Stay-at-Home Dad 101: No, I Totally Don’t Miss Being around Other Adults All Day Long… In Fact, I Enjoy It a Little Too Much!

In looking out for me, my kind and thoughtful wife expressed some concern for my social well-being when my entire office was abruptly shut down back in October. She wondered if I might suffer from culture shock; after I had worked at the same place for over a decade and now I would suddenly be removed from constant adult interaction on a daily basis.

She suggested I might need to find a stay-at-home parents’ group so that I could get out of the house and socialize with people I have some things in common.

Here’s the thing: It’s been two months doing this stay-at-home dad thing, and not once have I ever missed being around other adults all day long. In fact, that’s one of my favorite parts about my new job!

I do not miss being interrupted from doing work to be asked any of the following annoying questions on a daily basis, and then having to respond to them while forcing myself to smile and act nice:

“How was your weekend?”

“Do you have a minute?”

“You’re quiet this morning, is everything okay?”

“What are you eating? That looks good!”

“Got any big plans for this weekend?”

I was just there to get work done. I didn’t need a friend. I wasn’t lonely. I didn’t need to be entertained with conversation or learn about someone’s thoughts about life, before I had my coffee… or after I had my coffee.

It was important to me and my identity that I was perceived as approachable, helpful, and a good communicator. So I successfully disguised the fact I am not actually an extrovert, but instead, an outgoing introvert.

I’ve heard the difference between introverts and extraverts explained this way:

If an extrovert is someone who feels energized by being around other people all day and but then feels drained when they are alone again, an introvert is someone who feels drained after being around people all day and then has to “recharge” in solitude afterwards.

Yeah, the 2nd description, that’s totally me. I love to interact with other people… just not while I’m being paid to get work done all day!

But now I don’t have to worry about any of that anymore. I no longer have to act like a supervisor who works in an office.

The culture shock that I am actually experiencing is a good one.

Now the only people I see on a daily basis are the members of my own family- and occasionally, some of the nice employees at the Publix just a mile from the house; which is about as far as I travel through the week anymore.

The ultimate irony is that I truly consider myself a people person. In the total of over a decade that my wife and I have been together, she is definitely used to us being out in public, and me making seemingly random yet relevant conversations with complete strangers.

But I think the difference is that in an office, I was forced all day long to be social, which distracted me from the work; which was the reason I was paid to be there.

As a stay-at-home dad though, I no longer have to anticipate that at any second of the day, I might be interrupted from my work by another adult seeking confirmation in their identity or escape from boredom.

My work now is to care for an awesome 7 year-old boy before and after school, and an adorable little girl all day long. And then when she’s asleep, I work on my freelance writing jobs and YouTube videos; which is how I’m financially supporting my family now through a growing amount of supplemental income.

Granted, I’m working from the time I wake up at 6:00 AM until the time I collapse around 10:30 PM; if I’m lucky enough that my daughter doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night.

But I love it. This is great. I was totally able to do the whole “work in an office” thing. I did that for over a decade. Now I have confirmation though:

I was meant to be a stay-at-home dad who works from home as a freelancer. My time has arrived to accept and embrace my new identity.

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Why Do Jews and Muslims Not Eat Pork or Shellfish? Preventative Health Reasons.

Before switching over to a kosher diet 9 years ago on Thanksgiving Day 2008, I always assumed that the reason Jewish and Muslim people didn’t eat pork or shellfish was more arbitrary; something to the effect of simply showing obedience to God by disciplining their eating habits.

But after eliminating all pork (ham, bacon, sausage) and shellfish (shrimp, scallops, clams), and seeing for myself how it was causing my eczema (dyshidrosis) to finally start clearing up after nearly a decade, even though it’s “medically incurable”, I realized that this whole kosher thing actually had a scientific purpose.

In the same way we all know now that beef is worse for our health than chicken, certain “bottom-feeder” animals are naturally less healthy than others for us to eat.

It easily makes sense that a pig, which will eat nearly anything and has no sweat glands, is naturally going to be less nutritious to the human body, as compared to a cow; though beef is red meat, cows eat only plants.

So indeed there is a scale of uncleanness in the animal kingdom, that helps us to understand which are most likely to increase our chances of getting cancer and disease.

