Friday, May 17, 2013

The Having It All Project: Kristopher Denio

Today's guest poster, Kristopher Denio, made his way here through my dear friend Ana. She thought he might have an interesting perspective to offer, and I have to agree (just check out those feet practically jumping off your screen above - that's some perspective! ;) ). Do you have a friend to suggest to me? Share this post with them, and let's get that ball rolling. Here's how Kristopher is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I've enjoyed a life as a software engineer, teacher, animator, industrial pest control technician (we don't like to talk about that), and entrepreneur.  Two years and four months ago, the day our twins were born, I voluntarily quit my job to be a full-time, stay-at-home dad.  I qualify my position as "voluntary" to differentiate myself from the men profiled in the multitude of articles detailing the rise of Mr. Mom (I despise the term.  Darn you, Michael Keaton and your likable, everyman charm!) where you invariably find out that the fellow in question was out of work to begin with or his partner's salary was considerably greater than his--basically, that the decision to stay home just made sense.  Not to disparage those people or their choices.  The world could use more logic-based decision-making, and I applaud anyone who acts contrary to societal norms for the good of their family.  But I'd like to offer the theory that it's OK for a dad to want to stay home with his kids, even when it doesn't necessarily make the most sense.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
Laughing.  Crying.  Reminding myself that I'll look back on this period fondly.  Two fingers of bourbon after everyone is safely tucked in bed.  (OK, maybe three.)

I assume it's not much different with singletons--though I don't know, as my wife and I apparently reproduce geometrically--but chaos is unavoidable with twins.  It's best to just embrace it.  And if everyone comes out the other side healthy, happy, and with most digits intact, know you've done a good job.

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
When I first volunteered to participate in this project, I wasn't sure what moment to share.  It sometimes feels like it all breaks down at least once a day.  But recently, I was afforded some perspective.

Two years with a single breadwinner takes its toll on family savings and available credit.  So, a few months ago, my wife and I decided that it was necessary for me to return to work.  Besides, the kids were outpacing me intellectually and could benefit from preschool.  I somehow found a job that seemed to be custom tailored to my unique background and weaseled my way into getting hired, the only concern being the hour commute, each way.  I'd dealt with long commutes before, so I figured it'd be fine.  I've never been more wrong in my entire life.  

I knew I'd be sad to leave the kids.  I didn't expect to be hiding in the bathroom, bawling like a child, on my first day of work.  I certainly didn't expect to be continuing that behavior three days into my new job.  The long commute had me leaving for work before our kids woke up and returning home shortly before they went to bed.  I went from spending every minute of every day with our children, to only getting an hour with them during their crankiest time of the day, and it was breaking my heart.  By the end of the first week, it was apparent I'd made a horrible mistake.  I informed my boss that for the sake of my family, and my sanity, I had to quit.

This was a gut wrenching decision.  I'd made a commitment to my new employer, and I take my commitments very seriously, but our kids will only want to follow dad around for so long before friends and school and life beyond our little family begin to steal their time and attention.  I refuse to miss it.  The cliche is that everything changes when you have children.  I'm still adjusting to my new priorities.

Luckily (and luck plays no small part in my life), my boss respected my priorities and my choice to honor them.  She quickly concocted a solution--for me to serve as an independent contractor, working from home--and championed it to her superiors.  And so, in the blink of an eye, the worst decision I'd ever made turned into an incredible opportunity that wouldn't have been available otherwise (did I mention luck?).

Do you have any balance role models?  Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
I have friends whom I respect, and I admire the choices they've made for their families, but everyone's situation, and their definition of what "having it all" means is so different, it would be very difficult to see anyone as a role model in that regard.

We try to avoid over-scheduling and over-planning.  The kids have promised us that nothing will ever go as planned ever again, so the more flexible we can be, the better.  Oh, and hour-long commutes are now off the list.

Think back to your 18th birthday.  How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
I'm not sure my life is all that different from what I expected.  I've never been one to plan the minute details of my life.  Instead, I prefer to lay out some broad strokes I'd like to see happen and play the rest by ear.  When I was 18, the broad strokes were: 1) I wanted to marry my girlfriend--we'd been dating since we were 15,  2) I wanted an interesting life full of adventure, 3) I wanted a motorcycle, and 4) when I eventually had kids, I wanted to stay at home with them.  All of those things happened, though the motorcycle was sold shortly after the kids were born.  So, there's that.

Relate to what Kristopher is saying? Leave him some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at!

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