My name is Jay and I’m a stay at home dad.
It wasn’t always this way. A few months ago my wife and I were working full-time in Whitehorse and our two-year-old daughter Emily was whisked off to daycare, where she played and learned with other toddlers.
I saw Emily about an hour a day, except on weekends.
I didn’t offer her too much in the way of learning experiences; at least I don’t think I did. I give credit to my wife Melinda, who got up early most days with Emily, and to our daycare worker Sharon, who spent more time with her than any of us during the week.
I probably fit into Emily’s world somewhere between “jester” and “cracker giver.” That was then.
In January 2014, my family moved to Old Crow for a year when my wife accepted a nursing position at the health centre.
We now live above the centre, and I have slipped into my new role: according to the Government of Canada, I’m now a homemaker.
The job consists of cleaning, cooking, maintaining the wellbeing of our “personal space,” and of course, and taking care of Emily.
To some old school folks this may seem like a woman’s job. The very idea of a man staying home could be seen as emasculating, but I disagree. I can’t attest to other couples and the inner workings of their relationships, but I can say that in our relationship, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Simply put, if staying home with Emily benefits the future of our family, then it’s worthy and just. I may not earn a Yukon bonus, but I do get to help my daughter learn and grow before my eyes. Seems like a fair trade off.
On paper it looks like a free ride; in reality it’s a full-time job not to be taken lightly. I’ve become Emily’s caretaker, teacher, friend, and dad all wrapped into one, and let me tell you: when we finally put Emily to sleep at night, Daddy is pooped.
I get creative to keep her stimulated and progressive as a toddler. It’s a challenge that’s approached day-by-day, but I find solace in our routine, which keeps Emily, Melinda and I grounded while we live this new chapter in our lives.
The word “routine” may seem boring, but it helps Emily understand what to expect, what’s coming up, and how to go about it.
It’s a comfort zone I sprinkle with fun, learning, tea parties, and Bubble Guppies.
I also try to be as hands-on as possible, often including Emily in cleaning and cooking duties. However, more-often-than-not, her help makes things a bit stickier and messier. Though I do my best, it’s always nice to get a different perspective, and maybe a tip or two.
Enter Land Pearson, a good-natured gentleman who’s been a stay at home dad for five months.
Pearson and his wife Niki live in Whitehorse and have two children: a son named Rowan, who’s three-and-a-half, and a 17-month-old daughter named Asha. At first it was Niki who stayed home with Rowan while Land worked full time with the Yukon government, but when Asha was born, Land got his chance.
The decision didn’t come easy, because he requested a two-year leave from work and was denied.
“It was difficult to leave because I like what I did, but I really wanted to be a stay at home dad,” says Pearson, who notes that he used to be neighbours with his brother, who was also a stay at home dad. He saw how much his brother enjoyed being with his children and wanted the same opportunity.
Pearson says he has nothing against daycare, but he wanted to experience his kids monumental life changes.
“If you’re having kids, you want to try and raise them as much as you can, it’s not as much fun to have someone else experience their first word,” he says.
Surprisingly, Pearson says his day-to-day activities begin with sleeping in. Any parent who has woken up at 6 a.m. to screams of “Mommy” can attest that Pearson’s claim is flabbergasting.
He and Niki “bed shared,” letting their children sleep with them at a young age. “Asha would sleep as long as someone was in bed, allowing everyone to sleep in,” chuckles Pearson, who has envious friends that would love a little more shut-eye.
The rest of Pearson’s day is filled with activities and outings.
Rowan goes to Chickadees Playschool twice a week and they attend various children’s groups.
At home, they have a room at home called The Fort that’s filled with slides, toys, and a chalkboard wall for scribbling ABCs. Even though Pearson like’s to be hands-on, he also gives his children ample self-play to spur their imagination
His original plan was to be a stay at home dad two years, but now that he no longer works, he’s thinking of sticking around for four years, until Asha starts kindergarten.
He’s got some advice for other dads considering this line of work.
“Try to fit in to whatever your kids are doing at the moment,” Pearson says. “Have fun with them. Don’t worry about cleaning the house. And try to engage them as much as possible into Star Stars and Transformers.”
Words of wisdom, indeed.