Two months into full-time daddyhood, and boy has it felt like an eternity.
Seeing as I am doing something that goes against the grain (SAHDs are few and far in between), writing this post might provide everyone with an insight on how it feels like to be one.
SAH – Stay At Home
This is a killer for a lot of people. Work has become a means of socialisation for many, and to take that away is akin to shutting oneself in a jail cell. I’m fine with this bit though, just means I have to be much more proactive in arranging catchup sessions.
There is a definite social bias associated with this role.
(I should really stop calling this a job, since a job usually involves monetary remuneration, and I sure as hell am getting zilch. Calling this a role fits the context much better.)
Despite equality of the sexes being touted as widely prevalent today, the traditional mindset of men being the breadwinner nevertheless persists. This is especially true for the older generation, and for Asians in particular. The man is expected to be the pillar of the family and to bring the bacon home. Some people might respect you for being a SAHD, but expect a certain amount of disdain to come your way. They may not say it out loud, but body language speaks volumes.
In a society where money reigns supreme above all else, this factor is definitely unavoidable. Pride is placed on the ability to earn, and the social metric more often than not is the amount of dough you bring home. The SAHD earns nothing (at least I don’t), and so your spot on the social ladder is sure to take a hard hit.
We see people being lauded for earning millions of dollars, but is there ever popular admiration for the best parent in the world? I doubt it.
The quality of home chores and childcare are intangibles; you cannot accurately measure them in terms of value unless they were to be compared with outsourced labour. Much like how the difference between a good programmer and a crap programmer is, the value cannot be measured by money alone.
How do you quantify dedication of your entire life to childcare, and compare it to say, a full-time job that you work thirty-eight hours a week on? The fact is, you can’t. In fact, I would go as far as to say that working a full-time job is way easier than being a full-time carer. There are defined hours, defined tasks, defined metrics for performance, defined benefits, and best of all a defined salary package.
Compare the above with a role that is summed up in a sentence: “Take care of the house and kid all the time.” Defined benefits? Please.
The SAHD deals with intangibles. Much like how IT is a support arm within the company and not a profit-making one, the SAHD is much the same – a cost center, and not a revenue arm. At best, we can be thought of as cost-saving personnel.
The denominator comes down to dollars and cents. If a task can be outsourced, appreciation for the task is reduced. People as always, are prone to voicing out on negative issues rather than positive ones. Complaints come in a flood, compliments and appreciation a trickle if any.
To use an analogy, you could liken it to the difference between sales and IT support. The sales guy is always a hero, especially if he clinches a big deal. The IT support? Not so much. If something goes down, you are screwing up. If everything is working fine, you fade into the woodwork. When was the last time you actually went around to your IT department and said: “Good job guys, everything’s working well!”
In my years of work, the only comments I have ever heard from non-IT workers about the IT department have been negative ones. “My computer is having problems again!” “My email is not working!” “The server is so slow!”
And that’s how things will be in this role as a full-time dad. Keep your head down and work at it. Don’t hold your breath waiting for a pat on the back and a beer for a job well done though, it’s gonna be a long time coming – if ever.
The real reward
Well how about that? This post has been a tide of negativity so let me end things with a tiny ray of sunlight. The one redeeming reason that is worth every single bit of this thankless role, is to see your child growing with each day, and the joy in knowing that you are the one tending to her every need.
I’m 100% certain Elly will never remember this part of her life when her old man took care of her. Nor will I expect tears of gratitude or payback in any form or manner. What will stay with me is satisfaction in a job done, and that I stayed responsible, true to what I believed in and held up my end of the deal.
It’s akin to the pride of a craftsman, where satisfaction comes from knowing you did your part in making something good, even if no one else can see the sweat and effort that went into it.
That, is exactly what I feel.