I’ve been a stay-at-home Dad for over thirteen years. When I started this gig, the year was 2004 and I was certain I would soon witness the beginning of a seismic shift in parenting roles. Well, the year is now 2017 and from where I sit, the golden age of the stay-at-home Dad feels like it may never arrive.
Are there more of us taking on the role of primary caregiver each and every year? Absolutely, but we are still a very small minority. Sometimes, I see a misleading headline that catches my eye: “The number of stay-at-home Dads in the U.S. has doubled in only five years.” That actually sounds very impressive until you read the rest of the story and the actual percentage moved from 2.5% to 5%. Yes, the number has indeed doubled, but no, it’s not exactly the seismic shift that I’m looking for.
My wife was recently at a conference about diversity in the workforce, and the topic of parental leave came up. One woman bemoaned the fact that very few men are taking advantage of using at least a portion of the one-year government-mandated parental leave. When a man at the conference announced that he actually took four months off from work to stay home and take kids, he received a huge ovation.
My question is, why are people still reacting this way when a man announces he’s going to take care of children full-time? Why is it still such a big deal? Why does the idea of a man staying home to be primary caregiver seem so extraordinary? Why haven’t attitudes about child rearing roles dramatically changed in the last thirteen years?
Another story from that conference may shed some light. There was a CEO who spoke up about men taking parental leave, and mentioned that he was initially “on the fence” about allowing it at his company. He was concerned the man taking the leave wouldn’t actually be parenting… rather he would be “off golfing somewhere”. Really? He actually thought a new father was planning to use his parental leave as some kind of scam, some ingenious way to take a four-month paid vacation. Would anyone ever think that of a woman taking maternity leave? Of course not, because taking care of kids has historically been the job of the mother.
Over the years, I have heard the phrase “semi-retired” to describe my current job description more than once. The most recent time it came up was while I was at a hockey game few years ago and it got me thinking. If a guy stays at home, there is a perception that he must be living on easy street. So much so, the term “semi-retired” is routinely tossed around. Now, think about this. Have you ever heard a stay-at-home mom described that way? I certainly haven’t and I wouldn’t dream of trying it. As a mini-social experiment, I dare anyone reading this to try it just once. Just blurt this out to the next stay-at-home mom you meet:
“Hey, how does it feel to be semi-retired?” Then, get back to me and tell me exactly what happened next. I have a feeling it would not end well.
So, what is the solution? How do we change these outdated attitudes? How do we achieve a dramatic shift in child rearing roles? Will we ever see a 50/50 split between men and women staying home? Unlike the days of yesteryear, modern fathers can indeed change a diaper, feed their kids and get them ready for bed. But, ask if they want to do it full time and you’ll get very few takers.
This is unfortunate, because if there ever was a time for men to leave the workforce and join the battle on the home front, that time is NOW. I have a theory that men actually have an easier time than women when it comes to being the primary caregiver, and it has nothing to do with competence or effort. Rather, it has everything to do with the lower expectations society has of men’s ability to pull it off. If simply announcing you took four months off to take care of kids gets you a robust round of applause from complete strangers, imagine the response you’ll get for doing it full-time, for over a decade!
Trust me, a man doing the exact same job that a woman has been doing very well for decades, centuries, hell – EONS is still, somehow, inexplicably, a big deal.
Unfortunately, until it seems “normal” for a man to stay home with children, that seismic shift I’ve been waiting for… that golden age, will simply have to wait. I only hope it’s not another thirteen years before I see it.
Oh, and before I forget, Happy Father’s Day to all of the Dads out there! Parenting is the greatest joy in life and we all deserve to be recognized for helping transform our tiny humans into the next generation.
(If you have any interest in downloading and sharing a press release promoting my book Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated this Fathers Day weekend, please click below.)
Let me start off my admitting that launching this blog wasn’t my idea. I didn’t really want to do it.
It was actually my former literary agent’s suggestion, as I happened to have a publisher from California “tentatively interested” in offering me a book deal. They wanted to see if I could increase my online platform, and show the world I could help push sales of my masterpiece of non-fiction: Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated. Well, my efforts to showcase my online presence obviously didn’t set the world on fire because a couple of months later, the book deal fell through, and all I had to show for it was this silly little blog. Now what was I supposed to do? For a brief moment in time, I considered shutting down this website, but a funny thing happened: as the weeks turned into months, I found that I actually enjoyed writing, maintaining and promoting this silly little blog. So, while I was definitely reluctant to start this “web-log”, I now finally feel like I’ve become a real-life blogger. I’m sorry folks, but now you are stuck with me.
So, after a full year of sharing my stories, what… (if anything) have I learned?
Well, right off the bat I’ve learned it’s very difficult to keep the momentum and excitement of the initial blog launch going for very long. It all started off with a very big BANG! Dad@Home was unleashed on the internet in mid-April 2016 with a post called: “If I can do it…” To date, that inaugural post has almost 500 views. To put that into perspective, my twelve least viewed posts over the past twelve months have fewer clicks than that one big debut story.
I was over the moon with my initial readership, and I cashed in on my early success by faithfully posting new stories about once a week. While they never quite grabbed the really big numbers of my launch, they were still pretty, pretty good. My next couple of posts snagged a couple hundred views a pop, and I thought that I was off to the races.
I had researched how to host a successful blog, and one of the biggest recommendations I saw over and over again was to keep diligently posting stuff every week, or watch your readership fall off a cliff. Well, I didn’t really take that advice to heart, and I took a few weeks off from updating the blog. I figured, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” I soon found out. After averaging almost 300 views of my first few posts, my next blog story petered out at just under 50 views.
I was stunned! After a three-week break, I was already yesterday’s news! While I found the steep decline in online traffic both disheartening and frustrating, I never stopped posting my stories. I figured that I had a small base of readers who were expecting new material, so I happily kept the faith.
