Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Seven Things You Gain When Having Kids

In an earlier post, I wrote about the “Seven Things You Have Less of When Having Kids”, which was mostly advice to those who are in a relationship and are considering having kids. What I left out is all the wonderful things that come with having kids. The following are my Top Seven things you gain when you have kids. The list does not include "weight", "tax credits" or "perspective".

Enlarged capacity to love. Adding members to your own family is an amazing experience. Somehow your own heart expands, lets more love in and your capacity to love grows. After having our first child, we wondered if we could love our second child just as much. Sure enough, after having our second, we easily loved her just as much. Furthermore, I fell more in love with my wife Susan. We even love our dog Nugget more, especially because he is so gentle around our crazy children.

New emotions. The new emotions and feelings that come with parenthood are indescribable. On one side there is joy and happiness. On the other, there is often frustration, weariness and often the feeling of defeat. Then there are the tears. Not sure if they are tears of joy or sadness but there are tears. Just reading the books Someday or If I Could Keep You Little brings me to tears. I have "heart melting" moments every day, most recently when Caden gives Eloise a kiss or when Caden says "God made the moon and God made Caden".

Greater respect for your own parents. Like many of us, my first memories started around age four. I remember having a wonderful childhood and my parents doing everything for our family. However, I have no memories of my parents likely getting up with me in the middle of the night, changing my diapers and dealing with all the crying. Now that I have experienced that for myself, my admiration and respect for my own parents has grown stronger.

Appreciation for your partner. I did not know I could love, respect and admire my wife more than I did before we had kids. And now I know it wasn't even close. She carried our kids for 40 weeks, delivered them and loves and cares for them unbelievably well. After having kids I saw her in a new light: a gentle, loving and patient mother. She has greatly helped me through the parenting stage, making me a much better parent and person.

Joy for the simple things. Being a parent means you get excited about the simplest things: seeing your kid roll over, clap or walk for the first time. Even potty training brings excitement; I never thought I would get so excited for someone pooping in my life. I am excited daily by Caden seeing a fire truck, cement mixer, helicopter or airplane. Before having kids, we were quite picky about the restaurants we visited, what we were making for dinner or what we had planned for the weekend. Now we are just happy to actually make it through dinner at a restaurant, have any kind of weekend plans and stay awake for any kind of movie. Even with this, we have never been happier.

Patience. Kids are not always on your schedule. Their little legs cannot keep up with adults. When you really need to get out the door, they usually will not get dressed, or they will need a snack or a drink. Often there is a diaper blowout when you least need one. Having kids will definitely teach you to become a more patient person, which can lead to being a more kind, empathetic and loving person.

Learning to be present in the moment. We have so many distractions in our lives: work, social media, TV, and smart phones. If you haven't noticed, kids need our constant attention. They need their parents to be engaged and involved. Having kids teaches you to put your worries and troubles aside and be in the moment with your children.

Having children means having to sacrifice, becoming less self-absorbed and becoming a better person. There are constant challenges and obstacles to overcome (or at least get through). Life becomes a little more difficult. However, as you can see, the positives far outweigh the daily challenges of parenting. My life is much better with kids. 

Please leave your comments below, e-mail them to realsahdla@gmail.com  or tweet @TheRealSAHDLA.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Five Lessons Learned from a Weekend Trip Without Kids

For nearly three years, I have not been apart from our two kids for an overnight trip. This is mainly due to the fact that stay at home parents do not travel for work. 

Weekend Bro Time in Steamboat, CO.
Last Thursday, I  traveled to Steamboat Springs, Colorado for a three day ski trip with my brother Travis, who is currently interning at a hospital in the Denver area. We planned "Bro Fest 2014" together with road tripping and  skiing with some drinking and eating mixed in for good measure. 

Of course, when you are a stay at home parent, traveling by yourself means leaving your "full time job". Luckily, my wife Susan gladly took Friday off and watched the kids the entire weekend. 

