Your 9th birthday’s just a week away. Gosh, where did the time go?
You know, as I look back over the past two years and my decision to step away from a stable full-time job and into the role of a stay at home dad, I would very much like to believe that you were my sole reason for making this life-changing decision.
After all, when one’s child gets diagnosed as a special needs kid, you know as a loving and dutiful parent that big shifts and fast decisions must be made on the home front. Most notably the need for at least one parent to be more present at home with the kid than ever before.
But if I were to be perfectly honest with myself, I know that my decision to be a stay home dad since 2018 wasn’t all that noble and altruistic.
So Caleb, if you’re reading this one day years from now, daddy apologises. You were not the only reason for the decision.
You see, when I decided to leave my job, there were both push and pull factors apart from you.
For a start, I had grown weary and frustrated with my work. All that talk about teaching as a calling and a passion had begun to wear down heavily on me in the last few years, like a thick and oversized winter coat. Each day felt so much like the last, and there didn’t seem to be anything more I could offer my students. I had also grown despondent over my prospects for career growth and promotion. The hoops I needed to jump through just seemed so pointless and even offensive to your idealistic daddy, who still holds naively to the notion that my hard work and commitment in the classroom ought to be enough to please those who hold the future of my career in the palm of their hands. This, despite knowing all too well that the working world demands more presentation than perspiration!
Actually I had already started to feel this burnout since 2016 when I marked ten years in the institution I was teaching in. I felt then that I already had nothing new to offer my students, even though just two years prior, I had fulfilled my dreams of completing a Masters degree in mass communication, in part to further inform my teaching. So I decided to do what I always did when standing at these career crossroads.
I hit the books again.
I went back to school in 2017 and completed a year long specialist diploma course in digital and social media strategies, believing industry pundits that this was the next big thing. Along the way, I connected with course trainers who also ran their own private consultancy. They understood my restlessness and introduced a strong pull factor in early 2018 by offering me a training/consultancy job with them, one that allowed me to work from home most of the time so that I could be with you and your brother more, and be a stay home dad.
I took up the offer, believing at that time that it was the best possible solution for my conundrum. Oh how wrong was I!
What I failed to factor into consideration was who I was, and what skills I did and did not have, as I ventured from the unsatisfactory but predictable and safe, to the exciting but faster-paced and unknown. And that probably began what was to be my meteoric descent into the abyss, culminating in my tail-between-my-legs slink and sink, as I bowed in defeat and retreated home full-time to lick my bleeding battle wounds, and to my old teaching place to beg for work.
In short, I had thrown my hat into the ring and came up empty. I was, quite simply, unsuitable for that consultancy job.
I thought at the time that I could prove to everyone that I can successfully transition from a safe government job to a brand new private sector career at the ripe old age of 48, and that others who opted to stay put were just scaredy-cats who lacked my bravado.
On hindsight now, I see that it was nothing but foolhardiness on my part!
My friends, relatives and ex-colleagues are probably too polite to say it to my face, but I don’t doubt for a second that many of them are probably smiling, even sniggering privately to themselves and each other, saying what a fool I was to have left security for the wild blue yonder. Oh how the thought of that stings even now, nearly eight months after I threw in the towel and admitted to my bosses I couldn’t do the job.
I know it seems to be all gloom and doom. For sure the past year of 2019 will forever be a black mark in my history books. But hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained right? No, I’m not now trying to do an about-turn and to overturn everything I just said. 2019 will always be that horrid year for me, no question. A year I definitely wish I could erase from my memory forever.
Yet I recognise that in making the decision I did, which in turn triggered all that followed since, I’ve also gained time. Time to pause and observe the world. Time to see the true colours of those around me. Time to start a blog and pen my thoughts. Time to read and write.
And most importantly, time to be with you, Caleb. And your brother too.
While it’s true that all of that still won’t put food on the table nor money into our coffers to help pay the never-ending bills of our lives, which is why I’ve returned to teaching (albeit part-time) to make ends meet. But at the very least, it’s allowed me to really understand better what truly matters, and not to sweat the small stuff. And at least I can look others in the eye and say that I’m not only someone who preaches the importance of family – my current lifestyle is proof I put my money (or what little I have of it) where my mouth is!
So if I could turn back the clock, I would still decide to do what I did (but maybe not the consultancy job that bombed), because spending more time with you and your brother is precious and of immeasurable worth. I probably won’t see the fullness of that value clearly yet for now, as we jostle and argue with each other like all parents and children do from time to time.
But until I see clearly, I’ll take whatever I’m privy to see now in anticipation for the reward at the end of this journey with you and your brother. A reward that I hope will essentially say, “Well done, good and faithful daddy”.
So here’s wishing you a happy birthday my dear Caleb! Daddy loves you 3,000!!