“Dad! Wass for Bweakfass?”
Meet Amran Gowani, A Stay-at-Home Dad Breaking the Cycle of Fatherly Neglect
Welcome to the latest newsletter. Very glad to have so many new readers joining us today!
As Work/Craft/Life expands its reach, thanks to all of you, I’ve been appreciative of how many folks have connected with me about their own jobs. We all have moving stories to tell, and I’m eager to hear them. Keep’em coming!
In this spirit, we have a guest essay about being a Stay-at-Home Dad from Amran Gowani, a fellow subscriber.
In my own family, my wife Diane and I both worked—and had the help of part-time nannies and family. But, I was definitely what we called the “primary parent” since my wife’s career required a fair amount of travel and lacked the flexibility I had as an author. It was always a balancing act…and ever-changing as our girls have grown. I shared with Amran many of the same experiences he eloquently describes: the frantic mornings, the lone Dad at the playground, the mixed feelings over “missing out” on other opportunities, and the scattered moments of deep joy that I would not have enjoyed if I had been away.
Of course, no two stories are the same and Amran’s own is all the more poignant because he aims to be there for his kids in a manner that his own father had not been for him.
As you’ll read, Amran is a writer and satirist. He also has his own newsletter Field Research. It’s funny, inventive, and often quite moving. His post about talking with his kids about democracy (told in the format of a screenplay) is well worth the subscribe alone. And away we go from Amran…
It’s 4:19 a.m. The room is pitch black. Falling asleep again is a non-starter, and I have ninety-odd minutes of uninterrupted silence—pure gold. I sneak to the reclining chair in the living room. A lush, six-foot-tall fiddle fig tree looms beside me. All is Zen. For now.
Our home, a “duplex down” condo on Chicago’s north side, is situated between three elementary schools and two churches. During school hours the sidewalk outside our east-facing bay window teems with kids and their harried parents, though at the moment all is blissfully calm.
I open my in-progress novel and jump to the chapter I’m working on. I re-read, editing a word or two or fifty until I reach the blank, never-ending abyss at the bottom of the pixelated page.
The momentum picks up. A sentence I hate materializes, but I hold my nose and keep moving (the secret to writing, I’ve learned). Another bad sentence follows. They start improving with the emergence of the sunrise and car headlights through the window. Just as the words flow with ease, little footsteps thunder across the hardwood.
“Dad! Wass for bweakfass?” my three-year-old son says.
The next two-and-a-half hours are a whirlwind of controlled chaos.
My first role of the day is short-order cook. I make coffee, heat up pre-prepared pancakes, and pour bowls of cereal. We eat together as a family every morning. My wife, Felicia, skims headlines on her phone. My daughter, six, antagonizes her little brother with expert skill. I sit amongst the anarchy plotting the day ahead.
A quick look at my inbox and around our disheveled house tells me perfunctory tasks (e.g., appointments, bills, cleaning, errands) will chew up much of the childless portion of my day. The only distraction-free window I’ll have ahead will come after the kids are asleep. That means sacrificing the already limited time I’ll have with Felicia.
When everyone finishes eating, I bus the dishes. Then my wife and I prepare two defiant kids for school. We alternate between cajoling (her) and threatening (me) to get them to use the potty, dress, and brush their teeth. I pack my daughter’s lunch and backpack while trying in vain to block out the temper tantrums and ostentatious displays of independence.
My daughter’s elementary school is one block away. This is the ultimate life hack. Felicia walks her there and back within ten minutes. After, we bike my son to his preschool. Finally, we’ve pushed Sisyphus’ rocks to the top of the hill.
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Twice per week my wife and I ride our bikes to the bouldering gym. We prioritize exercise for three reasons: 1) health is wealth, 2) it’s fun, and 3) these are the only guaranteed hours we’ll spend together.
We began bouldering soon after our first date in Philadelphia, where we were both working in pharmaceutical marketing after graduating with MBAs in spring 2012.
Boredom, ambition, and a sense of adventure took us to San Francisco the following year. We each got new jobs and—now in a bouldering hotspot—rapidly improved from novice to intermediate climbers. Then, in late 2015, Felicia, my now-wife, became visibly pregnant.
At that time, I was burning out as a junior equity research analyst at an investment bank, while she was steadily ascending the corporate ladder at a large biotech company.
We were physically healthy and financially secure, but our daughter’s due date was fast approaching, and we were unprepared to become parents. Daycare waitlists were years long and, worse still, as Bay Area transplants, we didn’t have any immediate family members to help out when she arrived. We needed to call an audible.
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