of as the privileged gender when it comes to the workplace, are not so privileged when it comes to re-entering the workforce after staying at home to raise kids. In fact, they face a greater stigma than women.”
The article suggests that men are stereotypically thought of as assertive, competitive, dominant and tough, and those are not characteristics typically associated with someone fulfilling the role of Mr. Mom. Go figure.
“When a man accepts second priority to their spouse with regards to their career, their peers make the assumption that he is not a leader,” suggests Dr. Robert Chell, Professor Emeritus in Psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University.”
“Professionals see it as a sign of resignation that he is willing to give up the race in rising to an authoritative position in his industry. He is not ambitious or capable of handling the challenge and lacks the drive and passion men are thought to have.”
Dr. Caitlin Killian, a sociology professor who specializes in family and gender issues at Drew University, agrees.
“Men are even more concerned than women about missing out on promotions or being the first ones fired during a company downsizing if they are perceived as more family-oriented and less committed to work than their peers.”
So, there you have it.
I may face an extremely uphill battle when I do decide to dive back into a 9 to 5 life.
But know this: I am determined to find a job… even if I end up being one of those cute, shrivelled up, elderly men you see behind the counter at McDonalds.
You know those guys. They’re the ones you see and immediately say: “aw, isn’t that sweet!”