While I never regained that early momentum, I have had a few posts that somehow broke through the slide in readership and managed to resonate with the people. The story of our family trip to Ireland was quite popular, the heartbreaking story of losing our family pet was also well received and when I finally put Dad@Home on sale through Amazon, my readers really stepped up and helped get the message out by clicking on my post and sharing it.
Because the main reason of this blog is to increase the profile of my book, I figured people wouldn’t mind if I repeatedly used it to push sales. With over 250 views, my second most popular post of all time has been “Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated is now available on Amazon.ca and Amazon.com!” I took this as a sign that people would always click on any new info about my book and how to buy it.
I could not have been more wrong.
The following are my least popular posts, OF ALL TIME:
Dad@Home on paperback now 30% off? Insane! But hold the phone, there’s more? Kindle version now 40% off? Unbelievable! – 16 views
Hey Goodreads users! Don’t forget to enter my book giveaway for Dad@Home! – 14 views
Wow! So many NEW ways to purchase Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated! – 11 views
Ouch! The tribe has definitely spoken.
On one hand, the stories that described the process of writing and publishing my book, or even the one featuring my first and only book review were actually well received, getting 90-100 views each. On the other hand, the posts that were 100% advertisements for Dad@Home were shunned like the plague, garnering only 11-16 views. All I can say to that is, “message received”. I will definitely ease off on the hard sell, and simply write more about my life and times as a stay-at-home Dad, just like I did last week with “It’s time to come clean…”
Maybe, just maybe, a better strategy to sell more books is to write engaging stories, and hope any new readers will like what they see and click on the link to purchase my book. I can accurately track my book sales down to the day, and I must tell you… those bottom three posts OF ALL TIME did jack-squat to increase orders of Dad@Home.
There are plenty of other reasons why I enjoy hosting this blog. I like having the ability to track how many hits my website is getting, find out where my readers are coming from and figure out how they are finding their way to Dad@Home.
Now right off the bat, I must stress that compared to many blogs out there, the traffic I’m generating is not overly impressive. After a year of operation, I’m at roughly 3000 hits. Is that good, bad or ugly? Reliable stats on what makes a successful blog are not easy to find on the internets, but from what I can gather, my website numbers would be on the lower end of the spectrum. So, it is what it is… but I’m still hoping I can find new readers and continue to expand my reach.
And speaking of “my reach”, what I find most fascinating is seeing where in the world people have been viewing my blog! A vast majority of clicks are coming from predominantly English speaking countries (98% to be exact) but after that, the list looks like the General Assembly of the United Nations. I’ve got representation from every continent on Earth except Antarctica. Not too shabby! Hello Luxembourg! Who the hell is reading my blog in Luxembourg?
Another stat that my wordpress blog keeps track of is referrers, specifically which websites are driving traffic to Dad@Home. Not surprisingly, almost all of it comes from social media, with 85% of it from the almighty Facebook. LinkedIn is next at 6%, followed by 3% from Twitter and a meager 1% from Instagram. On a slightly more serious note, only 4% of all traffic comes from search engines and that is something I’d like to see improve as my blog becomes more established. When people type in “stay-at-home dad” into the Google machine, I’d love “Dad@Home” to be near the top of the list! Anyhooo, the remaining one per cent of referrers is a mish-mash of websites that have contributed a grand total of 14 trips to check out Dad@Home.
So, after twenty-five posts and a full year of writing this blog, all I can say is please keep reading it, please keep sharing it, and please comment if you have any feedback, questions or suggestions as to what I should tackle next.
And remember, I promise I’ll stop boring you with posts that only advertise my book. Instead, I’ll keep trying to engage and entertain those of you who have graciously chosen to follow my exploits. Thank you for your continued support.
Oh, and just one more thing. If you would please buy my book, that would also be great.
When people grill me about what’s it’s really like being a stay-at-home Dad, a whole lot of them ask about my “household responsibilities”, and how I handle them. While I do get a lot of interest in my culinary skills, I’d say the most frequent queries pertain to my housekeeping expertise. It seems a lot of people (mostly women) really want to know: “Do I really do ALL of the cleaning?”
Well, yes and no.
YES, for the past thirteen and a half years I’ve been charged with the task of making sure our home looks semi-presentable to the outside world. But, NO, I don’t do it all by myself and I probably never will.
Now, before you jump to the conclusion that my hard-working, bacon-bringing, pantsuit-wearing wife is washing dishes and dusting furniture after a long week of financially providing for our family of four humans and two felines, you would be sadly mistaken. It’s not that she’s some lazy, good-for-nothing spouse who deliberately throws banana peels on the floor and waits for me to pick them up… no sir! That’s not it at all.
Rather, I’ve always asked her to let me handle the household stuff, and I often rebuke her for “trying to be a hero” when she tries to unpack the dishwasher. She works hard enough at the office, and I say she doesn’t have to work at home as well. The home front is my domain, for better or for worse, and if I can’t handle keeping this house “clean-ish”, cook (or re-heat) meals and complete laundry in a semi-timely fashion, then what the hell am I really good for?
That being said, I did just mention that I don’t do all of the cleaning, so that begs the question: “Just WHO the heck is helping me?” Is it my good-for-nothing teen/tween kid combo? No way, Jose! Abby and Daniel are certainly capable of minor household tasks, but are otherwise domestically useless. The real housekeeping superheroes in our home for the past thirteen-plus years have been the middle-aged husband and wife team of Henry and Linda, the cleaners we hired after I became a stay-at-home Dad way, Way, WAY back in 2004.
