Dad loads dishwasher as daughter looks on


My 84-Month Paternity Leave Is Over And I’m Terrified To Go Back To Work

May 1, 2019

It was early October of 2011 when the owner of my company came into town to meet with me. The topic? I was to be selected as the next general manager of our small computer shop. He took me to a fancy restaurant and told me that he was so excited, and I told him I was as well. That’s when he told me that we were closing the store.

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I was about two months away from becoming a father for the first time and I was facing a dramatic change. The incredibly short story is that we decided that during my unemployment period I would begin working part-time for his newly formed consulting company, a merger with another company. That merger went absolutely nowhere. I did months of unpaid work and I was left at home with a newborn, no job and no immediate employment prospects.

Suddenly I have a boss that didn't say 'I do' 10 years ago and promise to be with me in partnership no matter what.

But what we did next worked well for us: I stayed home with the baby. We were incredibly lucky that this was possible. My wife became the sole breadwinner and I became adept at being peed on.

I had some work, now and then — existing relationships turned to freelance contracts, freelance contracts turned to consulting gigs, and most recently, consulting gigs turned into my first real employment in seven years.

The return to work should be an exciting one, but for me it’s terrifying.

It’s terrifying because for the past seven years, the measure of my success has primarily been centered on whether or not the kids were still alive when my wife returned home from work. Suddenly I have someone to report to. Suddenly I have a boss that didn't say 'I do' 10 years ago and promise to be with me in partnership no matter what.

I’ve talked to so many stay-at-home parents, mostly moms, over the past seven years about the transition from home to office and the story is always the same: “Can I really do this?”

Sometimes they’ve only been home for a year or two, but the idea of going back into the workforce is scary. I’ve been working on my own business, successfully, for the last five years or so. I’ve been able to work with clients I really liked and, as time has gone on, I’ve been able to say no to clients that I haven’t. Suddenly, I will have a boss. I have someone who decides what I will do, when I will do it and how we will determine if I’ve been successful.

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Parenting causes us to call into question whether or not we’re good at anything. Never, in any position in my entire life, have I felt less capable as a human being than I have as a stay at home dad. But there are skills that you learn taking care of kids that you just can’t learn in any other position on the planet.

The longer I stayed at home, the more I felt like I was never going to go back to work.

My ability to manage timelines and schedules to the second has never been better. Have you ever tried to get kids dressed in fancy clothes and winter coats to go to an event that starts a specific time? It’s a form of wizardry. Ranking things in order of importance was something I always struggled with. What should I do now? What should I do next? Suddenly balancing a couple of meetings and a little work becomes easy.

The longer I stayed at home, the more I felt like I was never going to go back to work. I felt I was needed at home. But parenting is a lot like built in obsolescence — if you do it right, they don’t need you anymore. My kids no longer need me to be there every second. They don’t need me to pick them up every day.

What does this mean for me?

I’ve spent almost a decade with the identity of “stay-at-home dad” and it’s been enough. I’m proud of what I’ve done. However, a guy can dream and there are dreams that I have that don’t have anything to do with LEGO, or Peppa Pig. Going back to the office has meant that I get to try to live for myself a little bit.

You can go back to work after the first year, or the second. Or apparently the seventh. You have things to offer. Is it going to be a challenge? Yes. Will you mistakenly wear a Wu Tang toque on your first day of work? Possibly. Will this be another exciting chapter that makes you a better person and ultimately a better parent?

Only one way to find out — and I plan on doing just that.

Article Author Mike Tanner
Mike Tanner

Mike Tanner is a full-time, stay-at-home father of two and small business owner in Halifax, N.S. He is 37-year-old, married, and the father of a 5-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl. When not trying to stop Wrestlemania from breaking out in his living room he builds websites, manages social media accounts and produces content for a variety of organizations.

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