Why did I agree to this?
Shh, Don’t Tell! stories are meant to be heard – in the person’s own voice – as well as for the original music. Please click above and listen, if you can! The transcript is also below.
Narrator: When Don was thirty and twice divorced, he got an invitation to be a dad that kind of surprised him.
Don: We’d been dating for four months and she was like all right, I’m not getting any younger. I want to have a large family. And I need somebody that will take care of the kids. So you’re either on board with this, or get to stepping pal, ‘cause my clock is ticking.
Narrator: He said okay.
Don: I’m like whoa. Wow. All right. There’s no sugar coat there. And we made the agreement that we would have as many kids as we could until she turned forty and then we were done. And I’ll give up my career to stay home with them.
Narrator: Don’s last job before dad was elevator mechanic.
Don: It was a fantastic job, because it took all the education I’d amassed over the years and put it all into one neat little job that paid really well. So I was doing welding, I’ve always done my own wrenching on my motorcycles and my cars, so it took mechanics, my grandfather was a property owner and taught me how to do drywall and framing and so it used that, I was an aircraft electrician so I knew electricity, and I was an electronics technician in the Navy. So it took all of this information and this skill set and put it into one neat little job, that paid six figures, and it was still dangerous as you get out ‘cause you’re in an elevator shaft and there are a million ways to die in an elevator shaft! You either fall or you get electrocuted or you get crushed, ripped in half, I mean there’s literally a million ways to die. And that was fun. It was fun.
When Declan was born, everything changed. I slowed down. Why the hell am I getting emotional? It kind of gave my life meaning and purpose. I quit riding so fast. I slowed down a lot. Didn’t go out to the bars anymore. Not near as much as I used to. Everything that I did I was thinking about how this is going to affect Declan.
And it had just such a profound shift on my psyche, it was crazy. I had purpose now. There’s a reason I’m here. And something to work towards and work for. And there was many nights I’d just sit there with Declan on my chest, bawling my eyes out. Because it was just such a heavy weight.
I’m barely emotionally stable as it is. How am I going to be a rock for this kiddo growing up? And I feel like I’m doing it on own, wife’s never home anyway, family’s not here, and why would I – this crappy world that we live in, why am I bringing a kid into it. All these things kind of rolled up into one. In that respect I guess in that respect I was suffering from post-partum depression.
We were renting a house, it was kind of a Craftsman style. The day I’m thinking of in question I was sitting on the couch in front of the fireplace. It’s a futon. One of the wooden style futons. Nice futon. Still have it. I was just sitting there, I had Declan on my chest, looking at the fire. And it was getting on evening, wife still wasn’t home. It was just like how did I end up doing this? Why am I here. Why am I, why did I agree to this. I was trapped, I was stuck, I couldn’t do anything, I was not my own anymore. I belonged to someone else. I didn’t have my own income, I didn’t have my own job, I didn’t – II had to be responsible for this child but I couldn’t provide for it because I, you know – it’s all kind of twisted shit in my head. I talked to the wife about it and she reassured me that my job is to take care of the kids. And I’m just as important as her breadwinning. That’s my job. Own it.
But I was still very insecure about being a stay at home dad. And like my Dad had said what good are you doing living off a woman? Where’s your pride? You may as well turn in your man card now and go wear a skirt. I’m like Dad, fuck off, you know. But at the same time I felt those insecurities too. Growing up the way I have and living the lifestyle I lived – I was like yeah. I must turn in my man card. And I was wrestling with this for a long time. Until I was at, where the hell was I? I was on a ride. I was going out to Wyoming. I was on my motorcycle.
music: Bandito Jam
And I’m wearing my colors. I’m a club member. So. I stopped off at this place called Devil’s Slide. It’s in Utah. Its a really cool rock formation. And I stopped there to take a break. And as I was just standing there stretching and breathing the beautiful air, another motorcyclist stopped as well. Probably for the same reason. Turned out he was a bandito. Bandito’s motorcycle club is basically one of the most notorious outlaw motorcycle clubs in the world. That’s the epitome of masculinity in the world that I come from. I’m also a full patched, what they call full patched motorcycle club member. So it’s okay. And we sat there, struck up conversation, and I knew, inevitably, when you strike up a conversation like that the question will be so what do you do? Right? That’s what guys talk about. So, what do you do? And I’m sitting here wracking my brain trying to figure out how I’m going to answer this question that I know is coming. And I was like well, how am I going to answer this? I used to be in the military? No, no. Oh, I was an elevator mechanic. No, no. Maybe I used to be a welder. Something cool, something mrr. Manly and masculine. And sure enough, he asked, so what do you do? I looked at him stone cold faced and said I’m a stay at home dad. That’s what I do. And he stopped dead in his tracks and looked at me, kind of cocked his head, he’s like, no. I’m like yeah. He said: so am I.
music: Bandito Jam
I was like – what?? (Laughs.) That was not the reaction I expected. I was expecting a tirade of beratement from him about how the hell should I be able to wear colors and dah dah dah dah dah. And I connected with this guy. Turned out he had two kids, ages 7 and 9, he stayed home with them full time. His wife was a charge nurse someplace in Denver, and he loved it. It was great. He was like, I get to spend time with the kids all the time, I get to ride my bike more often, I love it, it’s great. And we bonded like (snaps fingers) like instantly. And he was headed west and I was headed east, so we ended up parting and going our separate directions, but I’ll never forget that. That was the moment that I embraced the concept and owned it. That I was a stay at home dad, and I was a Dad first.
So my wife would work hell bad hours. Just a lot of hours. She’s a subspecialist surgeon. A gynecologic oncologist. So she works on cancerous female bits. Ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, vaginal cancer. She would leave for work Monday morning before the kids woke up and they wouldn’t see her again until Saturday. Camden especially. He would see her at night to nurse, and that was it. When he started talking he called her milk daddy. He didn’t call her mommy.
So Saturdays she’d usually give me a break somehow or another. She’d take the kids to story time or let me take a shower. You know, uninterrupted. This particular Saturday, she’d taken kids to the library for a story time. And there was a bar across the street. So I got her all settled in, made sure that she had all the things that she needed, she knew where the bathroom was, knows where the diapers are. Dah dah dah dah dah. You’re good. She’s like yeah, I’m good. Okay. I’m going to go across the street, have a beer, text me when you’re done and we’ll walk home. She was like, okay. So as I’m leaving the library, there were some moms that were standing in the line there, and as I walk around I overhead one of them saying to the other – isn’t that just typical, he just dumps the kids with her and goes and has a beer. Oh I was pissed. I just stopped dead in my tracks and I gave her an earful. I was like, what the fuck are you talking about. I’ve had these kids all goddamn week, she’s given me a break. You don’t know the whole story. Just because the dad’s leaving doesn’t mean he’s a fricking deadbeat. She hasn’t even seen them… (laughs). I just went off on this poor gal, she had no idea what hit her. I feel almost bad about it now, in hindsight, that I just lit off on her, but I needed a damn break. I just needed a time out. I needed just a pause. And that’s I think a concept that most moms understand.. Sometimes you need a break. You need a moms night out. You need to go get a pedicure with your girlfriends. Or have a beer. Whatever it is. You need to take a moment – what I call cognitive pause. Like (breath out). Okay, let’s go again, you know. Everybody needs that.
Narrator: Everybody does.
Special thanks to Baby Blues Connection for help with Shh, Don’t Tell! Stories, to Jenny Conlee of The Decemberists fame for our awesome theme and other music and to cellist Collin Oldham for his terrific compositions and scoring.