I became a househusband in my mid-forties. My wife, Judith, and I had been struggling to keep our Boston non-profit art conservation center alive, but after almost ten years, it died. Judith and I left town for a sales job for Judith in Connecticut. It was the only job offer we got and we were running out of money. We’d see how it would go. The only problem we foresaw was the rural location: Woodstock, up in the farm fields of northern Connecticut.
Someone had to take care of our two-year-old son, Drew. Me. I was his father and loved him. I’d been changing diapers and feeding Drew for two years, so that would continue, just full time. The plan was to do this for a year at most; pay some bills and find jobs for Judith and me somewhere—normal.
Being isolated all day, every day in a cheap farmhouse in the woods was a trial. I’d always wanted to be a father and found I liked most of the challenges. Kids need slow walks, food, naps and playtime. Cleaning came naturally to me, along with painting, cutting firewood and even cooking. Unsurprisingly, the problem was I had no time of my own. Judith only shared bedtime stories with Drew. So, I occasionally reminded myself that single parents don’t even get that break.
The other problem seeped into Judith’s and my brains more slowly. My resume was dying. As weeks turned into months, I’d look in panic at Judith and we’d both talk about the few options I had. I tried, consulting, but failed. No one cared about a museum collections care expert who lived so far from museums. We left city life because we couldn’t afford it anymore and were painting me into a corner.
Yup. The longer we persevered, the more pathetic my resume became. Drew was happy but Judith really was only persevering with her job and we began to sweat out the bucolic fall and winter in beautiful, rural Connecticut. At least Judith had a job, a job that might lead to another job. And it did. After three years, Judith got a good enough sales job offer in Pennsylvania—rural Pennsylvania—to get us to move down there. We added a daughter, Abby, to our family.
I gave up on my resume. I wanted to restore old houses and began with the one we moved into in northern Bucks County. We sold it and moved into another old house for me to fix. I wrote a novel about our experiences and then wrote some more. We were lucky.
Having kids isn’t for everyone but it is for a bunch of us. It’s never been easy to raise kids well, but in the age of resumes—not to mention self-branding—-it can feel like a conflict of interests. Judith and I talked about that conflict a lot and, more than anything else we did, the resolution we fought to have, to stick with family first, gave us the frame of reference we needed. I was a proud househusband; that’s what I am.
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