I believe we all know by know what the black strip is along the back of a shrimp, right? When it comes to seafood, shellfish are the bottom-feeders who eat all the rotting remnants and feces. Even catfish fall into this category.

The more I learned about this, and realized that by eating only plants, I didn’t even have to worry about the “scale of uncleanness” anymore, it was a natural transition for me to switch to the Mediterranean diet, then vegetarian, and finally vegan.

So nine years ago I became kosher, and for the most recent half of those years I’ve been vegan.

The eczema has been gone for many years now. And the sinus infections. And the pet allergies.

Coincidence? I submit it is not.

Stay-at-Home Dad 101: I am Running an Unlicensed Before-and-After School Program in My Home

My wife typically leaves the house for work around 6:00 AM. If I’m lucky, my kids will both sleep in until 7 o’clock. Usually, I’m not lucky.

Usually, one child will wake the other around 6:20, which means I’m taking care of two young children for the next 2 hours, as my 7 year-old son’s bus doesn’t arrive until 8:22.

It’s a solid 30 minutes just to get them dressed and fed, which leaves another hour and a half to let them play, but while trying to keep them from getting themselves into trouble.

Over the past 2 months that I’ve been a stay-at-home dad (who also works from home as a freelance writer and YouTuber), I’ve learned the art of getting household chores done while they are entertaining each other.

For example, I’ve learned I can effortlessly unload the dishwasher while they have their post-breakfast picnic on the living room floor. I am also constantly uploading YouTube videos for my 3 channels, on my laptop which sits on top of my daughter’s plastic school desk.

Their post-breakfast picnic immediately transitions into an intense indoor recess, where the main attraction is for my 7 year-old son to run as fast as he can past my year and a half old daughter while she stands up and cheers as he runs straight toward her, but only grazesthe sleeve of her shirt, without knocking her down.

So far, injuries. I feel pretty good about that.

The next event is for my son to run as fast as he can while my daughter lays down on the blanket, and then he jumps over her and her bowl of cereal, without his feet touching either his sister or her bran flakes.

This activity also amazingly currently holds a 100% injury-free record.

For the 45 minutes in which they are both home after my son gets off the bus and before my wife gets home from work, I typically just take my kids upstairs in the playroom while they casually play with toys and watch me try to beat my high score on Mario Kart Wii.

Hey, it’s better than the before school part of my daddy day care, right?

I’m pretty sure the state of Tennessee would deny me a license to run a day care like this from my home. It’s probably for the best.

Dear Holly: Do You Realize We Have Different Sized Feet?

1 year, 7 months.

Dear Holly,

Throughout the day with you at the house, it is necessary for me to at least straighten up the house as we go along; from each activity you choose. This past week, you have been entertaining yourself in the meantime by taking it upon yourself to go get my shoes from the closet, carefully put them on, then walk around the kitchen in them.

And it’s not something you did just one time. Instead, this has now become a daily routine.

The moment you see me cleaning up the table after you had a messy breakfast consisting of yogurt and oatmeal, which you insist on feeding yourself with no help from Daddy, you quietly retreat to my shoes.

It’s funny because 10 minutes or so can pass, and the whole time, without me giving you confirmation of what you’re doing, I will look over the counter and catch you meticulously working to put my shoes on.

Once you’ve got them both on, you then make your way over to me, with such a cute little smile on your face.

I’m not sure you realize that we have such different sized feet- and therefore, that my shoes are ridiculously over-sized on you.

You figure that our whole family should just be able to share each other’s shoes; even though you have the tiniest feet in the house and I have the biggest.

It’s great that you are able to find such intriguing entertainment in wearing my shoes. I have to admit- you’re pretty easy to entertain.

Sure, you like your dolls and their baby stroller, but it’s like Daddy’s shoes are just as much fun!

You make my job as a stay-at-dad pretty easy. Not only can I get a little bit of housework done, but I also get free entertainment as well!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Carving the Halloween Jack-o’-lantern for the Thanksgiving/Hike at DeSoto Falls with Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca

7 years.

Dear Jack,

After having ventured to Gentry’s Farm to get our family’s pumpkin to carve for Halloween, we just didn’t get around to actually carving it in time. So we took it to Nonna and Papa’s nearly a month after Halloween… for the wrong holiday.

