6 Jobs That Are Worse Than Being a Stay-at-Home Dad

Family Matters on 07.14.11
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Photo Credit: Bill Stutzman via Wikimedia.org

Before I had even seriously contemplated having kids, I had the sneaking suspicion that parents were exaggerating about how difficult their lot was.  I don't know if I just had grumpy friends, or friends with rotten kids, or if they were so detained and isolated by their familial obligations that they couldn't help but unload their frustrations on their child-free friends during those rare occasions when they were able to leave the house.  All I know is that they would regale me with stories of destroyed property, ungrateful behavior, and horrifying hygiene.  If Junior wasn't trying to burn the house down by crashing the lit barbecue through the patio door, Sissy was counting the ways in which she loathed her mom and dad, and Bubba was expressing his artistic vision through fecal fingerpainting.

It was pretty frightening, I have to admit, to hear the daily trials of my friends when my typical concerns were about things like dinner reservations and skiing conditions.  It definitely did not make me want to run out and start a family.

However...there was always part of me that thought, It can't be that bad.

And after two years of being a full-time parent, I'm here to tell you: it's not.  If my experience is typical (and I have no reason to believe otherwise), being a parent is a pretty good gig.  In fact, I would venture to say that parenting beats a lot of other occupations in terms of working conditions and job satisfaction, and does so by a wide enough margin that it makes up for the dismal pay.

Just as I can only comment on parenting based on my own experience, I really can only compare my current job as stay-at-home dad of 2-year-old twin girls to other jobs I've held.  But since I've had a pretty wide range of jobs, I feel like the results of the survey I conducted in my own mind are probably in line with what a bigger, more scientific one might produce.

So here it is.  A comparison between jobs I've had in the past and my present employment as a trophy husband and stay-at-home dad.


Job 1: Lifeguard (3 summers during high school)

Pros: easy as long as no rescues necessary, tanning opportunities, twirling whistle on lanyard, girls in bikinis

Cons: tedium, babysitting of ungrateful brats and antique pool filter systems, ignored by girls in bikinis, skin cancer later in life

How does it compare to SAHDing? Although there are some similarities between the two jobs (i.e. main objective is to keep clients alive), the extra danger involved in SAHDing makes it less tedious, and the personal connection to the clients (my kids) makes me less likely to fall asleep behind my aviator glasses. SAHD wins.


Job 2: Driveway Resurfacing (1st job after high school)

Pros: N/A (one of my colleagues told me that we would see many fine ladies in our travels, but this claim was vastly overstated)

Cons: many hours in Econoline van full of grumpy rednecks who smelled like asphalt, working on blacktop during summertime in D.C., smelling like asphalt

How does it stack up against being a SAHD: Aside from working with people who are often smelly and sometimes grumpy, this job has little in common with SAHDing, and its grueling drudgery makes chasing after toddlers seem like a picnic.  SAHD wins.

Job 3: Carpenter (about 75% of the last 25 years)

Pros: sense of accomplishment, decent pay, a certain romantic cachet perceived by people outside of the trades, manliness cred, useful skills, bawdy humor encouraged, tanning opportunities

Cons: injuries, grumpy rednecks, non-tradespeople saying they "have always admired people who can work with their hands," being called "handyman," skin cancer

Was it better than being a SAHD? This was a pretty close call; but ultimately, the physical toll paid by being a carpenter for so long cancels out a lot of the job's benefits.  SAHD wins again.


Job 4: Ski Instructor (2 seasons)

Pros: free skiing, pro deals on equipment, wielding godlike (but benevolent) power over trembling college coeds taking skiing for P.E. credit

Cons: babysitting ungrateful brats, lining up in the cold with the rest of the instructors trying to solicit customers and hoping the manager would pimp me out to a wealthy tourist for a "private," kicking myself for not thinking of getting this job while still single

Let me guess--being a SAHD is better? Yes.  Even though the majority of my skiing students had fun and showed great appreciation for my efforts, it was transitory-I would rarely see them for more than a few sessions.  And they rarely got so excited that they called my name and sprinted into my arms whenever they saw me.  SAHD for the win!


Job 5: High School English Teacher (3 years)

Pros: those 4 students who I really "reached," that time the previous night's Ambien had not yet worn off and I had the class recite The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock in rounds with a couple kids beatboxing and me reading some of the lines as Brando in Apocalypse Now; working with smart teachers

Cons: babysitting ungrateful brats, broken school system, loss of cognitive capacity from reading student essays, loss of self-esteem, loss of faith in humanity, loss of muscle tone, loss of weekends, threat to marriage, grumpy teachers

Should I even bother asking?  Not really.  SAHD annihilates High School Teacher.


Job 6: Adjunct Professor (3 years)

Pros: students not hell-bent on keeping each other from learning anything, good conversations in the copy room

Cons: academic status and job security equivalent to day laborer stationed in Home Depot parking lot, student essays almost as bad as high school

Must we persist with this charade? Well, we've come this far.  Might as well see it through to the end of the premise.  SAHD puts a hurtin' on Adjunct Professor.


Having reviewed all of these jobs I had in the past, it seems more unreasonable than ever that my friends made parenting sound like such a hellish occupation to me when I was without any loin-fruit of my own.  Perhaps it was simply a communication problem.  Maybe my friends didn't try hard enough to present a balanced picture, because expressing the joys of parenting is so difficult.  Also, they may have assumed that everyone accepted as given that children are, more than anything, a wonderful gift, etc., etc., etc.  I didn't have anything against kids back then, but they didn't blow my mind or anything, so it seemed to me that these parents weren't to crazy about the gig.  I had heard the old cliche a million times: "Being a parent is the hardest, most thankless job you'll ever have...and the most rewarding."  As corny as that is, there's something to it.  But just as the hard parts make the rewards difficult to see, the ineffable rewards can make the difficulties seem quick and painless, even if they terrify your childless friends when you talk about them.  

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