I have grown tired of hearing, “No! Dad!”

Lately, it is our two-year-old son’s favorite phase. Of course, it’s never directed to my husband, but to me. I get it. I don’t need to be reminded that he prefers his dad to read stories, push him on the swings, kiss his boo-boos, change his diaper, refill his drink, and on and on. At one point, my sweet baby boy only had eyes for me.

How did we get here?

My husband and I fell into this world of at-home dads. It was not a well-planned strategic move on our part. A year and a half ago, both us were gainfully employed, and our children, then one and three, were content spending their days at a well-run child care center. Having one of us stay at home was tossed around, but we never did a full-blown analysis of the idea – not that we actually do those things.

From a statistical perspective, my family became victims of the slowing economy, and my husband became another talented, dispensable, full-time employee with benefits. Witnessing the man I love heartbroken, devastated and shaken by his job loss was painful. My confident, happy-go-lucky, sunny-side up husband had his ego damaged, and it was by someone other than me.

Our world was rocked. This wasn’t in our plan, again not that we had a plan, but this was never a consideration. After much fretting and a whole lot of stress, we gambled. We pulled our son completely from daycare and moved our daughter to part-time status.

Looking back, I am not sure who has gained more by my husband opting to be at home, our kids, him or me. Our family life is not nearly as chaotic, with the exception of our mornings, but we’re working on that. Our kids love their quality time with dad as well as the new friends and activities they have experienced as a part of the KCDAD’s playgroup. For me, my favorite perks of being a wife to an at-home dad:

·         Getting to be a career woman and mom – Balance, figuratively and literally, has never been a strength of mine. Knowing my children are in excellent care allows me to log long hours at job that I genuinely enjoy without the “mommy guilt.”

·         Evening greetings – After a long day, I love the way my kids and husband burst through the door to greet me as I am pulling into the garage. Who doesn’t love feeling missed?

·         The magic of dinnertime – I come home most nights to dinner on the table, even if that dinner includes steamed vegetables. On the nights I work late, which are frequent, there is always a plate of food waiting for me.

·         Household chores  –  Rarely, do I run the vacuum, take the trash out or clean the cat litter. (Wait, I didn’t do that stuff to begin with.) Okay, I relinquished the greater household responsibilities to him  –  laundry is still mine, it’s a trust thing. Now, only if I can get him to take the responsibility for gift giving, remembering family birthdays and thank you notes, then my life would be complete.

Seriously, the greatest pleasure of these past 18 months has been witnessing the growth of my husband, not physical growth, but his maturity and comfort in his new role. He went from a broken, unemployed man to a confident, inventive dad, and what was an unsettling and difficult situation has become a blessing for our family. I have so much respect for what he manages, teaches and solves on a daily basis. While our kids always have been amazing creatures, they quickly are becoming remarkable people, due largely to the guidance and influence of my husband.

Yes, I confess – I am insanely jealous of the bond he has with our children, in particular our son. (Our daughter is pretty sweet on him as well, but really who isn’t?) And even though we are still adjusting to a lighter bank account, I know we made the right choice. Confirmation came when my husband proudly stated he felt like he was contributing more to the family and to our marriage as an at-home dad then when he was earning a salary. Needless to say, I was deeply moved.

As Father’s Day approaches (still haven’t purchased a gift for him, but isn’t a post professing my love and adoration enough of a gift?), I know I am blessed to have this sweet, thoughtful, patient, loving man as my husband and the father to our children. To my husband, thank you for all that you do, and all that you do that I don’t notice or acknowledge. Thanks for showing me that it doesn’t have to be done my way to get it done.

To all the at-home dads, thank you and Happy Fathers’ Day. May you hear “No! Dad!” plenty this weekend.