Over the years I have received a variety of emails from working mothers – and quite a lot from work at home dads as well.
One recent letter caught my attention. The email came from a work at home dad who offered to discuss his daily challenges, but his challenges have gone beyond scheduling work time around naptime and finding things to do with a child for the majority of a long day.
You see, when Barack Levin headed to a routine physical at the young age of 26, he believed all would be well. He would marry his love, Michelle, and raise a family in the United States, following many of our happily ever after dreams.
The physical, though, turned out to be anything but routine. Doctors discovered Barack had a life-threatening, irreversible form of kidney disease and guessed he would not live to see 30.
After his diagnosis, his view of the world changed. Says Barack, “Matters that once seemed so important to me became irrelevant – things like jewelry, designer clothes, sports cars, or the latest gadgets all seemed so useless and unnecessary when I knew that one morning, I might not wake up.”
Barack admits to making a complete mental change in which the important things in life came to light – family, good times, free time. ” . . . telling my wife I love her every day, and tightening the relationship I have with my parents and siblings.”
Barack followed his dream of marrying Michelle and they had a son. He decided to remain at home with his son and spend the first year of his life, and potentially the last year of Barack’s own life, being a work at home dad. “I wanted to offer him proper guidance, using some very unconventional methods, through the first steps of his journey to becoming a fantastic kid and a great man – a journey I feared I might not be around to witness much of.”
During this time Barack wrote The Diaper Chronicles, a book about the journey a man takes when staying at home to raise the children. (At this time, Barack has two children). In the book Barack describes a new philosophy for raising kids, which he calls “Stop Treating Your Kids Like BABIES!” His theory – babies are just like the rest of us: thinkers. If you treat a baby like an adult, you will raise great, independent and self confident kids.
An example: Parents shower children with useless toys like computer games and overprotect them when they can raise a child without “child proofing” the house, make kids love fruits and veggies, and teach them to be more independent.
“You want your kids to become independent, show them how it is done. Let them help you around the house, teach them some basic skills, teach them how to talk to adults.”
As far as staying at home is concerned, Barack says the biggest misconception about a stay at home dad is they don’t have “maternal instincts.”
“Personally,” he says, “I think that without those instincts, stay at home dads would not be able to care for babies.” He also says that society often believes a man handling a baby is “probably distressed,” which actually works out for him in a good way – he’s given additional help, moved to the front of the line, or gotten VIP treatment when traveling solo on a flight with a baby.
It has been over five years since Barack was told about his “best case” scenario, and he is still doing well. “My doctor calls me the “miracle patient.”
Ben Martin is the CEO of THE FATHER LIFE. He lives with his wife and five children in the Rochester, NY, area.