Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Joy and Pain of a Work at Home Dad

As a full-time work at home dad, I will admit that sometimes I miss the camaraderie that comes from working in a communal space, where coffee pots drip all day and phones ring endlessly. Though I enjoy the flexibility of my current position, which allows me to drive my boys to school every morning and be there when they arrive home every afternoon, sometimes I do long to be able to discuss last night’s Parks and Recreation with a real human being in the flesh instead of the randomTwitterverse.

One of the biggest career challenges I’ve faced was when I began working for a company with a completely remote workforce just before my younger son turned 1-year-old, which coincided with when Mrs. Dude began teaching full-time. She and I made the bittersweet, yet necessary, decision to hire someone to watch our son at home while I was working just a few feet away. Though I keep a separate workspace from our living area, it was frustrating every time I left my office to refuel or relieve and saw him frolicking with the nanny. I desperately wanted to drop what I was doing every time and roll around with my Littler Dude.
This adorable face was staring at me every time I'd grab a drink or snack. It was refreshing and upsetting at the same time.
Sometimes I could do just that, but for only a fraction of the amount of time I would have preferred. Other times he’d run into my office just to see me or sit on my lap for a moment and when the nanny kindly took him so I could resume working, I felt like a part of my soul was being forcibly yanked out every single time.  The irony of my great new job permitting me to be home with my son, while not really being with him, was a struggle that took some time to come to terms with. It was almost a relief when he started pre-school this past fall so that I was no longer faced with the temptation to build block towers instead of PowerPoint presentations on a daily basis.

Working from home is the kind of gift which not everyone wants or appreciates, and that’s OK. The Catch-22 I’ve frequently considered is being able to trade my zero-mile commute for a higher paying job requiring an hour or more each way in L.A. traffic. Now, if my kids need me while I’m working at home just a few minutes away, I can be there if they are sick or to attend their holiday shows at school, no questions asked. What would I do if I worked 25 miles away, which in L.A. terms can be anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours in traffic?
The view from my desk chair.
My boys are never really out of sight.
The traditional familial roles which my generation, and countless more before us, grew up with have been thrown out the window and just as women’s lib was such a big issue almost 50 years ago, maybe it’s time to consider this an era of men’s liberation. Men can be engaged parents who stay at home to raise their families or work in or out of the home and still take an active role in parenting. The days of the incompetent “Mr. Mom” father are long gone, so it’s time to finally quash that lame stereotype, just as we have so many other archaic cliches. It was nice to see that the tide is turning during several recent Super Bowl ads featuring actively involved fathers. 

Still, when friends mention going out for happy hour after work and I tell them I’m already deep into making Mac & Cheese for my boys at 5:30pm, the dormant phantom limb known as my office-working days starts to tingle. Then I go eat some of Kraft’s finest while looking at some adoring adorable faces and it all feels OK because I know I’ve made the right decision for my family for now.

This is my happy hour.


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