You can’t escape Cavedad…

I think of myself as a fairly modern and well-adjusted dad, though it occurs to me that my list of ‘dad behaviours to avoid’ may be based too much on TV and unrealistic scenarios. I grew up during the sensitive 80s, and the message was that real men are now in touch with their emotions and this wasn’t the case before. But there is every chance that there were great, affectionate dads in the 50s and 60s, way more demonstrative than Ward Cleaver. The challenge is to find good, realistic role models to compare yourself to. I’d advise against comparing yourself to anyone, but that’s a part of your normal human development. Just don’t set the bar impossibly high.

Still, no matter how comfortable I am with our current family plan (the wife working and me staying home with the lad), it only takes a whisper of a hint of money troubles to tap into my well of dad guilt. As soon as the prospect of cash getting tight is mentioned, I feel like I am failing to follow one of the dad Prime Directives. (And yes, I understand ‘Prime’ implies a singular directive, mister pickypants. I’m using it in a plural sense anyway, so there.) As a manly man father, I should be earning the big paychecks and buying things for the family. Besides scaring off the ever threatening sabretooth tigers, bringing home the bacon is one of my important duties.

When this money panic sets in, it doesn’t matter that we decided as a family to try this arrangement out, and that I’m working on my writing and seeing real improvement. The man guilt is wired deep down in my perception of gender roles, and it is mighty powerful when triggered.All of the calm rationalization goes out of the window and I enter a state of paralytic guilty terror, which of course keeps me from doing anything productive, and so the shame spiral begins! The notion that I could possibly make a modest living by selling my made-up stories to internet strangers starts to sound pretty crazy and unattainable.

To be honest, I don’t want to go back to a regular job. My last one ground me down and broke my brain, and I’m not jazzed about going back. The real issue, though,  is that I want to keep spending my days with the little dude. The plan, at least in my head, was for me to stay at home with him until he heads off to kindergarten in 16 months. I will go back to some kind of lame part-time night job when we need the cash, but I really don’t want to go back full-time and give up this time at home with my highly excitable, sometimes infuriating, but always entertaining Maxwell.

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6 thoughts on “You can’t escape Cavedad…

  1. Actually I have exactly the same feelings about being at home and I’m the woman in the equation. The pressures on all of us to be and do everything are just ridiculous. Eat mince every night…looks like we will be. 🙂

  2. The key is that you have a plan. Be a full-time parent to Max until he starts school and save money on daycare costs. Keep your income low to get the maximum deduction on K’s tax return. Grow your writing income. Pick-up some part-time job hours or work a contract when Max enters school. It’s a sensible, realistic plan.

    Self-employed people need to set objectives and write down how they intend to accomplish them. You’re the boss, so boss yourself. What is your writing income for May going to be? To get it, what do you need to do? How many jobs will it take, where will the jobs come from, how many phone calls or e-mails do you need to make to score the jobs … break it all down so that each day you know exactly the tasks to accomplish. Now you’re earning the income you planned to earn in May. Maybe it’s only a few $100, but you planned it and achieved it. You’re the boss, you have a plan and you’re in control.

    One of my challenges being self-employed is that there’s no end of work to do, both for my business and home. I’m often distracted by the home chores that need to be done. I try to ignore them and focus on business work to be done. But often I need the change of pace or simply the feeling of order that I get from finishing chores. It puts me in an in-control state of mind that helps when I return to run the business.

  3. In order to put this in perspective, look at it from the other scenario. If you were at work all day in an office across town, would you also feel guilt and shame that Max is not with one of his parents, so that you can earn about $5 an hour (after you deduct child care expenses, transportation, dry cleaning, etc.) 16 months is not a lot of time in your life, but it is a lot of time in toddler/pre-schooler development.

    What would be a good compromise is to put Max into a pre-school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so that he can get important socialization time before he starts regular school, and it will also free up some time for you to do some writing or part-time work. It’s not easy being a parent full time either. If you take care of yourself, you’ll have more energy and less anxiety about taking care of Kristen and Max.

    –V.

  4. Some times my dear you are the boss that is too hard on the undeserving employee. Everyday you give me the strength to go off and do the job I love while you do the job(s) you love. You work harder than most as you watch Max all day and write for profit (and love) until long into the night. You are loving, supportive and cook a great meal. We provide our son with all the potty treats and puzzles he could ever want. We don’t provide him with the toy on every commercial he sees (especially right now when he asks for every one) because it wouldn’t be healthy for him to learn that he gets everything he asks for. I think we provide health examples to our son about happiness, finances, and priorities.

    thank you for the work you do everyday!

  5. I don’t think I could say anything more to add to the wise council already given to you other then listen to them all. (but particularly the third commenter!)

    • You are all wise beyond your years, and I thank you for the support and continued readership.
      Superthanks to the wife-love ya, honey.

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