My husband’s active role in raising our kids is crucial in our family. During both parental leaves, I urged to go back to work and he took the lead in caring for our kids at home. Finland is quite avant-garde when it comes to parental roles, but in other countries there’s plenty of work to do when it comes to family policies and social perception. Months ago, I have started this blog series to give stay-at-home dads visibility and a small platform to share their feelings, perspective, daily life. Today I’m hosting Leopold from Stay At Home Storyteller, a US based father of two supercute twins.
My twins turned two this week. I’ve been a Stay at Home Dad for two years. It seems like both a long time and not that long at all. But my wife’s and my parental journey actually started more than two years ago.
The First Part of Our Journey
We tried, unsuccessfully, to get pregnant for 2-3 years after we got married. There were many cyclical months of hope, anxiousness, and despair and then looking towards the next month as we tried to start our family. We thought something might be wrong and so we sought out a medical consultation. My wife and I found out that naturally having kids would be very difficult and IVF gave us the best opportunity to have kids. A lot of prayer, thought, and anxiety followed on our journey. We both came from loving families and we both wanted to be parents, so we decided to move forward with IVF. Even with our new hope of having a plan in place, the anxiousness never went away. And we learned through our own hurt and loss that not all fertilized embryos make the transfer or become viable.
But it was the greatest joy when we found out we had a viable pregnancy with TWO little friends in there. The hurt, the pain, the frustration all became worth it seeing those two little ones at our first ultrasound. Even with the anxiety and fear with having to induce 7+ weeks early and having Jacob and Lily spend 3 weeks in the NICU, we knew how blessed we were.
We had great medical staff in our NICU, but the initial experience is very disorienting. Having the babies being rushed out of the delivery room surrounded by a medical team and having to leave my wife, even though I “knew” that was going to happen, can tear your heart in two. I wanted to be with my wife and reassure her but I needed to be with our two new babies and try to remember everything that I was being told. I didn’t remember 90% of what I was being told. I just wanted to hold my wife or hold my new babies. But all I could do was stand and watch as my kids were being intubated and hooked up to wires and tubes.
But that is just part of our story. The next part of our story, the story of “now” and the last two years, is the fun part.
The Second Part Our Journey
I read in one of my “Dad” books while Emily was pregnant that during pregnancy, mothers and fathers will envision their children differently. Mothers will picture them as babies and snuggling with them. Fathers will picture them 4ish-7ish years old actively playing with them. And, honestly, that was how I was picturing the twins. I wanted to be playing with them, roughhousing with them, making them laugh, having movie nights, playing LEGOs, beating them at board games, and things of that nature. So, even though I was looking forward to all aspects of being a dad, that’s what I’ve been most looking forward to.
Having just turned two, Jacob and Lily have been at an awesome age where they are delightful to take on outings. We love to go to the zoo, to the park, to Grandma and Grandpa’s pool, shopping, on visits to family and friends, or just outside to have lunch on our patio. They love to play and explore. I love to watch them learn new things and new words. It’s incredible to see their minds making connections and learning.
Being a stay at home dad is still a relatively new concept in our society. For our family, it made the most sense for me to stay home. And I love it. But there are still times that I can tell that it’s hard for others to accept. At the grocery store or out shopping, I’ll get random comments or questions such as “Oh it’s dad’s day today, how nice”, “Giving mom a break, good for you”, or people giving me suggestions on where to take my kids or what to do with them as if I were at a loss with what to do with them and that was why we were at the store.
I try to be kind in return because, yes, my wife deserves every break she can get (although she’s generally at work when these comments are made) and the suggestions are sometimes (not usually) things that I’ve not done or thought of. And if it casually comes out in these minute conversations that I actually stay home with the kids while my wife is off working, I can see the quick confusion and slight embarrassment on their face as they quickly end the conversation with an “oh, good for you” and walk away.
I cannot change society’s perception. I can just continue to not be embarrassed to be a Stay at Home Dad. It’s the most fun, most exciting, most challenging thing I could be doing. Society will catch up.
The Next Part of Our Journey
Looking ahead is something that Emily and I need to remind ourselves to do so with caution. We know that we are the type of parents that are always anxious and looking at the milestones that we should be checking off with our kids.
Why aren’t they rolling over yet? Should they be crawling by now? Uh oh, are they behind in their walking? Why can’t they talk yet? Should they be talking? When do we start potty training?
We will sometimes get so focused on each stage of development that we forget to appreciate the growth that is happening and that has happened. We worried for so long that they were behind in walking. But that worry was for naught, as they both walk, run, and gallop all over the place now.
But those anxieties and milestones aside, we do still look ahead. There will be school and school trips. There will be activities and/or sports. We love theatre and music in our house, so we’re looking forward to pushing (not forcing, more nudging) the arts. We are looking forward to all these things.
And I know how lucky I am to be their Dad and to able to be there for them through this all.
About the author
I’m Leopold. I’m a Dad in my early 30s who loves to write and share stories. I share those stories through my blog (stayathomestoryteller.wordpress.com) as well as on Facebook (@stayathomestoryteller) and on Twitter (@leopoldshircel). I share stories of my life with my wife (Emily), twins (Jacob and Lily), and dog (Colby) as well as stories and poems covering other themes and topics as well. We live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the US.