Before the trip, I was not sure if I would 100% enjoy being away from the kids or if I would miss them and struggle to have fun. After taking time to reflect on my trip and time away from the kids, I learned the following five lessons.

Amazing Wife. Susan allowed me to take a three day trip and leave her alone with the two kids. Not only did Susan have a great time with the kids, the entire house was spotless, laundry was finished and even the entire refrigerator was clean and organized. When asked how things went, Susan said she "was a little tired on Sunday, but everything went fine." She is making me look bad!

Kids Learn New Tricks. Susan sent me this text on Sunday: Caden said "Mommy, I asked you for a wittle lemonade. You gave me a wot of lemonade. So now I have to dump this in the sink." Caden has never spoke to either of us in a scolding tone like that! Not to be outdone, Of Eloise decided to learn how to clap while I was gone:

Traveling is Not Glamorous. When Susan travels for work, I can get quite envious. Traveling with no kids! Sleep in an hotel without being  woken up in the middle of the night! My trip showed me that it is not all glamour. I missed being away from the kids dearly. I was not able to catch up on sleep as I woke up 3-4 times a night and still woke up at 7:00 a.m. every day.

Getting Away Brings AppreciationI felt fortunate to have a weekend spent reading two books in total silence, taking a shower with no interruption and skiing for three days with my brother. I appreciated it even more after having two kids. Having some time away was refreshing and revitalizing. It brought me greater appreciation of my wife, love for my kids and gratefulness for my family. 

Reality Comes Back Fast. After arriving home at Midnight on Sunday, reality smacked me right in the face. Both kids were up and ready to go at 6:00 a.m. and then a scary 4.4 earthquake hit Los Angeles at 6:30 a.m. Caden's take on his first earthquake: "The house went BOOM!" Along with that, Susan left for a three day business trip the day after I arrived back home. Revenge is sweet.

If you are a stay at home parent, and have a chance to "get away" for a weekend once or twice a year, I highly recommend it. It will help you greatly in becoming an even better stay at home parent.

Please leave your comments below or e-mail them to realsahdla@gmail.com  or tweet @TheRealSAHDLA.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Seven Things You Will Have Less of After Having Kids

My brother Travis is 11 years younger than me. He is a fantastic guy, a great friend and a wonderful Uncle. He is single and is soon graduating from Physical Therapy School. 

The reason I bring up Travis is that I think I remember what it felt like living in my mid 20s. Newly married. No kids. I thoroughly enjoyed my late 20s and early 30s. After work hours consisted of working out, work events and happy hours. Weekends were about catching up on sleep, going out and have free time.However, looking back, I am not exactly sure I fully appreciated them. I had no idea how fortunate I was to spend a lot of time on myself, my friends and with my wife. 
Travis and Ryan at the 2014 Rose Bowl.

My wife Susan and I were married nearly 10 years before having our first son Caden. As any parent knows, taking care of a little one takes up almost all your time. We are still not sure what we did with our "free time" before Caden came along. Everyone told us that everything was about to change. We did not believe them. Not everything did change, but a lot did change. If you are in a DINK relationship and thinking about having kids, here are seven things that you will have less of in the future.

Sleeping In. When Travis visited us in January he asked, "Do you guys ever get to sleep in?". We laughed so hard I don't even remember answering questions. Since Caden was born in June 2011, I can count on one hand the times he slept past 7:00 AM. Add Eloise to the mix in July 2013, and you have two kids that are usually up between 6:30 and 7:00 AM. There is no more sleeping in.

Weekend Brunches. Between 10:00 and 11:30 AM on weekends in our neighborhood, people are waiting around on the sidewalk waiting to get into brunch places. These people are young couples who do not have kids. They likely stayed up late the night before, slept in, rolled out of bed and headed to brunch. Cherish this time. Cherish it.