I’m not sure if Lianne felt really sorry for me when I first took the gig or felt I simply didn’t have what it takes to keep our home from being overrun with filth and grime. Either way, when she went back to work after six months of maternity leave, we immediately hired housecleaners. You see, before we had kids the unenviable task of cleaning toilets, washing floors and vacuuming carpets was something we equally shared and equally despised. We resented the hours of cleaning that ate away at our precious weekend free time, and vowed to someday hire housecleaners. With a new baby in the home, and yours truly now in charge of all household and domestic duties… it was a no-brainer. We needed help. Rather, I needed help.
For the first few months, we tried a couple of the big chain cleaning companies, but we weren’t very impressed with the service. Then, through some friends of ours, we heard of this Vietnamese husband and wife team who were looking for more clients, and we snapped them up to come by twice a month. They were infinitely better than anyone else we tried, and after all of these years, they are still with us.
In those first few crazy months of being home alone with baby Abby, having them come in a couple times a month to scrub down the house was a godsend for me. But, we quickly learned that it simply wasn’t enough, so we upped our Henry and Linda quotient to three times a month, and then ultimately… four. Funny story: when we asked them to start coming once a week, they initially told us they couldn’t do it, as their schedule was jam-packed. Then, all of a sudden they had an opening.
We were pretty, pretty pleased, but soon felt pretty, pretty guilty after hearing that the friends who recommended Henry and Linda to us were unceremoniously dumped as clients! When they told us: “Hey, did you know that Henry and Linda just fired us!”, Lianne and I both looked at the floor, shuffled our feet, nervously twiddled our thumbs and said: “Oh, really… wow, that’s just… wow.” I guess the story isn’t THAT funny for our friends, the friends who told us about their great housecleaners, the great housecleaners who we then stole from right under their noses. But I digress.
Over their many years of service, Henry and Linda have seen a lot of changes in our household and have witnessed our family grow from one baby to two. They’ve always shown a keen interest in both of our kids but they were especially over the moon when Daniel was born. They let us know more than once just how important it was to have a son! It’s not that they don’t like Abby. Far from it! But, I think they totally subscribe to the popular opinion found in many countries on the other side of the Pacific that birthing a SON is paramount. They honestly seemed a little perplexed when we told them that we would have been just as happy to have two girls.
Not only have they watched our kids get bigger and bigger, they have also seen our homes get bigger and bigger. They’ve been with us in all three… with each incarnation increasing in size and thus, becoming more time-consuming to clean! We went from 1600 square feet, to 1900, to our current 2600. I actually had to force them to take a raise when we moved into our newest home, as they offered to keep us at the same rate. That’s just the kind of people they are. Good people.
They were impressed and very interested when we travelled not once, but twice to Vietnam to visit my brother Mark and his family. While they were keen to hear all about our adventures in their former homeland, I got the sense they were a bit confused with some of the souvenirs we came home with. As you probably know, Vietnam is still a communist country (albeit one with a free-market economy.) Anyhooo, there are shops that specialize in selling “kitchy” Vietnam war-era propaganda memorabilia. We thought these old posters were super-cool and we brought a bunch of them home and had them framed up.
One day, Henry specifically asked me about the posters. I got the feeling that he thought it was profoundly odd we had pictures hanging in our bedroom that boldly proclaimed in Vietnamese: “VICTORY WILL DEFINITELY BE OURS! HEADING DOWN THE GLORIOUS COMMUNIST ROAD! and LONG LIVE THE VIETNAMESE LABOUR PARTY!”
I have no any idea why Henry and Linda left Vietnam, and I don’t have a clue if they supported or hated the ruling Vietnamese Labour Party. To this day, I’m not sure if he finds the posters offensive, or just plain weird. All I know is that I had a very hard time explaining to Henry what kitchy meant. The fact that English isn’t his first language made the exchange that much more complicated.
Despite any consternation they may or may not have over our decorating choices, we all think Henry and Linda are great, as they’ve definitely become a part of our extended family. I’m not sure how many more years they want to keep working, so I am already dreading the inevitable day when they retire from the cleaning biz. Over the past thirteen years, I have come to rely on them immensely. I know exactly what to expect from them and they know exactly what to expect from me. Every Thursday, in the morning hours before their 1:00 PM arrival, I do a thorough PRE-CLEAN of the entire house, and I know for a fact they appreciate it.
Some of you might be scratching your heads, asking what’s the point of hiring cleaners if you have to do a PRE-CLEAN? It’s simple, really. I don’t want them straightening couch pillows, books and magazines, picking up cat toys or laundry off the floor, making beds, packing a dishwasher or tidying up bathroom countertops. No, no, no… that’s the stuff I can do. That’s the stuff I don’t actually mind doing, It’s the DEEP CLEANING I want them to do! It’s the cleaning of toilet bowls and sinks, the washing of hardwood, the vacuuming of floors, the dusting of furniture, the cleaning of mirrors and stovetops. That’s the stuff that drove Lianne and I to tears back in the day.
In fact, if you were to walk into our home just minutes before Henry and Linda arrive, a casual observer might think the place had just been cleaned. Only on closer inspection would that same casual observer conclude the place was in desperate need of a clean… a deep clean!
Over the past decade, the pre-clean has become much less of a Herculean task. When the kids were small, they would leave behind a tornado swath of destruction in their wake. And, me being a bit of a lazy slob, I would leave their mess to stew… for a day, maybe two? Maybe more? And because the kids were small and incapable of doing much in the way of cleaning, sometimes getting the house in order before the arrival of Henry and Linda was a huge, annoying, soul-sucking task. These days, the kids are in charge of pre-cleaning their rooms and any mess they make in the basement. That leaves me to deal with primarily the main floor. I manage to keep it looking straightened up and relatively decent for a majority of the week, but minor messes sometimes require a judgment call.
