Benefits of being a work from home dad

For the last couple of years I’ve been working from home, generating my own income with my own companies on my own timeline. It’s been a wonderful change of pace from the stress and surprises of startup life.

On one hand the timing of needing to sell my venture-backed business really sucked. On the other hand it was perfect.

The sucky part was I got diagnosed with thyroid cancer just two months after my second daughter was born. Two months before my second daughter was born the outside CEO we hired for Scripted resigned and the board gave me the job on the implicit assumption that we would have to sell or shut down the business. At the time we had about 15 employees, so another implicit assumption was that I’d have to lead our second big layoff.

I ended up scheduling my thyroidectomy around this layoff date. Four days after we let nine more Scripted employees go, I was in the hospital, losing my thyroid and the papillary cancer with it.

The good part was I never returned to a regular office schedule. With only six employees, we no longer needed an office. In fact, prior to my surgery and the layoffs, I was on an extended paternity leave due to the timing of the winter holidays. I came back to prep the six employees we wanted to stay on, did the layoffs, dropped my cancer news to the company, and after I recovered from surgery went straight into solving the problem of getting ourselves out of our office lease. I also found a buyer for the company. We got out of our lease and sold the business within a couple of weeks of each other.

And then, I was free. Everyone at Scripted was able to keep their jobs but I decided not to stay on. I had a new life at home, after all, with my now six-month-old daughter and wife who also worked from home. I decided to keep this lifestyle even if it meant taking on a bit more risk.

I spent a lot more time with my second daughter than my first daughter during her first 18 months. When Lily was born, 23 months before Norah, I was working a pretty typical day job schedule. I left for the office around 8am and returned around 5:30pm. We lived in San Francisco so my commute was a 20-minute bike ride across town from the Marina to Soma. I remember meeting my wife and daughter Lily at Moscone field, just a few blocks from our apartment, when Lily was just learning to take her first steps.

I got to witness these milestones and it was wonderful. I had it good then and for being a dad and a startup exec at the same time, I had a really good balance. I didn’t know then what I do now, though: it can get even better.

With Norah, it’s been my Lily experience and more. I spent a lot more alone time with Norah than I ever did with Lily in her first year. We’d go on hikes, to parks, out to lunches or just to get smoothies. I’d often put her down for nap and be the first to hold her when she woke up. These are the perks of not being away from home at an office all day. I got to feel what it’s like to be a stay at home dad and I loved it. There were of course days when I wished we had a nanny again but for the most part it worked really well. I looked forward to my hours with Norah when I’d take her out and give my wife some time alone at home to work or relax.

We got to be buddies, bonded tighter at an earlier age than I knew before. The reward is summed up in three words I don’t remember Lily ever saying, not because she doesn’t love her dad, but because she was used to going to bed and waking up with her mom’s help. When she wants to be held, like pretty much every kid with a mom in the picture, she’ll prefer her.

I heard it a few nights ago when Norah woke up around 1am. She was crying, asking to be picked up. She asked for her mom first too, but then she paused as if to check herself and see if she really meant it. Then she said it.

“Hold you, dada.”

I went in and picked her up and rocked my not-so-baby-anymore baby, kissing her warm puffy cheek and telling her, “I’ll hold you, Norah. I’ll hold you.”

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