The Brilliant Anxiety: Why I chose the life of a work-at-home parent

dad2summitUncategorized, Words on Wednesday

Welcome to my office.

I am sitting in my family room, on my couch, typing away on my laptop. My ceiling fan turns above me, gently stirring the air. Sunlight casts louvered shadows through the blinds across my carpet. My coffee is still warm.

I am at home.

Carter Gaddis

Carter Gaddis

I have just escorted my young sons to the bus stop and seen them off to school. In a few hours, with most of my day’s work behind me, I will stroll down the street and welcome them back as they pile off the bus, all smiles and hugs and excited cries of “Daddy!”

I am at work.

It is exactly what I imagined when my wife and I decided in September that, after 4½ years working for a local marketing agency, it was time for me to walk away from the commute and the cubicle.

Sounds nice, right?

It is. It is nice. I am fortunate.

Yet, as fortunate as I am, as nice as it is … I am nervous.

Why? I get to work at home and take care of my kids after school. This is the dream. Why should this make me nervous?

For one thing, I am not a millionaire or a retiring CEO. The news this year has been full of wealthy men “opting out” in order to focus on fatherhood. Which is great. I am glad that high-profile dads like Max Schireson of MongoDB and Mohammed El-Erian of PIMCO chose to share their stories in order to influence the top-down thinking of corporate America about the evolving role of fathers.

I also get that having this opportunity is a privilege, and that there are fathers and mothers with no choice but to work long hours at multiple jobs just to pay the bills. If my wonderful wife had not supported me entirely, I never would have been able to do this.

Even with her professional success, this leap into the unknown is intimidating.

So … I am nervous.

Money is certainly a major daily consideration, but other questions still loom.

How will I adjust to spending more time with my sons? How will they adjust to spending more time with me?

Can I actually do this?

A little perspective:

In 2008, I was laid off from a newspaper after working there 16 years. This is not news. Most people who worked for newspapers before 2007 were laid off.

A rewarding sportswriting career that I thought would carry me into retirement ended abruptly, and not on my terms. We were afraid, just like everyone else whose lives were turned upside-down by the Great Recession.

Because so much of my self-identity was shaped by my career as a sports journalist, I felt lost when that career ended. It took time to understand the depth of forced re-invention required for me to be the person I needed to be for my wife and sons.

I was lucky; I got a job, eventually. It was in an office. I commuted and worked in that cubicle. These were firsts for me, a lifelong reporter who traveled all over the world for work. The job was what it was. It was necessary, but it never felt quite right.

Too often, I found that work meant time away from my family. It meant spending thousands of dollars on after-school care and commuting expenses. It meant sleepless nights wondering what I was doing with my life, and occasional anxious mornings dreading the work day ahead.

It meant I needed an exit strategy.

This time, the decision was in our hands. This time, the re-invention is happening on my terms.

I am still trying to figure it out. The transition continues.

I am nervous, but less so than I thought.

I am at work. I am home.

And it is more than nice. It’s the best thing.

Carter Gaddis is a journalist, social media specialist, and co-founder of Dads4Change who writes about parenthood, travel, sports, and politics at DadScribe. He lives in Tampa, Fla., with his wife and two sons.

Opinions expressed on Words on Wednesday guest posts are those of the author and not of Dad 2.0 Summit, XY Media LLC, its management or employees.