Travel. Luckily my wife Susan and I were able to travel internationally, take fun weekend trips, ski trips and road trips before having kids. Now we have to prepare ourselves emotionally, physically and mentally to take a one hour car trip or a four hour plane ride. International travel is at this point laughable. Skiing has not happened for two years (need a sitter) and a fun weekend trip is one to Legoland or Disneyland.
In South Carolina. We still travel!

Watching Sports on TV. Sitting down and watching "the game" for two consecutive hours is non existent. Thank goodness for DVRs and late night sports watching. Of course, Susan (not a sports fan) sees this as a benefit of having kids.

Being Spontaneous. No longer can I take off on two hour training runs, four hour bike rides to Malibu, a long hike with Nugget or head to the local sports bar. Now we have to schedule time for each other, ourselves and for our kids. Yes, I still go running, cycling and hiking, but if often involves planning and conversations.

Privacy. Taking a shower, getting dressed or using the bathroom without being constantly interrupted happens about once to twice a week. For some unknown reason, these are the times when your baby or toddler need you the most.

Date Nights. Like most young couples, we frequented the latest restaurants, saw the newest movie releases, went to concerts, the theater and bars. Now date nights by ourselves have been reduced to 1-2 times a month, mostly due to the extra cost of babysitting  and wanting to have the four of us spend time together. Most of the movies we see, the wine we drink and restaurant food we have is now at home. We also go out for dinner at 5:00 PM, where we are surrounded by people who also have kids.

While much has changed, having kids is the best decision we ever made. We are having more fun than ever. Every day is a new adventure and challenge. We have met new people and made new friends that would have never happened without having kids (and having me stay at home). So despite sacrificing sleep, some date nights, and time for ourselves, we are so happy to have two wonderful little kids.

Please leave your comments below or e-mail them to realsahdla@gmail.com  or tweet @TheRealSAHDLA.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Challenges and Benefits of Being a Stay at Home Dad

Raising kids is no easy task, especially during the very early years. As the cliche goes, it is the "most difficult job that you will ever love." Constant attention and care is required from young kids including feeding, dressing, changing diapers, running errands, going to kid classes, trying to get them to nap and the constant discipline.
Nugget, Ryan and Caden

Although many people misunderstand what it takes to be a stay at home parent, people make this tough decision every day. There is no pay. No lunch breaks. No sitting down and having chats over coffee. Not very much alone time. Lots of crying and diaper changes. You will likely be either peed on or spit up on during the day. You will have to deal with crying and meltdowns.

Even though the task seems daunting, The number of Stay at Home Dads (SAHDs) is recently on the rise while the Moms become the primary breadwinner. For many of us, this is uncharted territory: the father staying at home while the mother is at work. So what are the challenges and benefits of being a Stay at Home Dad?

Challenges and Benefits for SAHDs

Lack of other SAHDs.  There are not a lot of SAHDs out there, but there seem to be SAHMs everywhere you look during the day.  Plus, there are plenty of "Mommy and Me" classes and activities where you can meet other Moms.  I am still looking for the first "Daddy and Me" class during a weekday. 

Figuring out Your New Role. Only around 3% of families have a father who is the stay at home parent. Trying to figure out your role as a SAHD can be difficult to navigate. One Dad recently wrote why his wife is embarassed that he is a SAHD, because others assume that she is a bad mother. For men, believing that you are providing for your family without earning a paycheck is sometimes difficult to comprehend.

Fighting stereotypes. SAHDs will often face questions like "Where's Mom today?" and "Oh, it must be a Daddy Day".  Even though it is 2014, some people are not used to seeing Dads taking care of their kids during the day

Feeling out of Place. Often a SAHD can be the only male in the room at story time, swim class or play groups. This is a little unsettling at first, but if you are going to be a SAHD, you soon get over it.

Lack of Feedback. At the office, you often heard from your supervisors, colleagues, customers or others how great of job you are doing. The recent presentation that went well, the big sale you made or the huge event you coordinated makes you feel great. Stay at home parents receive very little feedback or confirmation on the job they are doing.