For instance, if the kids drop copious amounts of toast crumbs under their chairs near the kitchen island at breakfast, do I sweep it up? Maybe. If it’s Tuesday or Wednesday, I say: “absolutely NOT!” If the clean team is one to two days away… (maybe even three), I say… just leave it. That’s why we have cleaners. If my pot on the stove sputters and spurts sauce on the stovetop, hardening instantly, and it’s only two days away from the clean team… just LEAVE it. Dammit, THAT’S why we have cleaners! If I drop a glass bowl and it shatters into a million pieces all over on the kitchen floor, and it’s still six days away from the clean team, I think about it for a second, and ultimately decide that requiring everyone to wear shoes in the house for almost a week may be too much to ask… so I DON’T leave it. I’ll reluctantly clean it up.
And let’s not forget that Henry and Linda sometimes go on vacation, and that means I get to handle the unenviable task of DEEP CLEANING the entire house. Oh, the humanity! After week one of their holidays, the house receives a pretty darned good clean. After week two, my effort level drops significantly. If they are still gone by week three, I am forced to prioritize. Do the kids really need a clean toilet? Nope, but I do. Am I going to scrub that bathtub ring of grime off the kids tub? Nope, but I’ll clean our master bedroom shower. Prioritizing can be surprisingly easy sometimes.
The only cleaning-related area that I feel could still use some real improvement is washing dishes. Every day the dishwasher is packed and unpacked, but the “old-style dishwasher”, a.k.a. yours truly, sometimes leaves the dirty dinner pots and pans in the sink… unwashed.
So, how do I justify my laziness? Let’s go back to that fictional casual observer we talked about earlier. When I actually get around to washing the dishes, I leave them to drip dry on the left hand side of the sink. If the dirty dishes are sitting in the left hand side of the sink and really don’t look that dirty, the casual observer may think they are clean and are simply drip-drying. So, why bother washing them this very instant? WHY? In the immortal words of the great Mahatma Gandhi: “Who cares? And another thing, SO WHAT!”
I admit it. Just like the great Mahatma Gandhi, I too sometimes leave dirty dishes in the sink. I can almost hear the gasps from all of the neat freaks out there and for that, I’m sorry. Like I said, I still need to work on my dishwashing skills.
So, there you have it folks. I have finally come clean about… cleaning. If you ever drop by for a visit, please swing by around Thursday at 3:00 PM. That’s when Henry and Linda have just left and our house looks it’s absolute best. And for god’s sake, never drop by on a Wednesday evening! That’s about twelve hours before I even think about starting my pre-clean and there’s a good chance you’ll be treated to a household even a casual observer would say is a complete and utter shambles.
I know exactly what’s been holding you back. I finally get it! No need to keep hammering me over the head, people. Trust me, I can take a hint.
The price of my “newish” book, Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated, was simply too damn high. Well, I’ve taken care of that… BIG TIME. It’s true, it was priced at a rather decadent $13.99 US… but now, it can be yours for the low, low price of just $9.99 US. Wow! Is that a savings of 30%? Yes! Well, almost. I think it’s just under 29%, but who cares, so what!
How do we do it? How can we afford to offer this once-in-a-lifetime deal? One word: VOLUME! And by “volume”, I mean: IF I SHOUT LOUD ENOUGH AND LONG ENOUGH ABOUT DROPPING THE PRICE, MAYBE MORE PEOPLE WILL BUY MY BOOK!
And don’t even get me started about the Kindle version. It was a bloated $4.99 US. Well not anymore, neighbour. Feast your eyes on this incredibly legit 40% off price drop. You can now upload Dad@Home on to your fancy Kindle for a super-slim $2.99 US.
Am I off my rocker? Am I off my meds? Am I coming remotely close to breaking even on this book? Yes and Yes and No, but don’t worry about it, potential customer! All you need worry about is the HUGE savings I’m passing on to YOU!
For those of you who have been hemming and hawing about coughing up the dough for my book, but were waiting to see if I dropped the price, I only have one thing to say to you:
“Well played. You win.”
OK, that’s two things, but you get the picture.
For those of you who bought my book at full freight, I thank you. You will always mean slightly more to me than those who bought my book at the new low, low price of $9.99 US (paperback) and $2.99 (Kindle).
But please don’t let the possibility of less affection directed toward you deter you in any way from making this purchase. Remember pals, I’ve got your back. You may recall I launched my book just in time for Christmas to allow you guys to buy it as a special gift for yourself, and another copy as a weird, “head-scratcher” of a gift for your office Secret Santa… or for your weird Aunt who is hard to buy for. YOU’RE WELCOME.
And, this time, I’ve timed my huge sale so it’s just in time for… um… Spring Break? Yeah, let’s go with that.
Spring Break! The perfect time to read a book. The perfect time to BUY a book.
Getting someone in the media biz to give a damn about a self-published book certainly has been an uphill battle, but I have been faithfully submitting Dad@Home to various websites that review “independent” releases. Well, here’s the first one… and hopefully, it’s not the last.
“Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated by Gregory J. Tysowski is a kind of “Mr. Mom” for the current generation, a time when stay-at-home fathers are becoming more and more common. Tysowski’s wife was working as a high-powered, and well-paid, lawyer, so it was decided when their first child was born that Tysowski would stay at home. The purpose of Dad@Home is not only to share his own experience, but to also show how stay-at-home fatherhood is completely normal. It’s difficult, to be sure, but so is parenting for anyone.
The book is full of amusing stories, and the common trials and stay-at-home dad must face, including some that are completely surprising and unexpected. Tysowski covers every possible insecurity and difficulty, many of which are entirely unique to dads. He is candid about the doubts and struggles he has with this new arrangement – but much of this has to do with how stay-at-home dads are perceived, rather than how he perceives himself. The great strength in the book is that his stories are at once personal and universal.
