When someone learns that I am both a full-time freelance writer and a full-time stay-at-home dad (SAHD), I typically receive one of two possible reactions. One group of people assume that my wife automatically takes on all of the baby-raising responsibilities and it’s effectively business as usual for me. These are the same kind of people that assume freelancing and working from home is like one extended vacation.
That’s with tongue firmly planted in cheek, of course, as the reality of the situation is somewhere between these two extremes.
Transitioning on the Edge
You may recall when I commented on the challenge of maintaining a reasonable level of productivity in the first couple weeks of having little Adalynn. At the time, I said that the net effect on my productivity was somewhat ambiguous. Due to the unpredictable nature of baby-raising, I could be pulled away from my desk at a moment’s notice to change a diaper or soothe a crying baby. This also forced me to increase my focus when I was at my desk, making for shorter, more intense work sessions.
In a sense, I was already experimenting with the Pomodoro technique in a much less structured manner. Those early days and weeks made for a decidedly difficult transition, as I really had little idea what to expect as a new WAHD. It doesn’t matter how much you read or how much advice you receive; until you live it yourself, you really don’t know.
And now that I have “lived it” for six months, I can look back and look ahead to my new life as a work-from-home dad.
The Spontaneous Routine
My productivity is still largely unstructured and strategically sporadic. It has become easier for me to “enjoy” extended work sessions, partly because Susanne is taking on more of the baby-raising responsibilities and partly because Adalynn’s schedule has become more predictable. Adalynn can go longer between feeds and she produces fewer dirty diapers. She also sleeps longer through the night, which helps tremendously.
This being said, my work day still faces a number of interruptions. While some of these do detract from my productive hours, they are also welcome and ultimately better for my overall well-being. We run errands and we go shopping at the mall, for instance. All this means is that I “make up” those “lost” work hours later on in the evening, perhaps when the little one has gone to bed.
The Overwhelming Guilt Factor
From a psychological perspective, I oftentimes find myself stuck between a rock and a hard place. When I put my nose to the grindstone in front of the computer, I feel guilty for not spending the time with my wife and daughter. When I go to play, interact or bond with the little one, I feel guilty for not working and not “providing” for my family. I also recognize that these precious moments are few and far between, offering invaluable experiences that no amount of earned income can replace.
I was there when Adalynn was finally happy about tummy time. I was there when she rolled over. I was there for her immunizations. I was there when she tried eating solids for the first time.
So, here I am. Despite the relative lack of personal time to explore personal interests and hobbies, I feel like I have found an acceptable balance between the requirements of work and the responsibilities of fatherhood… at least for now. The exact circumstances for this WAHD will continue to change, to be sure, and I hope I will be up to the challenge.