*A post by Matt.*
After nearly 20 years as a police officer and detective, I was involved in a fight with an arrestee and injured my back. Due to the extent of the injury, I was forced into early retirement from law enforcement.
While my family was happy I was leaving a dangerous career, I had many reservations about being forced into retirement. Yes, the thought of sleeping during nighttime hours was something I had craved for years; but, I knew I would miss the excitement, quick thinking and spontaneous problem solving I did on the job.
I became the primary caregiver parent for our two boys while Lori started working more. A few weeks in my new role it became clear that I wouldn’t miss out on excitement, quick thinking and spontaneous problem solving. C.J. would provide it.
Chase has always been a very easy child. He’s easy-going, he listens, he rarely argues, he’s not impulsive and he never raises his voice in frustration or to make his point.
C.J. however, is a totally different story.
This past summer was my first summer home with the boys full time. By August, I couldn’t wait for school to start.
I’ve worked through triple-digit Southern California summers on the street in a wool uniform atop a bulletproof vest or locked in sweltering stake out cars with no air conditioning. Those summers weren’t the hardest. Summer 2017 was the hardest because every day I had to match wits with a strong, sassy, opinionated, confident, creative, spontaneous 10-year-old who was bored and adjusting to having dad – not mom – home the most.
Nothing was easy. If I said black, he said white. If I wanted yogurt, he wanted ice cream. If I wanted the pool, he wanted the beach. Everything was a battle. If I never hear “Mom doesn’t do it that way…” again, it will be too soon.
He would tell me when I was having a bad hair day and needed to put a hat on or if, worse yet, I was wearing an unflattering outfit. How can swim trunks look “not swim-y” and a tank top look “too arm-y”?
While Chase was busy with high school football practices and weight lifting, I was shuttling C.J from art camp to tennis lessons to sewing camp. It was more than 100 damn degrees and I was in and out of the car carrying racquets, sewing baskets and more clay projects than we have space for. Every day, after every camp, C.J. told me how I didn’t pack a snack, I packed the wrong snack or I packed too much snack (how is that even possible).
When I was working, I used to envy stay-at-home parents. I pictured parents – especially moms – enjoying free time with their kids. During the summer I pictured them lounging by the pool with their mom-friends and their kids, reading magazines, gossiping and maybe sipping on an adult beverage. I assumed they felt kid-free as their children entertained themselves in the pool. During school holidays, I pictured the stay-at-home moms sleeping in, doing a craft stress-free, watching a movie and feeling happy, relaxed and refreshed.
I’d been wrong. So wrong.
That’s not stay-at-home life; I’m sorry for ever thinking it was. I know better now.
Occasionally, I call Lori at work to vent about stay-at-home life.
“I have to go. Work is crazy-busy today,” she says to me. That used to be my line. Now it’s hers and it’s hard to hear.
I know I can be difficult to deal with. I’m confident and loud. I have difficulty hiding my true emotions. I’m honest to a fault. I can be impulsive.
Being a stay-at-home parent, I’ve realized that C.J. is exactly like me. Lori always said so, but I never listened. How could an effeminate little boy who wears skirts and plays with dolls be exactly like me?
But, he is, my feminine son is exactly like masculine me. It took me being home with him full-time to see how glaringly obvious it is.
.While spending countless hours with him in the car or at home doing homework and projects, we have grown incredibly close. For a father and son to have such different interests, pursuits and goals, we have the same humor, personality and sarcasm. Since being home with him full-time, I’ve seen his assuredness and confidence grow. He’s become stronger. That’s not to say he’s become more masculine, it’s to say he’s become more confident and unapologetic in his feminine gender expression. He knows he can be exactly who he is and he has all of my love and support.
He can sashay into school wearing French braids, carrying his pink emoji lunchbox and he – and all of his schoolmates – know that I’ll greet him with a smile and hug when school gets out.
Being the primary caregiver parent has changed me, too. I’ve grown. I retired before age 40. Most people say I’m lucky, and I am, but it also takes some adjusting to. I went from being a cop to being the parent responsible for a lot of the emotional care of our children. I’ve traded traditional gender roles with my wife to stay home with our blue teenager and pink boy. Now, I know where things are at the grocery store and in the pantry and my wife doesn’t. It’s my job to know when we’re almost out of toilet paper and what flavor jelly the boys prefer at the moment.
As much as we’ve prided ourselves in ignoring society’s ideas of traditional gender roles, we’ve had some adjusting to do. At times, it’s been challenging for our relationship and my friendships with other guys. Longtime guy friends think it’s weird that I search Pinterest for recipes and know when the local bakery has 50 percent off cupcakes (Tuesdays) and cookies (Thursdays).
Our lives have been full of adjustments. The adjustments were hard for a while. The loss of my professional identity. The physical pain of my injury. The role reversal in our marriage. Getting used to being the stay-at-home parent. But, as the four of us always do, we found our way.
I’m so proud to be the father of our boys and grateful to be able to be home with them. I realize now more than ever that I missed a lot when I was working. This summer was difficult and challenging and the school year couldn’t come fast enough. Now, I see winter break winking at me from a few weeks away and I look the other way while I can. But, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Your children are so fortunate to have you for a father. I wish I had been so lucky! Happy Holidays.
