Around Father’s Day in 2019 I had a fatherhood moment. I was hired to write an article detailing how I became a stay-at-home dad, and was booked to speak of my experiences on the same topic on a local radio radio talk show within a few days of each other. For the first time in a long time I was in demand for something more than lunch prep, errand running and kid appointment shuttling. Both went well and gave me a great chance to reflect on what being a stay-at-home dad meant to me. (And talking with other adults and earning a little money for the article didn’t hurt.)

Jones Family
Enjoying the PiancoVallo ski area north of Venice in Summer 2019. Remember when we could travel?

Little did I know that Father’s Day 2020 would fall a week after I wrapped up 3 months of a cobbled together remote learning school year brought on by everyone’s favorite pandemic. As husbands of Doctors I’m sure a lot of the burden for this seismic shift fell on us–SAHD or no. I found myself as a zoom concierge, tutor and task minder for our 4 kids. In addition I became an occupational therapist, speech therapist and ABA therapist to our autistic child. Yes there was a therapist on the other side of the computer, but someone had to sit and make sure it happened.

We are back into a routine now. My children are 14, 9, 7 and 6. The youngest three are actually attend school in-person 4 days a week. My oldest is in 8th grade (missed the cutoff by 4 days) and although we have teen drama at times he is a good student and fairly conscientious about his school work. So I find myself with more time than I expected several days a week. I have time to ride the Peloton, prepare meals in my Instant Pot and even put my feet up on my very modest $7,000 coffee table (DMD inside joke) while watching The Mandalorian.

It was in the midst of this idyllic scene that a friend e-mailed me and asked me if I would consider working again. She was working for a start up and they needed someone to manage social media and help with their marketing efforts. I even posted about it in the Stay at Home DMD (SAHDMD) group for opinions. I scheduled a few calls and wasn’t sure what to do. The opportunity seemed interesting. I had never worked as a start up before and I was being asked to create the function from the ground up–something good for the resume. Yes I had more time than I expected, but there was still a lot going on. Lots of appointments, meetings and challenges to deal with. Lots going on with our teenager. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to add work back into the mix.

“When are you going back to work?” is a question often asked of stay-at-home dads. Probably more often than it is asked of our female counterparts. I had already decided that a “normal” office job wouldn’t work for my family. But because of covid everything was remote. The CEO was a mom with kids and alway said “family first.” I could define my schedule. I talked to my wife and we agreed to why not try it?

Living the dream.

For those SAHDMDs considering the return to work, here are a few things I learned as I moved from stay-at-home to work-from-home dad.

Stick with Your Schedule

If you find a job with a schedule that is flexible (the only reason I considered this one)–stick to it. Originally I told the CEO I would not be available Wednesdays as it was a remote day for all my kids. I have to sit with my youngest every minute. Little by little things kept creeping in–calls, projects, deadlines, etc. I should have just kept the boundary I set and said “No, I am not available on Wednesdays as we agreed.”

Outsource Key Tasks

I started using grocery delivery services again while I worked from home. Whatever available services I could use to get something off my plate I did it. Our weekly take out night shifted from the weekend to during the week when I had had enough. If it wasn’t the pandemic I would have considered cleaners again. Even if you are not working a “job” using services can provide sanity.

Involve the Family

No, your children should not type up agendas for you, but they should know about the changes happening and how it could impact them. Although they knew I was working I didn’t really prepare them for what it meant for their day to day. I initially was going to say “no” but my wife helped me realize it was worth trying it out.

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

You have skills and expertise and your time has value. I was excited by the opportunity and I didn’t want to price myself out of it so I took a lower hourly rate than I was worth. Friends of mine helped me realize later how to better price my services in the future–one rate for transactional things like social posts, a higher rate for more involved things like creating strategy documents or marketing plans. You are choosing to take time away from your family so make sure it is financially worth it.

In the end my foray into working from home was only 2.5 months. The company didn’t hit its revenue targets and decided to move budget away from me to other resources. I was proud of the work I did for them. I created a clever and fun social media campaign that helped secure some needed sales. I brought a lot of order to their chaotic marketing efforts. I can say that I created value for them while I was there. It felt really good to work again and flex my MBA muscles.

That said, once I submitted my final invoice and posted my last files to the group drive I felt a huge weight off my shoulders, and I felt equally as good to resume my normal schedule and take care of the things that had fallen through the cracks.

Will I ever get a job again? I don’t know. There will always be things that benefit from having a parent at home. I’ve definitely learned what it will need to look like for me to feel successful should I choose to do it again.

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