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This #BoyDad essay is one of six, from a collection of fathers who are raising sons in modern times. Click here to read the rest. And, while you’re at it, check out Cool Dad HQ for tips, gear, and strategy guides—all designed to help you raise great kids better.
WHEN I WAS a teenager, my father occasionally had to commute to an office for his job. My school happened to be along the way, so he'd offer me a ride. I had to get up extra early—a little before six. But avoiding the bus and having the chance to play the Oregon Trail in the school computer lab prior to homeroom provided more than enough incentive.
Plus, I got to experience the Dad Show during the ride, which had its own entertainment value.
Like one morning, Dad had to let out a sneeze he hadn’t seen coming. This was dangerous business; to this day, any sneeze my dad unleashes will show up on faraway seismographs. When this one struck, he got a big ol’ wad of clear snot on his hand and then proceeded to lick that snot off his hand to clean up the mess.
“Dad, what are you doing? That’s disgusting.”
He knew it was disgusting but told me through his laughter, “I have no tis-sues! I don’t know what else to do with it!”
I now have two sons of my own, 14 and 11, and have worked from home for their entire lives. There are plenty more work-from-home dads like me, and I’m here to tell you that this isn’t evidence of the great softening of the American male. It’s ideal.
It’s what fatherhood ought to be.
And I say that knowing that I’ve had to apologize to those boys many times for the things they’ve seen me do in that span. Sorry I yelled at them for coming into Daddy’s office when he was trying to write. Sorry I burned the pancakes. Sorry I accidentally locked them out of the house because I didn’t realize they’d gone outside. Sorry about a lot of things, really.
As far back as my boys can remember, they have been able to watch me get up with them in the morning and get the house ready for the day. They watch me cook breakfast and make their lunches and clean up their shit. They watch me go into my office to work, where I keep a disciplined schedule (start writing at 8:30, stop at 4:30).
But they’ve seen me grow from my mistakes. Not that I grow all that much from accidentally spilling a carton of eggs onto the floor and screaming “Fuck!!!” as loud as I can, but I do try.
All of those fuckups, frankly, have been the point. It’s not always fun to be a work-from-home parent, especially if your kids are super young and can’t abide being by themselves for more than five minutes. There were days when I thought to myself, I really gotta get away from these people.
It’s only human to feel that way, but there is infinite value to your sons seeing you be a human, and at all hours of the day. They see you when you’re successful, when you’re exhausted, when you’re frustrated, and when you’re happy. That gives your kids a chance to see the full repertoire of a grown man’s activities and feelings. And it’s a whole lot better for them to be reared by an actual man instead of some nebulous idea of one.
It wasn’t my dad’s fault he worked an office job. He had no choice. But I did have a choice, and working from home—where my boys can see me doing the business of life, in all its tedious and messy glory—is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
That said, I always keep tissues handy.
A version of this article originally appeared in the May/June 2023 issue of Men's Health.
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