In 2004, I decided to begin to move away from my life in theatre to one in professional politics. I was tired of being on the sidelines, feeling unable to take part in what felt like was “the important stuff” while doing Shakespeare around the country (which I also think is very important, but I’d been doing it for years by then). Coming off a life of a touring actor, I was, in effect, following the lyrics of Mike Doughty:
My circus train pulls through the night
Full of lions and trapeze artists
I’m done with elephants and clowns
I want to
Run away and join the office
It took some time, but by January 2007, I had dragged my then-fiancée to DC so I could begin work on a master’s degree in political management and dive head-first into the political industry. I didn’t know quite what I wanted to do with that education, but that I wanted to be in the fight.
I worked in a lot of different jobs since then. By the close of 2008, I had figured out that the battle I really wanted to join was on behalf of my identity group, atheists. Eventually, I scored a job doing just that.
But something else happened. The wife and I had what my Twitter followers know as #babyfidalgo, my beautiful son Toby. We assumed that we were supposed to do what most other families are forced to manage — maintain our jobs while finding day care for the baby, and somehow make ends meet.
Something about that arrangement, commonplace as it is in contemporary America, seemed grossly out of sorts with the cosmos. At my core, in my heart, the idea of a paid caregiver essentially raising my son through most of his waking hours was simply wrong. (By the way, our nanny is wonderful, loves Toby, and takes wonderful care of him.) I would find myself tearfully apologizing to my uncomprehending baby son, asking his forgiveness for not being there during his babyhood.
Nothing I was doing in my professional life seemed to compare even remotely to the project of cultivating and caring for my son. I’ve gone through a lot in recent years to build a career that would provide fulfillment as well as pay the bills. Nothing I’ve done has made very much money, I should note, working mainly for small nonprofits, and I even took a pay cut to join the secular movement professionally. But more to the point, “work” has failed to serve as something that can define me. Being a father, however, has meant so much to me that it is sometimes overwhelming.
So my family and I did some heavy deliberating, and we’ve decided to change things up. I’ll soon be leaving my job, and starting in November, I’m going to be a stay-at-home daddy.
How will we make that work? It’s something of a patchwork solution; I’ll be doing some part time retail work on the side (and I hope to find some freelance writing gigs), and therefore I’ll see my wife a little bit less than I do now. But in the aggregate, the hope and expectation is that I’ll be happier, and as a result, my family will be happier.
As far as the relevance to this blog, I expect my lack of a connection to any particular issue-based organization will free me up even more to honestly offer my views on the issues I care about. I also expect that “daddyhood” will begin to creep in more and more as one of this blog’s main topics. Depending on how good of a napper Toby is, I may be able to blog more often as well. I can’t promise that, of course, especially given Toby’s unwillingness to settle down this week (big time teething, folks).
So after running away from the circus, I’m now running away from the office, and running toward the play date. I am lucky in that I have so many ways to find creative fulfillment outside of my job. I will still work on my music, my writing, and hopefully more so down the line, on theatre as well. But most importantly, I’m going to be there for my little guy, not just to get him up or to put him to bed, but to see him through his day — to see him through the beginning of what I know will be a wonderful life.
I think he’s waking up from his nap right now. Time to get to work.