It happened faster than I thought it would. One day, I was a retail manager looking forward to a smooth transition, in the distant future, to the easy life of a stay-at-home dad. Then my wife got her dream job, called me from her car, and said “Quit your job, pick up the kids, get bacon.” The next day, there I was, hip-deep in laundry and old cereal boxes.
Although I did spend a few days in furious fist-pumping, this-is-awesome victory-lapping, reality set in quick. I didn’t have a handy guide to get me through those first few months on the job, but thanks to my sage experience, you do. Behold: the five stages of a stay at home dad.
1. Denial—Not from you, from your friends. Your boss. Your coworker. That one kid in IT with the hair. They’re all jealous and they’re all going to make jokes about diapers and rashes and you just have to suffer through it. This is a natural reaction to what they perceive as a ticket out of the rat race and they're experiencing a "why not me?" moment. They'll also start trying to turn you into their personal errand boy. Give them a fake number. Trust me.
2. Anger—Not from you, from your buddy and fantasy football nemesis, “Tank,” who really, really, really, can’t understand why you missed the draft.
3. Bargaining—Not from you, from your wife. She’s going to be working her tush off at the office, only to come home to a mess of blocks and blanket forts. Her happy home will morph into a minefield of unchecked toys and old shoes. She’ll beg you to take it all seriously, to make a schedule, to organize. Just stand there, letting strawberry jelly drip down your stubbly chin until she comes up with some serious offers, like a baby-free vacation to Belize or an easy chair.
4. Depression—Not from you, from your dog. If there were a thought bubble over your mutt, it would be filled with urgent questions: “What is this new hairless creature you’ve let into the house? Why can’t it walk on all fours? Remember the good ole’ days when you used to jog with me? We used to play catch, we used to lie around and not do nothing. I used to sleep in your bed.”
5. Acceptance—Not from you, from everyone you know. They’ll eventually get used to you and your spotty hygiene. They’ll grow to love the beard. They’ll start accepting your drooly epaulets as badges of honor. And They’ll quit expecting to see you at anything remotely adult and start being pleasantly surprised when they do.
Christopher "Bull" Garlington is a syndicated humor columnist and co-author of the popular foodie compendium, The Beat Cop’s Guide to Chicago Eats. He is the writer behind the infamous parenting blog “Death by Children,” and won the 2012 Silver Award for best humor column from Parenting Media Association.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.