Katherine (Kat) and I have been friends since the beginning of high school. This girl is gregarious, generous, kind-hearted, funny, and has an insane work ethic. A few years ago, she and her husband made the decision for him to stay home with their beautiful daughter, Riley, while she continued to work. Not only does this woman have fantastic advice as an ambitious and successful professional, but her husband, Greg, is just the coolest dad with tons of interesting experience to share, so I decided to do a joint interview to get the best of both worlds.
How did you land in medical sales?
I knew from a young age that I wanted to be involved in medicine. What started out as dreams of becoming a dentist in junior high (yes, I know how weird that sounds) developed into the desire to be a physician after my father landed in the hospital after a massive heart attack when I was 15. I knew then that I wanted to have my hand in something that I felt would help people, in whatever capacity possible.
Did becoming a mother affect your career? How?
CAN WE SAY SLEEPLESS NIGHTS?! Luckily for me, I can function on little sleep, so I was able to keep my numbers up and manage to juggle mommy-hood and work–I was simply more tired while doing it. Even on my most exhausting days, being a mother actually pushed me to do more. Since my husband agreed to take a back seat in his career in order to support mine, I felt THAT much more compelled and motivated to show them what I could do. Some days were/are definitely a struggle, but more often than not, the thought of my daughter watching her mom climb the corporate ladder is excellent motivation and has been positive for my career.
Your husband is a stay-at-home-dad. How did you two decide that he would stay home?
I have been blessed to have so many family and friends nearby who love and support us and were there to offer free babysitting while Greg and I both worked. However, when our daughter was five months old, I noticed how incredibly difficult it was to have three different people watching her on various days of the week. Getting on a schedule was nearly impossible with everyone doing things their own way. Even with the best intentions, it made it so much harder for me at night with nursing, prepping bottles, pumping, and finishing necessary emails to keep my numbers up, etc.
So one day I said to Greg, “Look, we have to make a decision, either we hire a nanny, or one of us has to stay home…. and it’s not going to be me.” Ha! Even though the comment was made in a playful way, I was serious when I wanted a change. We talked seriously about all the options, and ultimately Greg made the decision he would take on the role as a full-time stay-at-home-parent and everything that entailed. It has been four and a half years and he’s still going!
What is the division of labor in your household?
Greg pretty much takes care of all things related to the house. Which is a lot! Getting Riley ready for school, cleaning, grocery shopping, handling the bills, washing the cars, taking her to gymnastics, the pool, etc. They are ALWAYS doing something and keeping busy. Admittedly, he does a much better job than I ever would staying at home.
Do you find any unique challenges having the “traditional” roles reversed with a stay-at-home-dad?
I think we just have some of the normal challenges I hear other families face who have one parent staying home. Greg always took care of himself and was used to making his own money and a good living, so I know letting go of that can, at times, be difficult. He has felt that he is not contributing enough. I try and remind him how incredibly lucky Riley is that she gets to have this time with her dad!
There is no amount of money he can make that will fill our bank account enough to replace the countless amount of memories filling Riley’s heart. He is shaping her little mind and her character, and providing security for which there is no price tag.
We are fortunate enough to have the financial freedom to have one of her parents stay home, and he is so wonderful at it, sometimes I just need to encourage and remind him that he’s exactly where he should be. Another common struggle is the “lack of conversation” with adults. I come home from work and sometimes I am just talked out! The last thing I want to do is talk because that’s all I have been doing all day. Luckily, he has met some incredible other moms and dads who have become his close friends so that outlet has been helpful.
Lastly, he’s told me how much he loves seeing Riley get excited to see me when I get home, but she often listens to me more in regards to my requests of her. I believe this to be extremely common of the parent who the child “sees less.” Nevertheless, it is understandably frustrating for the stay-at-home-parent who has to be the one who repeats themselves in order to achieve the same result.
What has been your greatest career success?
After a year of implementing new processes and working hard to instill a more collaborative effort between our inside and outside sales team, I’m thrilled to report that we had the best quarter the company has ever seen! In July and August, we set new company records as a result of business my team has brought to the table and the hard work of our inside office customer service staff to turn our referrals into completed business.
Is there anything you would do/would have done differently in the workplace?
- ALWAYS be willing to hear out other opportunities. As a very loyal employee to my first company, I wouldn’t entertain other opportunities -especially from competitors. BIG MISTAKE. Even if you love your job, talking to a recruiter or someone who takes an interest in your résumé can never be a bad thing. Use it as a networking opportunity or as interview practice runs without the pressure. You never know when that relationship is going to be necessary.
- Don’t sell yourself short. If you are asked to take on additional responsibilities in your job, don’t be afraid to ask for additional compensation! What’s the worst that can happen? They say no?
