It was an answer to prayer. When the voice at the other end of the phone offered Tom's wife a full-time job in Great Bend, Kansas, it would mean Tom could write all day while his wife was making tons of money. The blissful couple started to make plans to relocate to the land of ceaseless wind and eternal chapped lips.
Tom also had two daughters, ages 2 and 4. Yes, they would come along. But no matter … Tom could stay at home, watch the girls, and write! The Kansas sky was beautiful. The double rainbows were exquisite. The lips finally adjusted to the wind, so even the lip balm bill could be satisfied in one payment.
Praise the … Hold it. After three months in their new surroundings, Tom was thinking of ways to escape. Being a house dad was the hardest job he had ever held. “Sorry, this wasn't in my job description—I'm outta here!” Ultimately the two years seemed like 10.
Admittedly, the “Kansas Experiment” infused Tom with wisdom, personal insight, self-discovery and even shame. But who knew it would be hard?
A parent must prioritize his responsibilities—and his children are at the top of the list. Tom and his daughters had many good times playing with dolls and building snow forts. All the while, however, his mind was one foot in Kansas and the other foot anywhere else. Looking back, he was not fully immersed in his role as a dad.
Tom discovered his dark side. Sometimes he felt betrayed. He was wasting his time. His career was stalled just like the old John Deere tractor in the field beside his house. In order to find any time to write, he would find busywork for his daughters to keep them out of his hair. He even hired a babysitter so that he could go to the library and escape the noise. What a selfish jerk.
Hamburger Helper is okay but not every day. Tom realized that millions of moms cook, clean, do laundry, vacuum, dust, pay bills, tend to their children's needs—and crave adult conversation. The feeling is real. Even two beautiful girls vying for his attention sometimes could not extinguish his feeling of monotony and boredom.
Tom had an opportunity for which many dads his age would have sacrificed a chunk of salary. Too often he didn't stop long enough to savor the beautiful moments with his daughters. He was too eager to get them to bed, so he could write or read or just relax. Even today he looks back with regret that he did not accept the two years with his young daughters as a gift—and a privilege.
Moral of the story
Every young father with children should do a stint as a house dad for at least one year. You will not work harder—and no life experience will teach you more.