There may be a bit too much about the pregnancy and birth to start the book- after all, that is not the focus of this book and what makes it unique. What Tysowski could have done instead was begin the book with some stories about being a stay-at-home dad, and then rewound to the beginning. Overall, Tysowski is an engaging narrator of his experiences, and thoroughly reliable, as he has truly walked the walk.
At some point, stay-at-home dads will be completely normalized, and books like Dad@Home will be instrumental in making this the case. For anyone who’s a stay-at-home dad, or for a couple looking into the prospects of such an arrangement, Tysowski is an empathetic and informative voice. As he says, it’s not a “how to” book, but it is still plenty instructive.”
Lysa Grant, Self-Publishing Review, February 20th, 2017.
If you want to check out the original link, click HERE to see my review in all of it’s original glory. While you’re there, why don’t you dive into a few other book reviews? You never know what kind of hidden gems you may find off the beaten path of traditionally published authors!
Us “do-it-yourselfers” need all the help we can get!
And speaking of helping out, if you still haven’t bought my book yet, then here’s your chance! I’m 99% positive that anyone who has read this semi-glowing review probably can’t wait to click HEREto order one or more copies of Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated.
Family pets. They can be a source of great joy, immense frustration and inevitably… incredible pain and sorrow. Anyone who owns a dog or a cat knows this. And hey, even people who have a hamster, lizard or budgie know exactly what I’m talking about. I know pets are not people, but it never ceases to amaze me how incredibly easy it is to get attached, to get emotionally invested and to feel like they are a true and integral part of your family. Pets, or CATS in our case, have been a near constant in our household for the better part of twenty years and we wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Lianne and I are cat lovers. After getting married, we decided to have some cats before we had some kids. They were our furry “practice” offspring, and they ruled the roost for almost seven years before Abby and Daniel arrived on the scene. Ivy (our first born) loved us dearly but didn’t like most other people, and shunned both of our kids from day one. The younger, friendlier (and fatter) Sammy, was easy-peasy and liked everyone, including our human offspring.
However, Abby and Daniel were never really attached to those cats. They didn’t love them the way Lianne and I did. They didn’t play with them, they didn’t take care of them, and they didn’t really need them in their lives. Just like Donald Trump is #NotMyPresident, Sammy and Ivy simply weren’t their cats. #NotMyCats.
What they wanted, what they really needed was KITTENS! As soon as they could walk and talk, they hounded us to get them their own cats to love. We would always respond that we had two cats already, and we wouldn’t be adding any more furry friends to the family until our senior felines finally “ran out of lives”.
Their response was always comical, if not slightly morbid:
“But WHEN are Sammy and Ivy going to die???”
It seemed they simply couldn’t wait for the pet version of the grim reaper to come knocking on our door to take our four-legged practice kids to the cat afterlife. And then, after several years of deflecting the issue, it finally happened. About five years ago, the health of our lovable, bowling ball shaped Sammy-boy started going south. He was the first to go. Then Ivy, our beautiful soft-coated girl who nearly reached the ripe old age of seventeen, suffered kidney failure and left us the following year. Ironically, about twelve months earlier, she finally decided it was OK for Abby and Daniel to pet her.
Were the kids upset? Sure, but they were both still fairly young, and their sorrow wasn’t the kind that ripped your heart out. They shed a few tears for their part-time cat companions and even hosted a couple of very classy memorial services in our living room. Lianne and I obviously took their departures much harder, and when the kids pounced on the opportunity to ask for replacements ASAP, we actually pushed back.
After sixteen-and-a-half years of planned pet parenthood, Lianne and I needed a break.
You must all be thinking: “I get it. Surely this is the ‘Tale of Two Kitties’ referenced in the headline of today’s blog. Great story, Greg!”
Well, actually… no. Sorry, but you’ll have to keep reading to get there.
Over a year had passed without the pitter-patter of furry feet in our home, but after Abby and Daniel’s “Give us Cats or give us Death!” campaign really ramped up, we finally relented. In the summer of 2014, we adopted two kittens… a brother and sister combo from the Humane Society. “Sasha and Duff” were abandoned three-month old bundles of fuzziness and finally Abby and Daniel had furry babies they could call their own! Daniel claimed Duff, and Sasha was scooped up by Abby. Once again, we were a family of six and happy days were here again.
And so, for the next two-and-a-half years we all enjoyed watching the “twins” grow up and grow into very different personalities. Sweet Sasha was smaller, slightly squatter and loved to lick and “groom” us as a sign of her ample affection. She was usually shy with strangers, enjoyed sitting in the sun under our lilac bush outside, and was a bit of a scaredy cat. Duff was handsome, outgoing, athletic, a successful hunter of small animals and could seemingly leap tall buildings in a single bound. However, he reserved most of his affection and attention for one person: his good buddy Daniel. When it came time to call Duff to come inside for the night, I would yell his name from the back deck… and then, nothing. I would enlist Daniel’s help and sure enough, handsome Duff comes trotting home in about 90 seconds.
Now, you must have it all figured out, thinking: “Surely this is the ‘Tale of Two Kitties’ referenced in the headline of today’s blog. I get it! Two stories about two generations of family cats. Great story, Greg! Bravo!”
Again… sorry, but no. Bear with me friends, and I promise I’ll get there.
This is where the story becomes difficult to write, where the lump in my throat forms and the “Tale of Two Kitties” actually begins. About ten days ago, we started what we thought was a very regular day… but noticed that our handsome Duff looked very lethargic. He wasn’t moving, he wasn’t eating and he was throwing up every few hours like clockwork. I hoped maybe he ate a rotting animal or had some kind of stomach “bug”, but the next day he seemed worse. So, to the vet hospital we went and after a few hours of waiting for a diagnosis, the blood and urine tests revealed a horrible truth. The news hit me like a truck. Duff was suffering from acute kidney failure, brought on my ingesting a deadly toxin… antifreeze.