Not every father can do this…you are the best
Just loved the way you described felt so happy about it, It could be a epitome for any family to grow.
The secret of fulfillment lies not in the amount of money you bring home, but in the amount of effort and energy that you have extended to do it well, to the full measure of your abilities. And I am seeing that you are doing everything you can and as a result finding fulfillment in it. God bless you, for being such a loving husband and father to your wife and kids!
I needed to read this just now. I was considering joining the work force, but you have made me realize staying at home with my kids is not always an easy job, but a very important one. Thank you for your honesty. Your genuine, honest feelings have helped me see my own stay-at-home role in a brighter light. I think you are an incredible father. Warmest, Hillary Whittington
“But, as the four of us always do, we found our way.” And bam, there it is. That is exactly what family is about. The ride isn’t always fun, and sometimes it’s downright miserable, but any family unit, no matter who they are comprised of, is just out there trying to find their way. It is so refreshing how self-aware you both are.
“He can sashay into school wearing French braids, carrying his pink emoji lunchbox and he – and all of his schoolmates – know that I’ll greet him with a smile and hug when school gets out.”
This made me cry, especially after watching so many years of his lunchbox debates and accessory suppression.
Matt, we always read about what a great guy you are when Lori writes about you, but reading your post, you’re even more amazing than she’s told us! How wonderful that you’ve had the opportunity to spend so much time with your boys, they will cherish that for their whole lives.
Bravo for your growth! Sorry about your back – that’s beyond miserable. I blew out my back when my son was about to enter kindergarten. If I’d been working a paid job, I would be on disability, but I left the paid work force when he was born. As a stay at home mom, I had to giggle at how much you’ve learned about this side of parenting. Kudos to you. There’s always a lot more to dealing with kids than meets the eye. I’ve only got one, but he’s got a boatload of issues. I love my husband, but he could never do my job(s) here at home.
JUST WOW! Your family is so lucky to have a man like you in their lives. Just wait until you have two teens in the family. Good luck with that.
What a great post! Love to hear when fathers can be with the kids. Keep up the terrific work Matt!
Great post. Beautiful family you got there, take care of them. Sorry about your job but one thing I’m sure of, once a cop always a cop. Still too many ways you can serve, right?
Nice one. Inspiring.
Hey Matt hang in there. God never gives you
something in life you can’t handle. CJ is the man and he got a damn good head on his shoulders. Your blessed with 2 awesome sons. Just think within the next 6 or 7 years he’ll be asking to borrow the car!!!
This could be the greatest “dad” post I’ve ever read. You and Lori and CJ and Chase are so lucky you all have each other. Rock on!
Was going to write a comment but Dan seems to have stolen every word. Well said Dan. And Matt, you’re awesome. Thank you for being you.
Those kids and Lori are lucky to have you.
It sounds like C.J.’s been leading you the entire way. His gender expression and your acceptance of him just as he is, has allowed your entire family to not get hung up on you being a stay at home dad, while your wife is at work. I’m so glad you are all able to do this together!
What a wonderfully honest, heartfelt, funny & insightful post, THANK YOU. Thank you for being such an open minded & evolving male, & for taking both your work & home duties seriously- they are equally valuable. What an awesome family you are, well done ❤🌈❤ G
Fantastic! You are a great father to your children and they are oh so lucky to have you in their lives. 🙂 Thank you for giving me hope that parents can be good. Mine were not they were terribly abusive. I love your blog and reading about your life. Thank you for sharing.
I love it. You are so open and honest. I can understand your missing the job. Although I’ve been disabled all my life and not employed. I do have routines I don’t like to break. We are all creatures of habits. I am also sorry for your injury which forced your change of lifestyle, but grateful that you are well now, and can enjoy watching the boys grow up. These are exciting and exhausting years of their lives.
thank you matt for posting your love for your family and how it is expressed now that you and your bride have changed roles and the family dynamic. all four of you are magnificant people.
I’m a mom on the job, 23 years. I plan to retire from policing in a few years to be a full time college softball fan for my LGBT super athletic kid…did I mention I’m more of a library nerd? Matt, you are doing a GREAT job! I know you miss the job but what you are doing now is amazing. Thank you for sharing your lives with us!
Really nice post Matt. I don’t think it’s weird that you search recipes or the typical gender stereotyped actives of a stay at home parent. I actually think it’s weird your guy friends thin it weird. Something way too rigid and wrong in my way of thinking. I do most of the cooking and shopping in my family. That’s the whole point. As a family, or as a person there is no such thing as a gender breakdown for what we need to do to keep us all together.
Merry Christmas you all, best in the new year.
I agree. Someone recently commented about my guys (husband and grown son) doing the cooking in our respective families. I said, that’s just how I raised them. Actually, if I’d had any girls I would have taught them, too, but life gave me guys, so. These are not gender roles. These are life roles. Everyone learns all the skills, shares the responsibilities and all the love. That’s family. Matt, Lori, Chase & C.J. do it great!
Thanks so much for sharing this! I hope you continue to recover from your injury.
As always, your family is inspiring and teaching us all great lessons!
Ugh. I love this so much it hurts. What an amazing father.