When Emily went back to work last September I began a new career: I became an at-home dad. I was reluctant to even consider it as an option when Erin was born, because I feared derailing my academic career, interrupting my pursuit of my vocation. But in the weeks leading up to Emily’s return to the workforce I came to like the idea more and more, and I embraced it by the time her first day arrived.
It has been one of the least-regretted, most joyous and rewarding decisions I’ve ever made. My doubts seem ridiculous now.
Not because my career hasn’t been derailed, the pursuit of my vocation interrupted, because this has absolutely happened. But I don’t feel the tragedy of it.
On Emily’s first day of work I began writing e-mails to Erin. At first I’d write them every day, just short or long notes, summing up a day or letting her know about what new milestone she reached, or just using her as a sounding board for whatever was in my head. Eventually many of those thoughts were turned into other kinds of writing, and the pace of e-mails slowed. But it never stopped. In this past year I’ve written two hundred and eighteen e-mails to Erin: Mundane, inane, boring, silly, sappy, funny, advisory, confessional e-mails.
And now I bookend them.
Not because I’ll cease writing them. But because I’ll no longer be writing them from the same place.
My year is up. And today (because I’m up after midnight, unable to sleep for thinking about it) I resume my former life, insofar as any life can be resumed in any form resembling itself once your child makes her presence known and felt. In a few short, too short, hours I will be heading back to campus, back to classes, and papers, and advisors and students and professors and bureaucrats and textbooks and ancient thoughts.
Erin won’t be going into full-time daycare for another week and half. I’ll be keeping my days on campus short this week, and Emily will be staying home for a couple of hours in the morning until I return. But today is the official end of my year as a stay at home dad.
Here is the final part of Number 218:
I am not ready to go back to school. I’m not ready to shift gears from full-time dad, or Stay-At-Home-Dad, as we SAHDs call ourselves :}, to student. I’ve been away a long time, and I’m not sure I have the enthusiasm or the academic chops for this anymore.
But I’m going back to finish what I started. I have a vocation, a calling, to be a teacher. To teach philosophy to kids who are ready to ask those questions, and to incorporate the philosophical method into their lives as a way of holding the insufferable, agonizing stupidity of much of the world at bay. Your tota, and your grandfather both want me to go back and finish. Your mom wants me to go back and finish. And I want to go back, even though I don’t feel up to it.
You will probably run into a situation like this in your own life, in which you feel inadequate to a challenge, or that you don’t have the stamina for an especially long task or commitment. So I’m going back for you, too. So that you will always have that example in your life of someone who did finish what he started, even when he doubted himself. I’m Luke, returning to Dagobah (I hope you understand this reference, because if you don’t I have utterly failed you as a Geek Dad.)
Good night, folks. I’ll see you in the morning. After class.