Career Risk. Since being a SAHD is a recent trend, it is not clear if employers will be accepting of men who want to re-enter the workforce after "taking time off" to raise their kids.

Lower expectations. Men are not expected to take care of children all day, keep the fridge stocked. fold laundry, make dinner and go to doctor appointments. Doing all these things make you a Super Dad. Of course, this could also be viewed as a Disadvantage, as SAHDs believe they can do just as good or better job as a Stay at Home Mom.

Role Modeling. We have both a son and a daughter. Our son Caden can grow up seeing that men can raise children just as well as women and our daughter Eloise can observe Mom going to work everyday. These are positive role models for our children.

Being Outside. Many people like me did not like being cooped up all day in the office. I would often use my lunch break to go running outside. Luckily, being a SAHD in LA is all about being outside: parks, beaches, hiking, biking and jogging with your kids is a great way to spend a day.

Making Your Own Schedule. You will soon find that you don't have to be the perfect parent or try to be just like Stay at Home Moms (or other SAHDs). SAHDs can figure out their style of parenting, based on their own personality and their children's needs.

Time. Because of work, commutes and bedtimes, most Dads do barely get to see or do not see their young children during the work week. SAHDs get to experience their children growing up every day.

Focus. With a SAHD, the Mom can focus on her career without worrying about how their kids are doing at day care or with the nanny. My philosophy as a SAHD, is to work hard during the day so my wife can come home and focus on spending time with the kids, working and relaxing at home.

Do the Benefits Outweigh the Costs?
While obtaining my graduate degree in Public Affairs, we had to take a class in "Cost-Benefit Analysis". This is for government geeks who want to see if a certain program or policy has great benefits than the costs. For me, the benefits of being a SAHD far outweigh some of the challenges and finacial risks. I have not regretted a single day of being a Stay at Home Dad.

Please leave your comments below or e-mail them to realsahdla@gmail.com  or tweet @TheRealSAHDLA.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Working Parent vs. Stay at Home Parent: Who Has it Tougher?

Before our son Caden was born, we had no plans of me staying home with him. We toured local preschools, interviewed nannies and did the usual research on care for him.

Of course, once he was born, things changed. We were fortunate that my wife Susan had an incredible maternity leave of five months. During that time, we decided that I would leave my job to stay home with Caden. Even thought it seemed like a difficult decision, it was quite an easy decision: Susan had built a successful 10 year career at her company, we had health benefits with her company, and she had an easy 10-15 minute commute. Although I was doing well at my job, my job at a non-profit could not provide the pay and benefits needed to support our family. Plus, my job had a 45 minute commute and also had early morning and late night meetings. 

We made our decision not only because we believed it was best for Caden (and now Eloise), but because it was the best decision for us. If our nanny was sick, our child was sick or both of us had late night meetings or travel, this would have led to constant stress and debate of who was going to watch Caden. Add to that who was going to make dinner, clean the house, walk the dog, etc.  We were truly lucky that I was able to stay at home.

After four months of transitioning out of my job while we had a nanny for Caden, I was now the stay at home parent. Which led to a discussion or perhaps a debate that we never would have expected to have: who has it tougher: the stay at home parent or the working parent? Not only has my wife and I had this conversation between each other, we have engaged in the same debate with other parents where one works and the other stays at home.

Working Parents
Working parents must deal with the daily stress of the job, commuting, and working a 10-12 hour day at the office. Then they come home dead tired and spend time with the kids, getting baths and off to bed. Even after that, they are often on their laptops working until 10:00 or 11:00 PM.

There is more stress and pressue when you are the sole provider. Like many families, we went from Double Income with No Kids (DINKs) to Single Income with Kids.

On top of that, working moms even have it tougher! My wife continues to feed our 8 month old daughter Eloise. So she has to pump at work and feed Eloise in the morning and night. Plus, Eloise is still waking up 1-2 nights expecting to be fed. Working Dads: you are lucky in this regard!

