Alright, I want to tell you how I got my superpowers through fatherhood. I was working a job I hated, OK? And I don't know if anyone here ever worked a job they hated. Has anyone here ever worked a job they hated? OK, good, because I'm not alone and I have something to confess; I don't want you guys to judge me. This feels like a safe space, is it a safe space? Yes. OK, I was working the job I hated, my manager and I were not getting along. I was sitting in my car, looking in the rearview mirror, trying to figure out which friend I could call to call in a bomb threat, so I didn't have to go back in the building.
OK, this was having a lot of issues for me, I was having a lot of issues at my job and I'd come home every day from work and my wife would ask me the same question. And when you hate your job, this is the worst question anyone could ask you. She'd say, "Hey babe, how was your day?"
And I'd say, "Why you bringing up old stuff?" I just left it, I don't want to think about that place again. See, we were spending about 40 percent of my income on childcare. We had one child. And we were pregnant with our second child. And we were trying to figure out how we were going to fix this whole thing of this money situation, and she said, "Hey, babe, I've got a great idea." I said, "What's up?" She said, "I think you'd be a great stay-at-home dad."
I was like, "Why would you say something like that?" She said, "Because babies like you." I was like, "No, they don't." She was like, "No, they do like you. And I think it would be great for our children to see what love looks like, coming from a father." I was like, OK. So, I had issues with this, because I haven't seen a lot of stay-at-home dads before and I thought men would judge me, so get this, I said this—please don't be offended—I said, "Uh, you know, that sounds boring. And what do stay-at-home moms do all day, anyway?" Ooh!
She smiled at me a smile only a woman full of knowledge can smile and said, "Well, this should be easy for you. And it will save us some money, it seems like a no-brainer." Fast-forward six months, I'd been a stay-at-home dad for about a week. I was standing in my bathroom, looking into the mirror crying, tears—running all down my face. My one-and-a-half-year-old was banging on the bathroom door—because I locked them out, you know—crying, tears running down his face. And my newborn was in the bassinet, crying, tears running down his face. I looked at myself in the mirror, and I said, "Which friend can you call to call in a bomb threat? We've got to get out of here."
See, I had traded my manager for my children. I didn't know what I got myself into. I thought I knew everything about being a stay-at-home parent, and in fact, I knew nothing at all. Because even though my manager was—well, at least my children were a lot cuter than my manager, they were just as demanding.
Wipe my butt. Papa, wipe my butt. Wipe my butt.
What had I gotten myself into? I thought I knew everything about being a stay-at-home parent—in fact, I knew nothing. I thought that all I had to do was feed them, change their diapers, and they'd be fine. Like, I really thought that's it. "Sesame Street" on TV, keep them distracted, apple sauce in a bowl, milk in a bottle, they'd be fine. But if you leave children alone, they'll get into just a little bit of mischief.
Where is the powder?
I don't know.
Well, where did you put it, where did it—Who did it?
No, you did it! No, you did it! No, you did it! No, you did it!
You know what else I thought I knew about being a stay-at-home parent? I thought that all I had to do was take them to the park once a week, because if I took them to the park once a week, they'd be fine. In fact, I knew nothing at all. OK. If you take kids to park every day then that means they get dirty every day. If they got dirty every day, they need baths every day, if they got baths every day—I just don't think you understand, see, having two kids under two, you end up changing over 20 dirty diapers a day, OK. And if you give them a bath, that's just more nakedness.
And a higher probability of getting peed on, and no one likes getting peed on, even if it's from a baby.
But I read this article by Father Lee which cites a survey done by two detergent companies, Omo and Persil. And they did this study and it said, that at two hours a day, prisoners get more outside time than children. That convicted me and so we went outside.
See, I knew nothing about being a stay-at-home parent, and once I embraced the fact that I knew nothing, I began to learn from my new managers. And I always was told that as a stay-at-home parent, you get no sleep. Or as a parent in general, you get no sleep. But that's not true, because if you sleep when they do, you actually can get some sleep. You know what else I thought as a stay-at-home parent? I thought I knew that the best way to teach kids right from wrong was to discipline them, because that would make sure they understood right from wrong, the pain, the fear—that would teach them. But the truth is, the best way to teach my children right from wrong is to teach them. Take out a whiteboard and draw pictures and make connections that they can understand. That was the best way. A lot of these images you're seeing are coming from my YouTube channel, "Beleaf in Fatherhood." I document the misadventures of being a stay-at-home dad. And it's not perfect, it's just showing that I'm trying. And I'm not trying to be an example but just proof that it's possible for whoever else is doing this. You know what I also knew about being a stay-at-home parent? I knew that children needed love, but I just didn't know what love looked like.
It turns out putting diapers on your head and play-fighting until the kids fall asleep is a great way to love your kids. So, I was learning a lot, but it's not all fun and boogers, is it?
I asked a group of stay-at-home parents what's the hardest thing, the thing they underestimated most about being stay-at-home parents, and they said that the loneliness was one of those things. Not having someone else to talk to, feeling inadequate, feeling selfish for wanting me-time. And nursery rhymes suck.
Like, really, "Mary Had a Little Lamb" is cool the first couple of times, but after all these years on repeat, you wonder why Mary just ain't make herself a wool skirt and have lamb chops, you know what I'm saying?
The one thing I underestimated most was the emotional fatigue. See, I was an artist, so I'd write songs for other artists. Because that's how I made money from home. But when you're with your kids all day, you become emotionally tired. And that means all your creativity comes from your emotions, so you're just tapped out, you're done. So you become done with time. Nap time, time-tables, time-out, time like to cook, with all types of time, you're just done. You had no time for anything. And some people are done with their spouse as a stay-at-home parent. Because the spouse just doesn't get it. I was talking to a friend of mine, he said, "Man, I come home from work, drawers are open, clothes hanging outside the drawers, the kids are still in their pajamas... And it can't be that hard to have dinner ready when I get home, right?" Start to freak out, you know what I'm saying? He was trying to confide in me—I said, "You have no idea what you're talking about."
She wakes up every morning tired from the night before, baby attached to her breast, dropping this kid off at school, and taking this one to the park. Laundry piles up to the skies, she has a conversation on the phone for an hour with your mom about God knows what, takes the dog you wanted for a walk—and nobody died, bro. She kept your kids alive all day, that's hard."
I have become an advocate for stay-at-home parents. Why? Because finally, I was standing in their shoes. Because when you're standing in someone else's shoes, you see the world from a different perspective. And when you start to take steps, it feels like baby steps, wobbling. But then they turn into stomps. And you start making footprints for the next generation to walk in. See, we're walking on a certain path, as parents. We're all in this together. No one can deny that family is one of the biggest foundations in anyone's life. And we're all walking on this path, and we're pulling these thickets out of the way, and these thorns, making it easier for the ones coming after us. It turns out, parenting has a lot more to do with landscaping. And learning. More than teaching. And the best thing to do is to show up for class. Be present is what I learned as a stay-at-home dad. And let your presence be a gift.
Hi! This was me, coming home from tour one day. I thought that the father was supposed to pursue the child. But it turns out the father makes himself present. And the children run after him. And that right there is a superpower. And that right there, my friends, is everything. Thank you.