- Choose some trusted mentors right now. Check in with them at least once every 6 months. One of my favorite mentors (shout out to Mr. Feingold himself) said, “Be bold!” I took his words to heart and went into my follow up meetings with a new understanding of how to appropriately get my point across with a positive, but more direct approach.
Give me the elevator speech on your background and how you ended up as the primary caregiver for your daughter.
At the time, I’d been a tattoo artist for about ten years and was continuing to progress in my art and grow my clientele. After many talks about potentially staying home, we decided together that it’d be best if I was the one to make that move. Her job was more lucrative and I was okay with accepting that. I know how driven Kat is in her career and she’s on such an upward trajectory that I felt it was important to see her reach the level of success she’s capable of. To be honest, it’s really a dream come true for me. I’ve always loved the idea of staying home with my daughter and having that role.
What skills or processes have you taken from your professional life and applied to your parenting life?
Let’s just say the industry I worked in helped me produce some pretty thick skin. There’s a lot of razzing that goes on in that world, as far as coworkers go. It can be pretty unbearable at times. I also dealt with some pretty high maintenance customers on a daily basis. I learned to really engage in fun conversations with my customers in order to maintain long-lasting relationships with them.
After working in that kind of environment, you learn a lot about yourself and your level of patience. I had to learn how to deal with really difficult personalities and continuously reflect on my responsibilities in various, problematic situations. I had to be comfortable with what my ultimate role was. I had to learn to prioritize. I was constantly reevaluating myself. I’ve applied all of it to parenting. Where can I make improvements? How can I react better in difficult situations? What is my ultimate goal here as a dad? What are the best ways to prioritize my responsibilities around the house? How can I develop a close and influential relationship with my daughter?
What does an average day look like for you?
I generally wake up with Riley and get her ready for school. We make the bed, get dressed and put our dirty clothes in the hamper, brush teeth, etc. While she’s at school I’m in the gym for a couple of hours and then I race home to shower and pick her up. After school we head straight to open gymnastics for an hour. We generally make a habit of stopping by the local juice bar for a smoothie after gymnastics, run errands for the day, and make our way home. At home we relax for a while and then do the small amount of homework she’s been assigned for the day. It isn’t mandatory, but we make sure she does all of it for the week. After that we may go ride bikes, hit the park, or go for a swim (which is her favorite).
Depending on the day, I’ll do house cleaning or laundry. I generally keep the house very clean and organized. After all of that it’s dinner time and then I switch places with my wife, as I work part time 3-4 nights a week. Bath time is usually split between Kat and me, and we take turns getting her to bed, depending on whether or not I’m working.
How do people react when they find out you’re the primary caregiver? What have been the biggest misconceptions or judgments from others?
I think some people think I’ve got it really easy and all of the pressure is on my wife. It’s almost as if they think I’ve got a free ride. That’s a tough pill to swallow, because I’ve always worked and I’ve always strived to consistently build and increase my income/investments. The people that make comments about me having it easier than my wife generally don’t have kids, so I try to put things into perspective. I think most parents from my generation realize there are more men who are stay-at-home-parents.
But the most difficult part for me is the fact I’m a stay-at-home-dad who’s heavily tattooed, so that brings its whole own set of judgments. I think that’s my biggest, added obstacle. There is definitely a period of people being pretty stand-offish. As a dad who’s pretty much tattooed from head to toe, I have to really be careful of my delivery when I discipline my daughter. That is where I feel the most eyes watching. But once I get to know other parents, I tend to see the misconceptions and judgments fade away pretty quick.
How do you create work-life balance for yourself? What do you do when you’re “off duty?”
I tend to use fitness as my biggest outlet. I feel an incredible difference in my ability to be far more productive when I’m “on the job.” I also do as much art as I can to keep my creative side alive, and it helps me obtain a greater sense of accomplishment outside of my stay-at-home-daddy role. Making these two things an incredibly high priority really balances the scales for me.
Any tips, advice or general thoughts that you’d like to share with others?
My advice would be to really prepare yourself if you think you’re going to take on the role as a stay-at-home-father. Ask other people what their biggest struggles have been. Figure out what may be potentially hard for you and have a game plan. Accept the role you’ve decided to take on. Second guessing the decision to be the parent at home will only bring unnecessary stress. Being with your child throughout the day is such an incredible gift and it’s easy to lose sight of such a blessing when you’re worried about traditional parenting roles. Also, it’s hard. There’s no way around it. Being with someone who needs your constant help, attention, and guidance can get really overwhelming at times. But, it’s beyond worth it. There is nothing more rewarding.
Nothing moves your heart the way your child can.
I’ve learned to take pride in being the guy at home. I think men can really grow immensely from the experience of this traditional role reversal. My only other tip… get into yoga and meditation before entering the world of the stay-at-home-parent. Also, invest in a nice bottle of Scotch.