Working parents must also deal with the constant feeling of guilt.  This is especially for working Moms, who often feel guilty for working instead of being at home with the kids.

However, working parents do get some valuable quiet time in the car and the office, get daily adult interaction, change fewer diapers, can easily get coffee without needing a drive thru and get a one hour lunch break to do with what they choose.

Stay at Home Parents
As has been covered by others, being a stay at home parent is no walk in the park. The day begins when the kids get up at 6:30 or 7:00 AM if you are lucky. The day ends when the kids are asleep at 7:30 or 8:00 PM.  Again, if you are lucky. In between you are feeding, clothing, running after, carrying, escorting, changing, bathing, disciplining, talking with and loving your children. Add to that teaching your kids to share, not hit, and hopefully some day be potty trained.

If you have two or three kids, you are not likely to get any breaks as both kids will not likely nap at the same time. If you do get one of those days, you will probably use the time to clean the kitchen or bathrooms, prep for dinner or do dishes. You will be lucky to take a shower during the day or make yourself a proper lunch. The dishes and laundry will likely be piling up and your dog will wonder if you will ever walk him again.

If you do not met other stay at home parents, you might feel isolated and alone.  So it is best to get out during the day and meet other parents. Stay at home parents might also draw tired of the daily grind of watching children and doing household chores.

Even though it is a tough job being a stay at home parent, you get moments during the day like this:

And this....

Both Working Parents
Of course, 58% of families with kids have both parents who work full time. Raising children is so expensive that most families need both parents to work, especially for career growth, retirement savings and health insurance. Of course, some families may have parents who both want to work and not stay home with the kids! Families with two working parents strive to find that "life/family/work" balance.

Final Verdict
So who exactly does have it tougher? There is no easy way to tell. Raising kids and working are equally astough. As parents, the best we can do is recognize our partners are doing their best as parents and tell each other that we appreciate all the work they do: rather at home or at an office.

Please leave your comments below or e-mail them to realsahdla@gmail.com  or tweet @TheRealSAHDLA.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Should SAHDs Be Allowed to Have Fun?

Two years ago when I began the journey as a Stay at Home Dad (SAHD), I took the "job" very seriously.  I was taking my nine month old Caden to story times, swim lessons, walks, and music classes.  I wanted to make sure he wasn't "falling behind" (sarcasm noted).

Along with that, I wanted to prove to my wife who trusted me with our first born son that "I got this".  I stayed on top of the grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, bill paying and everything else that goes along with being the stay at home parent.  I did not want to show any sign of weakness!
Fun at the beach

Although I loved being with Caden every day and seeing him explore, grow and learn, I am not sure if I was allowing myself to "have fun" yet.  At the beginning, listening to NPR news at 5:00 PM while feeding Caden dinner was a "treat".

Of course, there is not much "fun" you can have with a baby most of the time.  And some attempts of having fun such a going for a run with the jogging stroller, going for hikes, walking our dog Nugget at the beach often resulted in Caden meltdowns.

However, when Caden grew older, around 16-18 months, things did become more "fun". How so?

. I met two other SAHDs with sons Caden's age who showed me it was OK to have fun as a stay at home parent, including taking trips to beach, going out for lunch and talking about sports while our kids played with each other.

Exercising. I joined Stroller Strides - a workout for mostly Moms - but a great boot camp workout where you leave your kid(s) in the stroller.  This was a great workout and a one hour break from 100% watching the kids for me. Yes, I have been teased mercilessly for joining Stroller Strides. I also take jogs with both kids 1-2 times a week.

Getting over meltdowns.  Even with the fear of a 45 minute car ride, I was determined to hike Runyon Canyon with Caden and our dog Nugget.  The reward was a stop at Chick-fil-A on the way home. Even though Caden cried the last 15 minutes of the ride, I accomplished it. I had fun.
This looks fun, right?
Relaxing.  Yes, being a SAHD is often challenging and difficult. That does not mean that you can't lighten up and have fun.