Papa then built a bonfire in the backyard to extend the feeling of pumpkin carving season.

Since your Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca were visiting from Pensacola, we also spent part of Thanksgiving break to introduce them to DeSoto Falls; not that far from where I grew up.

I’m fortunate to be from such a cool outdoorsy town (Fort Payne, Alabama), as it is not the average hometown to spend the holidays in. I was very proud to be able to entertain your aunt and uncle by showing them the giant waterfall up on the mountain.

It’s especially neat because we were able to get pretty close to the water, but kept from certain danger thanks to some guard rails.

While we were enjoying the views, we looked up and saw a few drones flying above us. I imagine it must be an awesome place to fly one around; as long as it doesn’t get caught in the rapids.

I have to assume in a just a few years, you’ll be asking for a drone for your birthday or Christmas, as compared to just Pokemon cards like you are currently obsessed with.

Turns out, your Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca enjoyed their Thanksgiving visit so much, they decided to drive back up from Florida again for Christmas- and this time they are bringing their teenage daughter who you enjoyed spending time with at Uncle Jake’s wedding in San Diego last year.

Whatever we all end up doing during our 5 days in Alabama for Christmas, I know we’re all going to have a great time!

Love,

Daddy

Stay-at-Home Dad 101: What I Eat During the Day, As a Vegan

The thought seemed intimidating when I was first immediately launched into my new career as stay-at-home dad:

“But what will I eat?”

Turns out, the answer was simple. I eat the same stuff I ate every day back when I commuted nearly an hour away to an office; only minus the oatmeal with trail mix and a banana.

I eat a little less because I am a little less hungry, and I suppose that might have something to do with the fact I’m not getting outside to exercise as much. When I worked at the office, I took my breaks walking or biking or running outside; as for now, I have an 18 month-old daughter and cold or hot weather to consider.

My calorie consumption begins each morning with a cup of instant organic iced coffee. (Honestly, it’s only 2 calories; but I’m not counting!) The entire container only costs about $5, the same amount of just one Starbucks latte.

While I could opt for the unsweetened vanilla almond milk in the fridge to add some flavor and creaminess, somehow along the way I discovered I genuinely like the taste of cold, black coffee.

But I do bring out the unsweetened vanilla almond milk about an hour later for my official breakfast, which is the manly vegan smoothie I invented. My recipe is high in protein and total fat, but contains very little saturated fat and zero cholesterol.

The ingredients, in addition to the almond milk: A whole banana, a cup of frozen blueberries, a half cup of plain oatmeal, a teaspoon of chia seeds, a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa or carob powder, and a tablespoon of peanut butter. Then I put that all together in the blender for about 20 seconds.

My lunch is quite predictable for me as well. There’s a brand of organic ramen noodle available at Whole Foods and Sprouts, called Koyo. They are around a dollar a package, and I cook 2 of them for my lunch. They are also high in protein, like my smoothie. I typically go with the “low sodium” version, but if it’s not available, I don’t let it bother my conscience: I usually consume under my daily allowance of sodium, since I don’t eat meat.

Throughout the rest of the afternoon, I may go for another cup of coffee, but I’m typically not really hungry after having consumed so much protein and good fats earlier in the day.

Depending on what’s for dinner, I may start prepping for when my wife and son get home. What’s really great is when my wife has already put together a crock pot meal the day before and placed it in the fridge. I can have that heating up during the afternoon so it will be ready for dinner. Plus, I can throw together a festive salad.

If I do stray from my ramen noodles routine for lunch, it’s only to finish off any leftovers from the night before, like my wife’s homemade vegan pizza; and maybe a bowl of cereal as well.

And consider, this meal plan is coming from a guy who said most of his life, “I got to have meat! I need more meat! I’m still hungry. I could never be a vegetarian. I couldn’t do it. Especially not a vegan!”

Obviously, there was dynamic character growth in the person narrating this story.

But I have embraced my identity as a manly vegan; and here more recently, as a stay-at-home dad as well.

3 Non-Romantic Reasons I Love My Wife

On the surface, it’s easy to see why I chose to spend the rest of my life with the woman I married over 9 years ago. She’s universally beautiful, she’s unselfishly kind, and she’s humble yet confident in herself.