The vet recommended putting him down within 24 hours.
I remember driving home in utter disbelief, with a sickly Duff quietly sitting in the front passenger seat right beside me. I was a devastated pet parent. We always knew the risks of letting our cats outside, but I couldn’t wrap my head around this. Antifreeze? Really? Are you kidding me? I was always concerned Duff would chase a squirrel into traffic and suffer a swift end to his carefree lifestyle of enjoying the great outdoors. But this? This just seemed like a cruel joke.
I was absolutely floored. I couldn’t believe we were losing this young life, this family member, this best friend of my son! I was absolutely dreading what had to happen next. I called Lianne at the office to let her know about Duff’s dire condition. That phone call was extremely difficult to get through but I knew I wasn’t out of the woods yet. Not even close. School was letting out in a couple of hours and didn’t know how I was going to break the news to Abby and Daniel.
It was a an extremely warm February afternoon, and I was waiting in the parking lot at the kids school with the windows rolled down, anxiously waiting. I was completely sick to my stomach, as I knew the kids would ask me about Duff the second they got into the car. They were well aware I had taken him to the vet hospital and I knew they were both quite concerned about him. Abby was first to arrive and immediately asked how Duff was doing. The words stuck in my throat. I couldn’t talk. My daughter’s eyes widened. My voice cracked, and I finally forced out a very raspy: “Duff is dying”, and Abby started wailing. This was all unfolding as Daniel arrived. We tried to hold our shit together for a moment, but Daniel knew right away that something was terribly wrong. When I broke the news to him, they were both in the back seat, screaming in anguish. There were no words, just a massive unleashing of raw, tormented emotion. I just slouched in the drivers seat, head down… with my red, puffy face in my hands, letting my kids fill the car with their pain for several minutes.
All I could do was croak out the occasional “I’m so sorry” between my own sobs. It was the most emotionally charged event I’ve ever had with my kids. Remember when I said the death of our senior cats “wasn’t the kind of sorrow that ripped your heart out”? This most definitely was.
The next 24 hours were even rougher, as now we had our beloved Duff, lying on our dining room chair, slowly dying before our very eyes and there was nothing we could do but say goodbye. Having a beloved pet in the house that has been scheduled to be put to sleep is something Lianne had to endure with both Sammy and Ivy, but Abby and Daniel really didn’t feel the full weight of those situations, as they were not nearly as invested. This time, it’s arguable they were more invested than we were and it was heartbreaking to watch them say farewell to a pet and companion they helped raise from kittenhood to handsomeness.
We were especially heartbroken to watch Daniel interact with his furry best buddy, as he and Duff shared a special bond that the rest of us didn’t have. It just wasn’t fair that our eleven-year-old boy had to take on this much crushing sorrow.
None of us slept very well that night, as we all knew what was coming the next morning. After the kids bid a final, sombre farewell to their beloved pet, Lianne drove them to school while I drove Duff straight to the vet hospital. My mind was filling up with fond memories of our handsome Duff while my heart was filling with sadness. With Sammy and Ivy’s final goodbye, we had our trusted family veterinarian visit the house and put our cats to sleep in the comfort of their own homes, encircled by loving faces and familiar surroundings. Unfortunately, our vet was out of town and I decided to take on the unenviable task of guiding Duff to the next life all on my own.
This time, it wasn’t a senior cat that had lived a long, happy life. This time, it wasn’t happening in our home. This time was different, as the circumstances surrounding Duff’s demise were obviously unexpected, and infinitely more painful. To be honest, I was a little worried about getting through this difficult, yet unavoidable farewell to Duff all alone, but I shook it off by thinking about the bigger picture: by going solo, I was sparing the rest of the family one final emotional episode. It was time to man up.
At the vet hospital there was plenty of waiting… and there were forms to fill out… and then there was more waiting. The entire process was taking much longer than I had imagined, and I was getting restless sitting in the “quiet room” where they perform the procedure. They were supposed to bring in a heavily sedated Duff, ready for the final injections that would end his life. Instead, they brought in a boy who seemed curiously like the Duff of old. The amount of sedatives they gave him obviously wasn’t enough to settle him down, and the strange animal smells and odd surroundings of the vet hospital had him full of the beans and eager to explore the room. To be honest, it was actually kind of nice to see the bright-eyed version of our handsome Duff one last time, as he had spent most of the last 48 hours wasting away on a dining room chair, barely moving. The veterinary assistant eventually took him away to up the dosage and brought back a very sleepy cat that looked ready to put the suffering behind him. Duff and I quietly locked eyes as I gave the vet the OK to proceed. No more words had to be said at this point.
Watching a living creature that you dearly love slowly slip away while cuddled up close to your heart is an experience that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but in the end I felt fortunate to be there for our beloved family pet in his final moments.
I was moderately proud of myself for holding it together for a vast majority of my visit to the vet hospital… that is, until I got in the car to go home. I put Duff’s cat carrier on the passenger seat, looked down at the empty box then completely lost my shit for several minutes in the privacy of my Subaru. So much for “manning up”, but I’m sure those of you with pets of your own will give me a pass on this one.
With the worst behind us, it was time for our family to begin the healing process. We talked about our memories of Duff, we all shed a few more tears, and we promised Daniel he could have another kitten when he was ready. He told us that he may never be ready, and we completely understood.
We also talked about death, loss and grief in broader terms. I was hoping to show the kids that going through an excruciating experience like this can actually make you stronger, and can help prepare you for a more traumatic loss – the kind that involves actual family members – the kind that you can’t replace at the Humane Society, Petland or at a breeder. It may sound strange, or even a tad insensitive, but Lianne and I saw this family tragedy as a teachable moment in the young lives of our children.