Letting go of guilt. Having fun often makes you feel guilty as a stay at home parent. Why should I have fun when most people my age are slaving away at the office? Don't I need to be serious during the day?

Making friends with SAHMs. Yes, even in a progressive city like Los Angeles, there is a shortage of SAHDs.  So you have to choices: make nice with the Nanny Mafia or become friends with Stay at Home Moms (SAHMs).  Here is a tip: as a Dad you are not going to break into the Nanny Mafia. So get to know SAHMs.  Mostly because they are awesome.  For the most part, Moms will accept you as a SAHD since you are going through the stage in life. Remember, these Moms have not been Moms there entire life! Many had exciting lives before children: they were attorneys, teachers, business leaders, etc. They share great tips on raising kids as we are all going through the same things at the same time.

So yes, Stay at Home Dads are allowed to have fun. Just don't let anyone else know.

Please leave your comments below or e-mail them to realsahdla@gmail.com  or tweet @TheRealSAHDLA.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Online Shopping and Delivery: Glorious with Two Kids

Life as a Stay at Home Dad is often challenging, tiring and time consuming.  However, today's parents have one huge advantage: online delivery services.
Shopping with two kids.

If an item can be shipped, our family has had it shipped to us. My brilliant wife Susan often sees one of our kids with a problem or needs help with a new stage in life.  In two days, there is a new product on our doorstep to help us in solving the problem or getting our kid to the next stage.  In our house, it has become known as "Amazoning".

Before you think I am getting off easy by either my wife or I ordering goods online instead of hunting, er, shopping for them, let me explain the difficulties of shopping in Los Angeles:
  1. The nearest "big box" store in our area is a 20-25 minute drive to Target.  The nearest Wal-Mart might as well be in Arkansas.  Wal-Mart will never be in Santa Monica or Los Angeles.  
  2. Even if we make the trek to Target, good luck lugging two kids, toilet paper, paper towels, and laundry detergent around in a shopping cart through a parking lot.
  3. The cities of Santa Monica and Los Angeles have banned plastic bags.  So along with remembering your children, shopping list and wallet, you have to remember your cloth shopping bags.
  4. We live in a town home with underground parking.  Again, how do you get the supplies up the stairs with said two kids?
  5. Newsflash: Men do not like to shop.  I make dinner for the family 4-6 times a week and do enjoy shopping for food.  However, would rather order other household goods online.
  6. Again, since the nearest large retail store is 20-25 minutes away, we are stuck with walking to a CVS, Walgreens or Rite Aid.  Let's just say these places do not have the most competitive prices.
With that being said, here is an easy to follow guide to online shopping options.
  • Amazon: See above. Amazing selection and prices.  Before kids, we were members of Amazon Prime, mostly to ship gifts home to family members in the Midwest.  Now, it is mostly to keep our sanity. Free shipping on pretty much everything imaginable. I swear my wife is often ordering things in her sleep and boxes magically appear.  Used to be tax free until the State of California moved in.
  • Von's: Yes, Von's delivers groceries.  Amazing.  Again, not my first choice as I like to be inspired to cook while shopping and also like to shop at Ralph's, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's as well.  They often send you promotions for free shipping.  This and Amazon Fresh pretty much saved us for the first three months after Eloise was born.
  • Yummy.com.  They not only deliver fast, but somehow have the friendliest delivery employees of all time.  Limited selection.
  • Wal-Mart.com.  Yes, the evil big box store also delivers. Free shipping on orders over $50.  Fast and easy.  No judging please.
  • 1800PetMeds: Great for pet medications, which can be expensive.  We have even had dog food delivered. Unfortunately, you get a ton of email once you used this service.
Along with texting and drive thrus, online shopping is a SAHD's best friend.

Please leave your comments below or e-mail them to realsahdla@gmail.com  or tweet @TheRealSAHDLA.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Texting: The SAHD's Best Friend

What we do without it?