I am a lucky man. I have the ability of knowing in all confidence, I made the right decision.

Not only did I choose the right person to marry, but I made the right decision that fateful night of October 5, 2006, when I spotted her in a crowded room full of hundreds of people and decided to take a chance: I walked up to her and attempted to woo her with my interesting stories, my charming, yet off-beat personality, and my average looks.

It worked.

Now here we are in our mid-30s, having been married nearly a decade, and having produced two blue-eyed, Dutch-looking children despite our DNA.

So while I could easily write 841 words on the romantic aspects of how much I love my wife, I’m instead going to take a different direction. What about the non-romantic reasons I love her?

What about the reasons that would be symbolized not by a heart emoji, but instead, by a house or a stack of money, or by a clock or even a skull?

If for no other reason than to challenge myself as a writer, I now present to you 3 non-romantic reasons I love my wife.

  1. We make a good business team.

I feel like this isn’t emphasized when a couple becomes engaged, but marriage is a business, and it needs to be ran that way. The longer we are married, the better we become at running our family’s business.

During our first year of marriage, before kids, we were able to pay for my wife to go get her Master’s Degree, without going into further debt. That investment paid off, as my wife has since then, consistently made considerably more money than I have all these years. My wife also handles our family’s weekly budget.

On my end, I have been faithfully building my experience as a writer (thanks to this blog) since 2009, and as a YouTuber for the past 3 years. Now at present day, we are seeing the possibility that my “side hustles” (as a blogger, ghostwriter, SEO expert, social media influencer, and YouTuber) are starting to pay off. I actually speculate that by January 2019, our monthly mortgage payment will be covered from my YouTube earnings alone.

My wife is the detailed accountant and investor. I am the creative entrepreneur. Together, we run a family business.

            2. We make a good parenting team.

In the same way we are counterparts as co-business owners, we function the same way as parents. My wife is the nurturer, the schedule keeper, the travel planner, the head chef, and the laundry engineer.

Meanwhile, I am the disciplinarian, the head of communication, the chauffeur, the before-and-after school program director, and the “wake up at any hour of the night to get our daughter back to sleep” technician.

We are not great at doing each other’s roles. Instead, we embrace our individual parenting strengths as part of our own identities. We’ve got a good system. And we’ve got good kids.

Whereas I see marriage as a business, I see parenting as a talent management agency. We have two young recruits who we are responsible for molding into respectable and independent adults, preparing them for the real world.

        3. I want to be around her even during the predictable, seemingly uneventful, non-                          Facebook-status-worthy moments of life.

For me, it all comes back to the famous line in our wedding vows: for better or for worse.

Yeah, I’m totally cool with slowly aging alongside my wife for the next 40 years as we live happily ever after, until ultimately one of us finally dies first, leaving the other person with the insurance money- and unimaginable sadness.

But what about the in-between of better or worse? Not everyday can be a Michael Bublé song. Many days are more like Huey Lewis, when he sang, “Yes, it’s true, I’m so happy to be stuck with you.”

I love my wife for the moments in our life together that are just normal and forgettable; the B-roll footage that no one would care about watching if our lives were a reality TV show on TLC, called Our Crazy Vegetarian Life. Being grateful for your spouse through all the filler moments, which honestly, make up most of our time on this planet, is what real love is all about.

So maybe I’ve failed to hold true to the title of this article. Maybe there really is something romantic about building a life together, running it like a business, creating and raising mini-me’s, and choosing to love a person until the day you die, even if most of those days don’t have fireworks and champagne.

Maybe there’s something undeniably romantic about the unromantic parts of loving the person you married.

If so, consider me a hopeless romantic.

Photo credit: Mohamad Alaw.

About the Author:

I am an accidental stay-at-home vegan daddy blogger based in Spring Hill, Tennessee. I have no spare time, but by default, my hobbies include playing guitar, singing, songwriting, mountain biking, skateboarding, running, and going on road trips across America with my family in vehicles that Toyota and Lexus provide for free because it’s smart advertising for them.

Additionally, I enjoy making videos for both of my YouTube channels: Nick Shell, which is a mentorship program for younger men who are psychologically dealing with going bald, and Family Friendly Daddy Blog, which celebrates and explores ethnic diversity based on DNA test results.