A stay-at-home dad spends time on his devices during the day


This Is What It Feels Like When Other Stay-At-Home Parents Go Back to Work

Jan 29, 2019

When I was growing up, I could ring a friend’s doorbell after school and expect a parent — usually their mom — to answer the door and yell my name up the stairs without me needing to tell them what my name was.

There was no daycare at my elementary school and latchkey kids were few and far between. But it’s not like that anymore.

These days, it’s easy to feel like the only at-home parent in the world. And the only thing lonelier than feeling that way is watching the cohort of parent buddies who you’ve discovered and befriended head back to work when their pat leave or mat leave wraps up.

Relevant Reading: I Think There Should Be Buddy Benches for Lonely Parents Like Me

It. Is. Brutal.

I know this because I have passed through that particular meat grinder. I have done it in rapid succession with each of my three glorious children, who were born at intervals of roughly a year-and-a-half apart.

But before I dive into my lonesome tale of woe, I’d like to make something perfectly clear: heading back to work after an intense bout of parenting is pretty rough, too. I’m just lucky to have less experience with that particular trauma.

Back To Work Can Mean Back to Basics 

I could go into exactly which parent buddies I’ve lost and just why they were so important to me and how there’s a void their size in my day moving forward. But that really feels like your everyday sort of loss. People move on. 

The real sucker punch is the struggle I feel I went through forging those connections in the first place. Making good friends is hard work. Making ordinary friends, while parenting, can feel like a monumental achievement.

Yes, I’ve made “friends” where I could, like at parks and play groups. But the barriers to forging real bonds in those places seem countless. Heck, getting a kid to a play group at all can be a monumental achievement at times.

Then you arrive and remember that parents don’t pick the friends, as you chat once again with the mom of that kid your kid can’t get enough of and with whom you share nothing beyond a sense of amicable obligation.

Yes, that special brand of lonely.

Relevant Reading: How I Keep My Sanity as a Stay-at-Home Parent

That's why, when I meet someone who punches through that tedium and our kids get along and that someone doesn’t mind if you’re fifteen minutes — or maybe it was an hour — late for that park meetup, it it something exceptional. It's that special kind of bond where you genuinely look forward to talking to them, even if it is just about laundry.

For me, it is the feeling that I am not alone.

For stay-at-home parents, it can be a rare feeling. And once you’ve had that feeling it can be very hard to let it go. 

Keeping in Touch 

Have I made new parenting buddies on my various forays through the meat grinder? You bet I have, but it's never easy. It is always tough to feel as though you are starting over. If a challenge for new parents is finding their way without maps or signposts, a challenge for me as a serial parent is the painfully clear understanding of the hurdles that lie ahead, and knowing that I'll probably have to jump over them again.

But I've made an effort to ensure that just because someone goes back to work, it isn't the end.

That's why I stay in touch with my past parenting buddies. In fact, a few years back one of my dearest at-home-dad friends recruited me to help him organize a social club for stay-at-home fathers for exactly these kinds of reasons. We try to meet once a month or so if we can.

This means I get to meet up with many of my favourite dads on a regular basis and even meet a few new ones who may still may still be in the throes of it. 

We all try to be supportive and just keep the fatherly advice to a minimum.

Article Author Rob Thomas
Rob Thomas

Read more from Rob here.

Rob Thomas is a writer, editor and a work-at-home dad. Brood, a book of poems inspired by his experiences of fatherhood, was launched at the Ottawa International Writers Festival in 2014. His journalism has appeared in places such as Ottawa Magazine, the United Church Observer, Canadian Running and on CBC radio and television. He is also a founding member of an Ottawa social club for dads called The Ugly Mothers.

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