The following day was a bit easier, and it certainly helped that it was the kids’ final day at school before a full week break. As I picked them up, a rather sheepish Daniel had a rather significant request. He freely admitted that just one day earlier, he told us he couldn’t imagine replacing Duff, but now he had changed his mind. He wanted to visit the Humane Society right away, “just to see” if they had any male kittens up for adoption. Lianne and I were not so sure about this “quick fix” solution to our son’s suffering. We always wanted to be a two-cat family, so we felt this was going to happen eventually, but was it wise for Daniel to try and fill up the hole in his heart so quickly? Should we refuse his request just to teach him the value of patience – the patience required for a true journey to healing?
After some serious discussion, the overwhelming urge to ease our son’s pain won the day. As a parent, it’s very difficult to watch your kid suffer, so we chose the path Daniel so desperately wanted us to… the path to immediate restoration and rejuvenation of the soul.
So, the entire family piled into the car and hit the road, excited to see what was available at the Humane Society. As luck would have it, they had one male kitten left. And, wouldn’t you know it, the little guy had almost the same black and white markings as our recently departed. Luckily, he had a skinny white stripe running down his face that set him apart from his handsome predecessor. After just a few minutes of interaction, Daniel immediately fell in love and asked if we could bring him home. It was kind of surreal to even consider it, as we had been a one-cat household for all of 29 hours! Was this way too soon? Was this the right thing to do? Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn’t. Lianne and I were definitely struggling with the decision.
Maybe teaching Daniel that there’s no shortcut to recover from “real” grief, the kind that only comes with human suffering and human loss, is secondary. Maybe the death of a pet, no matter how traumatic, doesn’t necessarily have to translate into a life lesson about how we can mentally prepare ourselves for some future, theoretical family tragedy.
We decided to say YES to add a new furry member to our family and noticed an immediate and welcome change in the happiness quotient of our children. This super cute boy certainly has filled a void with Abby and Daniel, but what about Lianne and Greg? Well, to be honest, not so much. Our hearts are still very heavy for our fallen friend, but our home is happy again, buzzing with the activity that only a playful kitten can bring and that’s a very good thing after enduring a very tough week.
We said goodbye to Duff on a Thursday. On a Friday, we welcomed little Domino to our home. Two family pets… two kitties separated by only a day, never to meet but forever linked in our hearts.
Finally, this “Tale of Two Kitties” I’ve been yammering on and on about has come to an end. Thank you for allowing me to share our story of undeniable loss that mercifully morphs into an uplifting tale of renewal.
It’s been over a week after Duff’s passing and there’s only one thing left to do. I’ve been purposely avoiding it for a couple of days now, but I’m overdue for a trip back to the vet hospital to pick up the cremated remains of our forever handsome boy. Once Duff is back at home, I’m actually looking forward to attending another classy memorial service in our living room, hosted by the ever-popular Abby and Daniel. We’ve all given a warm welcome to our new edition Domino, but we still haven’t said a formal and proper goodbye to Duff, the one who was so handsome, outgoing, athletic, a successful hunter of small animals and could seemingly leap tall buildings in a single bound.
For those of you who have already purchased a copy (or more) of Dad@Home, I wholeheartedly thank you for your support. I do appreciate you spending your hard-earned dollars on my little passion project. Now, what about those of you who would really like to support my writing endeavors, but find there’s something holding you back from making that purchase? There could be a myriad of reasons why Dad@Home hasn’t found its way into your hot little hands. Reasons like:
“I’d love to buy Dad@Home, but I only read e-books on iBooks!” or…
“Sorry, I don’t have a Kindle… I only use a Kobo e-reader!” or…
“I’m a huge fan of collecting my Plum Rewards at Chapters/Indigo!” or…
“I’m American dammit, and I love to shop at Barnes & Noble!”
Say no more because I’ve got you covered on ALL of these fronts. How? Well, I’ve expanded the distribution of Dad@Home to accommodate the needs of as many potential customers as I can.
If you would like to purchase Dad@Home on iBooks, click here!
If you would like to purchase Dad@Home on Kobo, click here!
If you would like to purchase Dad@Home at Chapters/Indigo, click here!
If you would like to purchase Dad@Home at Barnes & Noble, click here!
I know exactly what you are thinking: “Wow, there are so many NEW ways to purchase Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated!” But, there’s still one problem that I haven’t addressed. There’s still a big, fat elephant in the room. Not everyone loves to shop online. Not everyone is so technologically savvy. Some people still want to go to a real book store and buy a real book. I get that. I really do, and I have the perfect solution.
While Dad@Home is not currently stocked on the shelves of North America’s bookstores, you CAN walk into any Chapters, Indigo or Coles and find a helpful salesperson to order your copy for pick-up in store. It will take a little longer than ordering it directly from Amazon, but you will avoid all shipping costs, having to use one of those newfangled “computers” and you won’t have to deal with walking all the way to your mailbox every day to see if my book has arrived. So, there… problem solved! The elephant has left the room.
Oh, and one more thing… for all of you “Goodreads” users, I’ll be running a free book giveaway on Goodreads.com starting on February 1st. Please check out my author page here, and don’t forget to enter next week for your chance to win a FREE copy of Dad@Home.
And don’t forget that Dad@Home is ALWAYS available on Amazon.ca and Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle version.
As always, stay tuned and thank you for your support!
Nobody said this was going to be easy. Self-marketing a self-published book is something I have ZERO experience with. There, I said it. And that’s the primary reason my agent and I spent almost a full calendar year pestering 46 publishing houses… hoping and praying one of them would take a chance on Dad@Home. A book deal would have absolved me of much of the responsibility of pushing sales. A book deal would have simplified everything. A book deal didn’t happen and here I am, almost six weeks after “independently” launching my book, wondering what the hell I do next?