Perhaps one of the reasons for the increases in Dad's who are staying at home now is texting. Texting for a stay at home parent is amazing. For a Dad, it is even more amazing. This is for two reasons:

  1. Try to talk on the phone with one baby, toddler, etc. around you, let alone 2 or dare I say it 3 kids who are depending on you.
  2. I might be wrong about this, but men abhor talking on the phone. I would say my communicating with other male friends has gone up 100 fold since I started texting. I have never enjoyed talking on the phone, but that might be a family trait passed down from my Dad.
During the day, texting can help out in a variety of ways.  Some are practical reasons, some are for entertainment reasons and some let's just say help get you through the day.  The following ways are how texting are a SAHD's best friend:
  • Playdate coordinating:  A great way to invite others to your outing, tell others if you will be at a playground, beach, park, etc. and a great way to hear from others what they are doing that day. Again, no one is going to call each other to share this information.  And often, email is too slow.
  • Entertainment: My friends who are stay at home Dads and Moms often text each other photos or stories about their days.  If you are having one of those long and tiresome day, this is the equivalent of a pick me up bouquet.
  • Communicating with family: Most of my family lives 2-3 time zones away. It is often difficult to call them during the day (they are at work) and at night you are too exhausted to email them an update. Texting is a great way to relay updates on your kids through a story or photo.
So let's raise a glass to Friedhelm Hillebrand, along with his colleague Bernard Ghillebaert for apparently inventing texting.  The world of stay at home parents thank you.

Please leave your comments below or e-mail them to realsahdla@gmail.com  or tweet @TheRealSAHDLA.

Why I Love Drive Thrus

Daddy likey
As a healthy married man in his 20s and 30s, I believed in avoiding fast food, let alone going through a drive thru for a meal. As a marathon runner and triathlete, this was the equivalent of eating a gallon of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream. Except for the occasional road trip where the only option was fast food (I am talking to you Bishop, CA and Highway 5), you could not catch me eating fast food or ever going through a drive thru.

Then we had kids.  Then I began staying home with the kids. Things changed. Standards were lowered. Convenience won over.  You try getting out for just a coffee or Diet Coke with 2 kids.  Try that and get back to me how that is working out for you.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not hitting up fast food three times a day. I am not Morgan Spurlock.  Living in Santa Monica, there is very little space and very few drive through choices.  Here is the guide to drive thrus for stay at home parents in Santa Monica and LA:

Get me an iced coffee too!
Starbucks: Yes.  There is only one that is 10-15 minutes from our house. Do I make that trek 1-2 times a week even though there are Starbucks 6-7 blocks from us in Santa Monica. Yes, it got so bad that at 18 months, Caden learned to say "Starbucks" and beg for a pumpkin bread and/or milk carton.

Coffee Bean: See above. The drive thru for Coffee Bean is even further than the Starbucks. That has not stopped me from getting a sugar free, non fat, iced caramel latte.

McDonald's: Before you judge me (friends from San Francisco and Santa Monica), hear me out. Five little words: Large Diet Coke for $1.10.  Boom. Sometimes I pay with lose change, so it is like free.  I am not the only one with the Diet Coke problem.  My friend's two year old often says: "Are you getting a Diet Coke, that's all?". And yes, if I don't have time to travel that 10 minutes to Starbucks, I will get a coffee at McDonald's.  

Chick-fil-A in Westwood.
Taco Bell and KFC: Ew, gross. Things have not gotten that bad. But maybe if we have kid number 3......

Chick-fil-A: I have literally driven 45 minutes with Caden and Nugget to Runyon Canyon just as an excuse to hit up Chick-fil-A on Sunset for a chicken sandwich, Arnold Palmer and milkshake.

Carl's Jr: Since there is not an In N Out Burger nearby, this is about a monthly visit.  I would have to say I appreciate their Santa Fe Chicken Sandwich and sweet potato fries.
With two kids in car seats in the back, drive thrus are a life saver. That Diet Coke or caramel machiatto is much more than a refreshing drink.  It's a reward. A joy. It's happiness.

