So, our third kid was born in January, way ahead of schedule, and this changed a lot of stuff quickly in our life (as one could expect). The main thing that happened to me is that I got to take 6 weeks of parental leave.
For 6 weeks (well, technically 8 weeks because I also had to take 2 weeks of sick/paid leave when my wife had to spend several days at the hospital unexpectedly ahead of the birth), my brain completely switched off the “work” mode.
And, honestly, it was a mix of good and bad stuff.
I was happy to not have to think about work, and in a way this was kind of my first experience of what life would look like in early retirement. Unfortunately, it was not all rainbows and unicorns.
Arg, being a Stay at home dad is freaking boooring!
Having a premature baby meant that she was at the hospital, and my wife had to be there too about 5h a day. I was in charge of the house and the two other kids. Ultimately, our newborn came home, and things became a bit more “normal”, but still, understandably, my wife was expecting me to do my share of work around the house: taking our son to school, handling meals, laundry, cleaning around the house, bringing our son back from school, and once in a while feeding and changing the baby. You know, the usual stuff people do when they stay at home.
I have to admit this was my first time ever running a household with more than one member (me), and I realized that to me it is a repetitive, boring, and unfulfilling job. I already hear Stay-at-home parents telling me “I told you so”, but I didn’t realize it would be so boring.
Honestly, there is some bliss in doing those mindless tasks; they are very easy, and the amount of stress is much, much, much less than in my actual job. You can turn your mind off while doing most of that. But I felt that the boredom was sort of spreading to my other activities as well: the whole day would drift by, from one boring activity to another, without enough time in between to do anything meaningful.
And that part would probably be my main issue with the whole “stay at home dad” concept: my hobbies, my passions, and the thing I intend to do in my early retirement revolve around programming and engineering. For those of you familiar with these fields, you probably know they are activities where “45 minutes here, 45 minutes there” doesn’t cut it. Programming means doing lots of research, and getting in the zone before becoming productive. I hope I’m not completely off-base if I say that for me to really be productive when I’m working on a programming project, I need a good 5 hours of uninterrupted focus, possibly more. And the timing must be fully in my control: sometimes I’ll get inspiration at 9 am, but sometimes it can start at 11pm.
My wife has made it clear that I’ll never get that (at least as long as we have small kids), and this annoys me to the max. The result over these 6 weeks of parental leave is that I had lots of free time (easily 4 hours a day) but it was scattered throughout the day and I was not in control of my own time. Having kids means I have to get up with them to get them ready for school, be around when they get back, plan meals, etc… it’s a very constrained schedule and I completely hate it, pretty much to the same level as I hate the same constraints in a 9 to 5. I wouldn’t be surprised if this contributes to the fact that mostly DINKs are early retirees.
I’ll need to figure things out with my wife when I finally pull the plug from the 9 to 5. Maybe we can reach an agreement where on some days of the week I get to have my own schedule and she handles the kids, at least once they’re all old enough to go to school. If I have stay-at-home moms/dads in the audience I’m sure this sounds extremely selfish and disconnected, but a big part of why I’ve fought so hard for early retirement is to be able to dedicate time to my passions, on my own terms.
It pissed me of in particular that I was so bored/was so not in control of my time during these 6 weeks that anytime I’d have some free time, I did nothing constructive of it. I ended up reading random articles I didn’t care about on the net, watching stupid youtube videos, checking my brokerage account every 5 minutes for no goddam reason, and other similar crap. I’ve never had that amount of free time in years, and yet my side gig suffered the most because I never had the strength to do anything with it (mostly because I was so bored I couldn’t get the energy to do it, but also because I was worried I would get interrupted in the middle of it to do some on the chores mentioned above).
9 to 5 to the Rescue! Or not?
So, in a way, I was kind of happy to get back to work this morning: 8 hours of uninterrupted work, on my own terms, to some extent, and without mindless boring tasks (or so I thought). The beginning of the day was pretty good, getting back in touch with colleagues and catching up on what they’d been working on, and what my next projects would be. Then, at 5 pm, as I was ready to call it a day, this guy showed up asking me to set up a bunch of meetings for him, as if during my leave I had become some sort of executive assistant. It was obvious he simply didn’t want to do it himself, and for some reason initially I was eager to help and prove I was still useful, so I offered to help, at which point he bombarded me with a bunch of other things to set up for him, and I got really pissed. Is there something more infuriating than having to contact a bunch of executives at 5pm on a Friday to set up an urgent meeting for Monday? Douchebag.
He semi jokingly added “welcome back”, and he was maybe genuinely sorry to dump all of this on me, but it confirmed that lots of the folks at the office consider my line of work (I’m a project manager) as nothing more than “the guy who sets up meetings when we need them”. I have an effing computer science engineering degree, and here I am, at 5pm on a Friday, setting up a bunch of meetings for that guy. Seriously, WTF.
I have to thank this guy. He reminded me in less than an hour that whatever crap I’d have to deal with as a stay at home dad, it will never match the stuff I have to deal with here. I’m still definitely tired of this BS at work.
I’ve initiated the next phase of our plan by the way: I engaged with a few teams in Japan to move there as soon as possible. Hopefully back there I can take it reasonably slowly before we find a home and pull the plug in a bit more than a year? It’s somewhat ironic that we are technically FI but still need to deal with that crap until we secure a mortgage in Japan (which pretty much requires to have an “actual” job)