Becoming a Stay-at-Home Dad: Q & A with Dan

A lot of time on this blog is about my perspective, how the kids are doing, etc. Today, I thought I'd interview Dan to give his side of the story since my post on being a Stay-at-Home mom was so popular.

Competing at Quest Flair Bartending Competition - Orlando, FL

Competing at Quest Flair Bartending Competition - Orlando, FL

What did you do before you were a stay at home dad (SAHD)? I spent my entire life in the bar business. My dad was a bar owner, so when I was born, my dad took me straight from the hospital to the bar. I started bartending when I was 16, started learning some flair tricks in my late 20’s, and then started competing in my early 30’s.

By 2009, I was pretty busy with traveling and competitions, and did that full time for about two years--the season would go from the end of February to the end of October. At the top of my game, I placed 4th in the world. Flair bartending is all about putting on a big show. While the economy downturn in 2008 hit flair bartending pretty hard, there's still a big scene in Las Vegas and Europe now.

I was competing right up until Hudsyn was born--the last event I did was in September 2010, and she was born in October of that year.

How did Hudsyn affect your work? When I was bartending, I was the happiest guy in the room. But when Hudsyn was born and she was struggling so much, work was just one big, fake act. Several nights while working, I felt like I was breaking in half. I was dealing with the biggest heartbreak at home, and then I had to go to work and make everyone else feel good. It was torture. My job was to be high energy, punch out the drinks, and be the perfect party host. Overnight, everything that seemed important completely changed.

That first year was tough. Kacy and I were trading shifts--she would work during the day, I'd work my bartending at night. During the first year, we were two working parents. When Kacy was gone at work, and I was gone during the weekends, the schedule just wasn't making sense anymore--I missed my time with Kacy, and I was dead on my feet at work. We were both zombies because with Hudsyn's brain injury sleep was something we rarely received. In the rare time we did have together, we usually took turns taking naps.

Why did you decide to be a SAHD? It was later in the year, after Damek was born. Unless we moved to Las Vegas, the bartending money just wasn't going to go that far. I know how to cook, and I feel like I'm the better caregiver (Kacy agrees). I'd always wanted to be a dad, and being around for the kids made the decision to give up bartending the most sensible thing we could have done.

What's more, we knew that Kacy had the degree and the potential to make a lot more money than I could with bartending full time. So it was a financial decision, but also one that made the most sense for supporting the kids and each another.

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Is it hard to stay at home? I struggled a little at first, just coming to terms with not being a financial contributor for us. But then, one day, Kacy broke down my monetary value by the different “jobs” I was doing and after getting a dollar estimate (around $70,000) I accepted the role a bit more easily. We BOTH contribute a monetary value to our family…because without my role, we’d be paying exhorbitant costs for childcare and other services our family needs. It’s sometimes still hard to deal with people's perceptions of what it means to be a SAHD.

After answering the quesiton on what I do for a living, I will often hear phrases like “Must be nice,” or “You inspire me,” or “She’s lucky to have you.”

I half-jokingly say that Kacy made me quit...but I say that because I think there's a stigma to a man staying at home and taking care of the kids. It's a sexist stigma, and sometimes people think that I'm taking advantage of Kacy. Sometimes people think, "Oh, he must be lazy or unemployed." But this is what I do--and no one would question this decision if Kacy had been the one to quit her job to stay at home with the kids. So really, it's a sexist attitude toward women and men.

How has staying at home changed things?  Being a SAHD has changed the dynamic between Kacy and I in some respects--I have a tendency to jump in and show Kacy how things should be done with some of the chores and kids' care. For me, it's important to have Kacy enjoy the good times with the kids...and so I want to take care of the boring stuff so she can have fun with them.

Because I've always been in the service industry, being a SAHD is a really good fit. I like thinking about what it takes to get the routine things done, make everyone comfortable, and focus on each kid and Kacy.

It's been incredibly rewarding--but it doesn't pay that well. That's been one of the more challenging aspects of it...there isn't the paycheck, and so there's no way to say, "this is how much work I did." But Kacy and I both know that there is a big value to having me at home for the family at all times.

How has it worked out for you?  One thing I tell people about being able to stay home is that it's great for Kacy. She doesn't have to fit her schedule around a whole other load of household responsibilities--she can focus on growing her business and maintaining relationships with clients. She often has to work late, and so she doesn't have to worry about how we balance two different jobs and two different schedules.

Really, my job means that I get to help Kacy build a business that means something to both of us. Of course, it also means as a family, we can make more money. I know how hard she works to attract new clients and keep them happy...so if I can take the pressure off of her needing to be in multiple places, all the better.  Her business is our business, one that we have created together. It's definitely a team-oriented mindset for both of us.

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Do you regret anything? I see what my friends and old coworkers are doing on Facebook, and there's about 5% of me that wishes I was out there with them.

But I've really changed--I look at some of those pictures out at the bar, and I think, "Was I really so shallow, just trying to get to the next party? Just going out drinking? Was that it?", and really, I got to do it for much longer than most people.

The party stops at some point...and I never wanted to be the saddest bartender in town. I'm blessed to look young, but thinking about where I would be if I were still bartending, it's just not where I want to be any longer. There comes a point when it's not cool to have an old guy behind the bar. Lol!

And frankly, bartending is hard--while I can still crush the young kids in technique and knowledge, the physical recovery is tough. I'm 48 years old (I was 43 when I officially quit). I'd get up the next morning after a long night, my feet would hit the floor, and I'd say, "Ouch."

I've learned to appreciate regular daytime hours. :)

It's been great to take care of the kids myself--we've had a lot of great nurses who have also helped us with Hudsyn’s daily care, but there's nothing that can replace the comfort and security I have, knowing that I am responsible for their ultimate safety and happiness. Daddy is here when either of the kids needs me. Bottom line, I get to make sure that my kids are healthy happy, and I get to make sure that Kacy is also happy.