A few years ago, Glen Henry of San Diego, California, found himself at one of life’s many crossroads.
As he sat in the parking lot of a job he detested, he felt stuck. He disliked his work, hated his manager, and wasn’t sure what to do about it. To make matters more complicated, he and his wife, Yvette, figured out that they were spending 40 percent of his salary on childcare for their infant toddler. With Yvette expecting their second baby, something had to change, and fast.
One day, Yvette told Glen that she thought he’d make a great stay-at-home dad.
Glen laughed off the notion at first, admitting that he worried about what his friends would think if he quit his job to stay home with his kids. But with the baby’s due date looming, combined with his discontent at work, the choice was clear.
At first, Glen thought the job of stay-at-home parent would be easy. “It sounds boring,” he said. “What do stay-at-home moms do all day anyway?” He soon found out that he had a lot to learn about what at-home parents do to keep the household running smoothly each day.
Glen quickly also realized that he was exchanging one demanding boss for another. “Even though my children were a lot cuter than my manager, they were just as demanding,” Glen said during his popular and hilarious TEDx Talk.
Glen admitted that he used to assume that stay-at-home parents could just throw on an episode of “Sesame Street” and put their feet up. He underestimated how much time it would take to simply keep his kids out of trouble. Even when you’re paying close attention, it only takes a minute for them to do something messy!
Plus, with two kids under two, he was changing at least 20 diapers every day. Each new activity he introduced meant more cleaning up, more hustling to and fro, more baths, and more work. He soon realized that there is a lot more to staying at home with your kids than most people realize.
“Once I embraced the fact that I knew nothing, I began to learn from my new managers.”
Glen set out to learn as much as he could about the experience of being a stay-at-home parent. He documents this learning experience on his YouTube channel, but he admits that he’s no expert; he’s just fumbling along, learning with the rest of us.
One of the greatest challenges Glen faced in his new role was the loneliness. Most stay-at-home parents will tell you that spending all day with children leaves them craving adult interaction, yet often they’re too exhausted to actually seek it out.
I underestimated the emotional fatigue. When you’re with your kids all day you become emotionally tired. All your creativity comes from your emotions, so you’re just tapped out, you’re done.
Now a father of three, Glen has become an advocate for stay-at-home parents. These days, he’ll protest when a friend asks the age-old question, “It can’t be that hard to have dinner ready when I get home, can it?”
After all, sometimes it’s simply enough that the parent kept the kids alive all day, much less getting anything else done around the house!
Glen reminds us that it’s important to respect the work that goes into raising children, because it is, in fact, a job. It’s a job where you don’t receive a salary, you don’t get a lunch break, and you don’t get weekends off… yet it’s still one of the most rewarding jobs you can ever have.
We’re walking on a certain path as parents. We’re all in this together. Nobody can deny that family is the most important foundations in anybody’s life. And we’re all walking the same path, and we’re pulling these thickets out, and these thorns, and we’re making it easier for the ones that come after us.
It turns out, parenting has a lot more to do with landscaping and learning, more than teaching. And the best thing to do is to show up for class. Be present, is what I learned as a stay at home dad, and let your presence, be a gift.
Glen’s profound insights are a balm on the overworked stay-at-home parents of the world, and a good reminder for all of us to show some respect for the people who raised us. After all, your children will one day follow your example. It’s up to you what kind of an example you set for them to follow.
“I thought that the father was supposed to pursue the child, but it turns out, the father makes himself present, and the children run after him. And that right there is a superpower, and that right there, my friends, is everything.”
Watch Glen’s hilarious and poignant TEDx Talk below, and be sure to share to show your appreciation for stay-at-home parents everywhere.