So judge away about my frequent stops to coffee joints and fast food restaurants via drive thrus. But sometimes, you have to do what you have to do.

Please leave your comments below or e-mail them to realsahdla@gmail.com  or tweet @TheRealSAHDLA.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

How Much are Stay at Home Dads Worth?

The true salary of a Stay at Home Dad

Am I Worth $15 an Hour?

For families who live in major urban areas like Los Angeles where we live, nannies/caregivers are often paid $15 an hour for providing child care.  With two children, the costs often increases to $20 an hour.  Day care centers in West Los Angeles range from $1,500 to $2,200 a month.

Most men take pride in their jobs and making a good living.  We were raised to be the bread winner, either by our families, the culture or perhaps it is just instinctual.

Very few men become the stay at home parent.  The numbers I have read recently are in the 3 to 5 percent range.  Many of the Stay at Home Dads (SAHD) in LA are often Dads who actually work from home in writing, graphic design, etc.  
Thanks for being a Stay at Home Dad!

I am actually a SAHD who works as a SAHD full time. Not only do I take care of our two kids on a full time basis, I also clean our house, run errands, take kids to classes and make dinner for the family at night. Before becoming a SAHD, I obtained my undergraduate and graduate degrees, had built a 10 year degree and just started making a low six figure income.

So am I now worth $15 an hour?  Even if I am, I do not get paid at all for being a SAHD!

Luckily a new study shows that stay at home parents are worth $115,000 a year.  Great!  This is much better than being worth $15 an hour

When I became a full time SAHD, it was difficult not receiving a paycheck every two weeks.  There is something about making money for your family. However, once you realize what you are truly worth, you begin to understand that you are providing for your family with raising the kids, keeping them healthy, teaching them discipline, reading to them, taking them on play dates, literally putting on band aids while also doing laundry, dishes, grocery shopping and cooking.

So if you are a SAHD or thinking of becoming a SAHD don't worry: you are worth $115k a year, not $15 an hour.

Please leave your comments below or e-mail them to realsahdla@gmail.com  or tweet @TheRealSAHDLA.

The Decision: Becoming a Stay at Home Dad

Reading a book with 
Eloise and Caden.
On April 1st, 2012, I became a full time Stay at Home Dad. Our first born son, Caden was about to turn nine months old. We were lucky that my wife Susan was able to stay home with Caden on maternity leave for the first five months.

In December 2011, I told my employer that I would be quitting my job to stay at home with Caden. I have never quit a job before. Even though it was the right thing to do for Caden and our family, I was still extremely nervous to take the plunge of leaving a good paying job that I was very successful at doing.

Since I was the only employee in the Los Angeles office, I stayed on for four months to help with the transition. We had a nanny for four days and I worked from home one day a week.

In the last two years, this is what I have learned about being a full time stay at home parent:

  • It is extremely difficult and tiring!
  • It is s extremely fun and rewarding!
  • Unlike work, there are no financial rewards, bonuses, feedback, fun happy hours or lunch breaks. 
  • Unlike work, you are not stuck in a cubicle all day, you get to be outside, you get lots of hugs and smiles and you get to see your kids grow up right in front of you.

I am now taking care of two of our children. Caden is now a fun and energetic nearly 3 years old and our daughter Eloise is nearing 9 months. Every day with them is a challenge and yet fun and exciting. Every day I get up excited to take on the day - but end the day exhausted.

Growing up, I never could have imagined staying home with two kids. In high school or college, I did not tell people that I wanted to be a stay at home parent when "I grew up". Even when my wife was pregnant, we were not planning for me to stay home with one kid, let alone two kids!

Now after two very fast years, I know it was the right decision for our family. It has been both a humbling and rewarding experience. Being a stay at home parent, especially a stay at home dad is not for everyone. However, I am glad I got to stay home with my kids during this fun time in their lives.