On November 2, 2009, I was laid off from my job as the Creative Director of a living history park. It was a Monday morning that started off like any other for two new parents, hectic. I still remember where I was standing in the kitchen when I got the call from my boss, checking to see if I was coming in that day. He asked that I to come straight to his office when I got there. I hung up the phone with an ominous feeling in my stomach.
That feeling turned out to be right. A short time later I was sitting across from him as he blew sunshine where it did not belong, telling me how this was an extremely hard decision and he had been up half the night and blah blah blah. They wanted to go in a new direction they told me, get someone with marketing experience in there. Completely blindsided, I sat there dumbfounded. Not quite two years earlier I had been hired as the graphic designer for the park. I never pretended to be a marketing genius; in fact, I had told them I did not know much about it. I only took on the role because they fired the marketing person for not doing his job. I took the role with the understanding that I would only do it for a short time until we could find someone else, someone with more training than I. None the less, I loved my job, and I was excited to go to work everyday. I may have been learning on the fly, but I was doing a heck of a job, giving 200% every day.
I walked out of his office mad and scared, slamming the door behind me. In my office, I paced around in circles, running my hands through my hair trying to get my bearings. I walked outside and took another deep breath. The park is over 400 acres with all sorts of buildings. I headed for one I was sure no one would be at and sat down on the porch exhausted. I looked at the buildings, I looked out over the valley, I stared at my blackberry, wondering how I was going to tell Erin. Then I just sat there with my head in my hands trying to catch my breath, trying to get my head around it all. I called a co-worker who was out working on the property. I had just gotten approval for her daughter to come into the marketing department to help me out. I was the marketing department, and I knew she was going to be replacing me. After talking with them for a bit I got in my car and drove home, still wondering how I was going to tell Erin. Thankfully I was never the bread winner in the family. Still, the pain of being out of work again weighed on me; by the time I pulled into the driveway my plan was set. I would get a job in a restaurant. Since college it had been my standard fall-back plan when times were lean. That way I could at least contribute to the household income. I was the man of the house after all. I stood outside our front door, the key poised in my hand, staring at the lock, trying to find words. I walked inside and right away Erin knew something was wrong. I told her what had happened and of my plan. She told me there was no way I was going to wait tables, I hated waiting tables, and that I could stay home with Noah. The running joke since the beginning of our relationship was that I had found myself a sugar-momma and someday I would be a house husband. It was mostly a joke and since I had a job I loved, a job we had stayed in the state for, that idea was never brought up when we found out we were going to have a baby.
Now we were at a cross roads and I had a choice to make. Did I really want to be a stay-at-home dad? At first I was on the fence; I figured I could go out on my own. After all I had a healthy list of contacts and I had all kinds of experience. We figured why not give it a try, I was going to work from home anyway. I set to about creating a company. Soon Erin went back to work and I was a full-time dad, trying to juggle starting a business, caring for a baby, and doing some consulting work for our church. The day it took me an hour and half to write a ten line e-mail was the day I realized I had a choice to make. I could be a stay-at-home dad or I could be a Graphic Designer, but I could not be both. It did not take me very long to make my decision.
2 thoughts on “From Graphic Designer to Stay at Home Dad”
My Dear Former Co-Worker and forever Good Friend,
I must agree with your Dad and his statement about the chasm. I hope you know that there are not too many days that go buy that your regular influence is not missed in my life. I have a bit of your handiwork hanging in my office because each time I see it, your here too. The noble way you conduct your life is inspiring to me and my family. A line from the musical Wicked runs through my mind when I think about you Erin and Noah, you have left “a hand print on my heart”. That is certainly no Blah, Blah, Blah.
And what a wise decision it was. What a wonderful gift for Noah and, I should hope, for you. I don’t know what I would have done in similar circumstances. There is such a chasm between our generation in many ways and I’m not sure I could have managed to make the decision that you made. I commend you; I am so very proud of you for writing about it. I hope that it will help other stay at home dads as they consider the decision they have made.