It all started off with such promise. When my book finally went live on Amazon, I plastered the news of its release all over my multiple social media accounts… Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+. My one and only marketing plan was to simply get the word out, and get the word out I did! I was counting on everyone I knew to share the link to my book and somehow it would spread like wildfire around the world. I had a theory: to really succeed at self-publishing, you MUST go viral. You need a grassroots campaign that is fueled by the people. All hail the power of the people! I believed in the people!
And for a while there, it kinda/sorta appeared to be working. My first 10 days of book sales were unspectacular, but very steady indeed. 60 copies sold between paperback and Kindle… not too shabby! Hey, all of a sudden, I was sitting in the Top 10 “Fatherhood” books on Amazon.ca! Out of the hundreds of thousands of books sold on Amazon.ca, I was #4,167! I was feeling pretty good about myself, and about my little book that could. After doing some research, I found that a vast majority of self-published books sell LESS THAN 50 COPIES in their entire lifespan! Wait! What? Less than 50?
Wow, I had sold 60 books in the first ten days! Was I on my way to best-seller status? Um… well… yeah… no. Sales fell off dramatically (like, off a cliff) and they are still in free fall. You don’t believe me? Well, believe this awesome chart that I created all by myself:
As you can clearly see in my clever custom-made chart, in the entire month since my productive 10-day opening run, I’ve only sold seven copies, leaving me stuck at a grand total of 67. To look on the bright side, I’m still more successful than a majority of self-published authors. To look on the depressing side, I still need to sell a few hundred more copies to break even on Dad@Home.
So, why is it so hard to sell books these days? A very big part of the problem is getting noticed in a vast ocean of new releases. There are over two million new books released every year in a multitude of different genres, and that ranges from big publishers all the way down to self-publishers. TWO MILLION!
And, here’s another mind blowing fact… a few thousand titles make most of the money. That’s right, almost 90% of worldwide book sales go to a fraction of the books released in any given year. “Blockbuster” books take up a lion’s share of sales and that’s where the real money is. The simple fact is, most books are busts! HUGE BUSTS! Is Dad@Home already a bust?
Now, I could take this very discouraging information and use it as a very convenient excuse to throw in the towel right now. I might even think, “why should I bother trying if the odds are stacked against me?” Well, I’ll tell you why. Momma didn’t raise no quitter! I want to see if I can get the rest of the world to take notice of Dad@Home. To the 67 family and friends who bought my book, I sincerely thank you. For those family and friends who haven’t bought my book, what the hell are you waiting for? Come on already! Just go buy it already! What are you, some kind of cheap S.O.B.?
OK, so sorry for lashing out. That was unseemly to say the least. I’m sure some of my friends may have perfectly legitimate reasons for not buying my book. (But mostly, they’re just cheap… KIDDING! Or am I?)
Moving on. Phase one of marketing my book was letting everyone I know (and their dog) that I had released a new book. Phase two will be letting the other 5 billion humans on Earth know that Dad@Home is ready to be discovered. So, what’s the plan? Well, I still have several “author’s copies” kicking around, and I’m about to ship them off to people and places that might want to review my book, give me some media coverage, or somehow spread the good word that it’s available.
I’m hoping to generate some fresh and renewed BUZZ about my book. It’s a new day, it’s a new year and I’m re-energized and ready to sell this book! I’m also expanding the distribution of my passion project. Look for the digital version of Dad@Home on both Kobo and iBooks… coming soon. Very soon!
If any of you good people know of someone out there with connections to the media biz that would appreciate a copy of Dad@Home, please go to the “Contact Me” section of this blog and drop me a line. And no, this is NOT a way for any of my cheap friends to get a free copy. I can see right through your little scam! Just go buy it already! GEEZ!
For the rest of you, please keep spreading the word, please keep your eyes open for any marketing opportunities you could pass along, and please help me keep the faith. I’m really hoping the journey of Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated is just getting started.
When I began writing this book back in December 2013, I really didn’t know what it would be or how I would feel about it when it was finally finished. At first, I simply wanted to write down my parenting experiences and share it with my family. It would be a private personal memoir of my first decade as a stay-at-home father… and maybe my kids would read it someday. Maybe they would learn a thing or two about why I chose to stay home to raise them, and how their dear old dad lived out his days in their formative years.
At least, that’s how it all started.
How I got to this point three years later has been a rollercoaster of highs and lows, of free-flowing creativity and stubborn writers block, of believing in the dream of securing a book deal and then kickstarting a new dream of self-publishing. When I finished my first draft, I thought maybe, just maybe, I actually had something that I wanted to share outside my tiny inner circle of family and friends. That belief that maybe, just maybe, I had a “real” book on my hands led me to seek out a proofreading service, a literary agent, and finally a graphic designer.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Actually, it doesn’t. That’s dumb.
But I do know that it took a small village of publishing industry professionals to transform Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated from a very rough first draft to a polished final product. Special thanks go out to my agent, Anne Bougie-Johnson at Sparks Literary Consultants for providing me with such a thorough and enlightening manuscript evaluation. Your suggestions and notes made my book much stronger and your one-year effort of trying to secure a book deal will always be appreciated. I’d also like to acknowledge the services of Michèle Young at Eagle Eye Editing and Proofreading for revealing just how terrible my spelling and grammar actually are. Job well done. And last but not least, I’d like to give a shout out to Graphic Designer Melina Cusano for a truly wonderful cover design and book layout.
Self-publishing means self-marketing, so the more of you I can count on to spread the news that my book is ready for mass consumption, the better my chances for success! I am extremely pleased to announce that Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated is ready to order in both paperback and Kindle version.
Please click the link! Please share the link! Please help me get the word out!
Click here to purchase on Amazon.ca! Do it! Do it now!