Stay-at-Home Dad

After months of real hard thinking, Zak has finally given his bosses his notice yesterday: when I go back to work, he will take my place and stay at home with our son.

Making this decision has been a real roller-coaster ride. I have no choice but to go back to work, as my employer topped up my EI benefits for the whole maternity leave year with the condition that I go back to work for at least a year. Not to mention that I earn more money than my husband does and I enjoy the stability and all the benefits that come with a government job. With the possible recession coming up, those were things we could not risk losing. But the question was: day care, or Zak at home?

The first possibility came with several issues, the first one being that we will not have a spot in day care by the time I go back to work even though we have been on the waiting lists since I found out I was pregnant (we actually went DOWN 10 spots on the list in the past few months due to the priority given to Concord Pacific condo owners). We would probably have been able to find private child care, but that scared us a bit since it is not as regulated as day care centres are. Also, child care here is extremely expensive: more than $1000 a month, which makes a huge dent in a second income (and if and when we have another child, it becomes rather ridiculous to work for the small amount of money that would be left after paying for daycare). Most importantly, though, we are hoping to instill certain values to our son and since we are already going against the modern materialistic trends, we figured that being cared for by a parent full-time would be the best way to fight back and raise him like we wish he was raised.Of course, there are also other considerations. Staying home with Elliot would allow Zak to volunteer, take a step back and think of what he really wants to do with his life in order to feel useful on the planet. Daycare doesn’t allow the use of cloth diapers, which are very important for us for their environmental, health and money-saving benefits. The kinds of toys we have been avoiding (plastic, vinyl, anything advertising a brand or TV character) would be unavoidable in daycare. Also, if Elliot went to daycare, and since Zak is never certain of when he will be able to get out of work, I know that on most days I would be the one leaving work in a hurry to stop at the grocery store and pick up what is missing for supper, rush to daycare to pick up our son, go home, take the dog out for his afternoon constitutional (with Elliot on my back), then try to cook supper with a baby attached to my hip (or leg, or…). Meals would have to be quicker, which almost always mean less healthy. Then we would have to juggle cleaning, laundry, everything in the evening or on weekends. Just thinking about it all makes me dizzy. And where would the quality time with our baby be?

Zak’s mom stayed home with him and his sister until he was in middle school, and he still remembers coming home from school to home-made popcorn for a snack and listening to the radio with his mom. He cherished those memories and he wishes our boy can have the same kind of moments.

But there are also some downsides to staying at home, the main one being the loss of an income. Daycare is expensive, but it’s tax-deductible, although you still have to pay for it month to month. We can afford to live on my income, but our lifestyle will have to change. Zak also had to decide for himself if he will feel valued enough in his daddy functions to stay sane. He was never the kind of man to fight tooth and nail to climb the corporate ladder, but still, society doesn’t value stay-at-home mothers much and considers stay-at-home dads nothing but an anomaly. There are activities to do with Elliot, he will probably meet other dads in his situation and eventually build a network, but still, it will be a huge change (and challenge) for him. He will probably be able to do some contract work on the side to keep his skills up-to-date (and help balance our budget), but that will take much of his free time and he may still have trouble rejoining the job market in a field like his (web development) that evolves so fast.

That is why in the end, I felt that it had to be Zak’s decision so he could live with it. And yesterday, he made it official at his work. He’s still scared about the future, but he feels like this is the best thing for our son. And I’m confident that once he gets a routine established, he will love being a full-time dad. He has tons of imagination and playfulness so I’m sure they’ll have a blast together. By the time I go back to work Elliot will most likely be walking, he’ll be old enough to ride on a bike (trailer)… It will be a fun time and I’m sure they’ll form a strong bond enjoyed by few other fathers.

So here’s to the next chapter of our life, starting August 2008. Children sure do change your life…

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