I have had many titles placed upon me in my life, but the one I cherish the most is stay-at-home-dad.
The role of a domestic engineer is a critical position that does not reward you in the traditional sense of a paycheck so some people struggle to define its value. As someone who benefited from a stay-at-home parent and now as I fill the role myself, I understand the profoundly positive impact this position can play in the health of a military family.
My wife and I, like many others, have always placed a very high value on our family. It’s a key consideration for us as we look forward with her military career.
As military families we can’t always stack the deck in our favor with PCS timelines or operational tempos but my wife and I have always tried to do the best we can.
As our family grew with the arrival of our oldest that core consideration of family value was put to the test.
As a dual-military couple we understood the time constraints our careers placed on us. With combat deployments on the rise at the time and both of us assigned to high op-tempo units we were concerned with how that could affect our family. We had seen many couples struggle with this and talked through countless scenarios. In the end the only one that fit us was my departure from the service to stay at home.
I won’t pretend there wasn’t a significant learning curve.
The transition from leading troops in combat to being unable to get my daughter into a diaper without it being a significant emotional event was an adjustment.
You cannot help but be humbled and laugh at life when your child pees through her diaper and onto your dress slacks as you stand in a receiving line for your wife’s change of command. Your once formidable persona as a ground combatant commander is shattered by the undeniable challenges that raising children will bring.
Yet with all difficult tasks come wondrous rewards. I know how fortunate I am to be able to say, I have been present at the birth of both of my children. I have been to every birthday, every holiday meal (because I am making them) and every milestone so far in their lives. Not out of luck but because I am supposed to be.
The role of a stay-at-home parent requires sacrifice, however it also yields immeasurable rewards.
I will admit that my wife got the first word status. I guess it is more fun to say “Momma” than “Daddy” in the beginning. She shares a bond with our girls I will never have – after all she is their mother.
I have been a Girl Scout troop leader and was given the unique chance to add a male perspective to my troop. Our Thinking Day observance was one such instance. As we told the unique histories and cultural information about Italy, my Girl Scouts showed off bedazzled gladiator weapons they made for the event.
I have been a spokesman for school programming, a room parent, hosted coffees and attended the military spouse events in Washington, D.C. As many of the other stay-at-home parents know there is never a shortage of areas to help out in.
Being a stay-at-home dad has allowed me the opportunity to never take myself too seriously. There will always be enormous events in life, however the really important ones happen in between these milestones. The loss of a tooth, learning to ride a bike, doing the first cartwheel, or getting a perfect score on a test.
Life happens in a few blinks of an eye.
Being afforded the opportunity to be with my girls daily lets me see them grow into beautiful ladies and allows me the chance to bolster their confidence so they can chase any dream they have.
Eric Gardner was raised in a military family and lived around the world. Following in his father’s footsteps, he joined the U.S. Army as an Infantry Officer. Since the end of his wartime service he has shifted gears and is now a stay-at-home father. In his role as an active duty Army spouse, he has become an author. As the creator of the XIII Legion Series he has enjoyed great success, and enjoys meeting other entrepreneurial spouses as well as fellow authors. You can see more from Eric Gardner at his Facebook page: www.facebook.com/thirteenthlegion.series, and http://www.facebook.com/XIIILGN or follow him via Twitter @13thLegion.