Escaping Ego and Enjoying Epitaphs
Lately, we have been invited to participate in some great podcasts after the release of our book, ZagZig Parenting. It has been rewarding to connect with other dad and parenting champions, who, like us, want to remove the parenting shame and share real stories and support one another. Topics range from parenting styles to job responsibilities to kids’ personalities.
Kori does most of the talking, and I am fine with that. She is a skilled communicator and, well, I am still in the learning phase of how to talk about myself, and our book. Words don’t come as easily for me as they do for Kori. The interviews each have all been a little different; a lot of laughing in one and contemplation in another and still another the host asked us to reflect on some event or decision we made as parents and how it affects us today.
Inevitably, there has always been that one question that has been aimed directly at me. Maybe the each host words it is a little differently or the tone of the of the question gives me pause, but in the end the sentiment is always the same; Why did I decide to stay home more than twenty years ago? While I can see Kori struggle to hold back her well-worded version of the answer and she wishes she could take this question to paint a vivid description of our decision process, the hosts want to hear from me so it is mine and mine alone.
Maybe this honest and vulnerable answer will help a new dad out there that is struggling with a decision to be a stay-at-home dad or even a long-time dad that has always found it hard to talk about taking care of his kids full time. Here it goes. This decision to stay home with our kids came to be more than 20 years ago. It didn’t come easily. In fact, even after we decided I would stay home before Number 1 was born, I changed my mind when my wife was 8 months pregnant! Kori writes about her reaction in the book. All I will say about that right now is that I have a very forgiving and understanding wife.
When I told my wife I couldn’t stay home, it was because I let my ego get in the way. I was brought up in a traditional home where my dad worked and my mom, who was a teacher, decided to stay home when I was born. I was an only child who only saw dad work and mom stay home and take care of me. I didn’t know any families where the dad stayed home and mom worked. I worried about what my family would think about me staying home, but more importantly I worried how I would be judged by society in general. I let all these feelings get in the way of doing the most important job that I had as a dad.
Thankfully, we accepted a job transfer for Kori which moved us to an area where quality childcare wasn’t available in close proximity, making it not economically wise to pursue. I decided to try staying home and the rest is history. That is the very short version of a long story. I quickly realized that taking care of my kids came pretty easily to me. Still the ego was there and created conflicts when meeting new people. They often asked, “Are you babysitting the kids today?” For lack of a better response at the time I said, “Yes I am.” It was a long learning curve for me. What helped me turn the corner was when I attended my first Stay at Home Dad Convention in Chicago.
Looking around the room, I saw 50 men struggling with the same things I was. Our first speaker set the tone for the day and changed my perspective on being a full-time dad even to this day. He talked about dying. Here is a paraphrase of what he said years ago: “How does that (dying) relate you ask? What do you want your head stone to say? Do you want it to say that you were a dedicated employee? Do you want it to say you were promoted 5 times in 6 years? No of course not! Your tombstone will read, ‘Dedicated father, loving spouse.’ It will have nothing to do with your work accomplishments and have everything to do with the life you have built and the legacy you have left for those you loved.
I still have my moments when I attend a big corporate function with my wife and don’t feel that confident about talking with career-driven successful men about what I do, but then I remember why I do what I do. I am not looking to die anytime soon. I have way too many milestones yet ahead. I do know when that day comes for me to go live with God, that I am quite certain that my head stone will reflect the legacy that I have left for my family. Ego will not play any part of it. It will read Michael Becker, Loving and Dedicated Husband and Father.