The Stay-At-Home Working Dad With No Job

Tomorrow I’m starting a full-time position as Producer & Content Distribution Specialist for SOHH.com. If you’re unfamiliar, SOHH is a hip-hop news website, one of the first Black-owned publications of its kind. I’ve traded in my sports journalist hat, transitioning from Mike Trout and LeBron James to Megan Thee Stallion and Lil Wayne.

It feels like I’m going back to work after a long hiatus, even though I’ve been working.

It’s been almost 10 months since I last held what felt like a real full-time job making a real full-time salary. While juggling freelance gigs and short-term contracts is common for many professionals in the media/journalism field, I’ve always preferred the security of one full-time job, with some spare time to pursue passion projects like authoring, blogging and podcasting.

So how did we get here? It started in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Things were going great for me when the pandemic began in March 2020. Twin babies on the way, engaged to the love of my life, maintaining a consistent gym schedule. Not did I have a good-paying job as an editor with a major media outlet, but I had a relatively cushy work-from-home job that was ideal for the kind of parent I planned to be. Our wedding had to be postponed indefinitely when a shady business owner shuttered our venue, followed by finding out we were pregnant, followed by COVID. But otherwise, my life had never been better.

Then my gym had to close its doors in March. As I wrote in a previous post, I was able to keep up with remote Muay Thai training for a while before I fell off that track and started getting out of shape.

Then in May, myself and the entire editorial team at my job was laid off. I’d worked with this company for almost nine years and had gotten good enough at my job that it was easy for me. Working from home making good money in a non-stressful role was a great deal for a prospective parent, especially with twins on the way. With that job, working and raise kids at the same time wasn’t even a daunting task in my view.

But now there I was, our due date rapidly approaching, suddenly without a job.

I decided not to tell anyone except my fiancee. I figured that with my level of experience and talent, it wouldn’t take long to find a job; but during that time I didn’t need family and friends worrying about us and constantly asking for job-search updates. I didn’t need their panic to add to my panic and put additional stress on my pregnant fiancee.

Of course, the primary concern at a time like that is money. And yet financially, unemployment actually wasn’t bad at first. The timing of the layoffs meant I still had about a month and a half worth of paychecks on the way, and my last check would include a lot of unused vacation hours. I got my income tax return. Unlike a lot of people, I had no delay in getting my unemployment benefits, and on top of that there was the extra COVID payout. So for a while, getting laid off had no negative impact on my income. But that wouldn’t last forever.

In terms of parenting, not working was awesome. For those final weeks of the pregnancy, I didn’t have to do anything but help Taylisha stay comfortable and get ready for the birth, get our home ready for the babies, and go to all of the doctor’s appointments (and look for a job). When Caron and Austin were born in June, I didn’t have to worry about limited time for paternity leave, didn’t have to worry that waking up in the middle of the night for feedings would make me groggy for work the next day, didn’t have to do anything but take care of my babies (and look for a job).

It took longer than expected to find a job. Which meant I had to hide the fact that I didn’t have a job longer than expected. It wasn’t until then that I noticed how often people (especially your parents) ask you “How’s work going?”

It grew increasingly complicated when my mother came to stay with us for a few weeks and help with the twins soon after they were born. I initially used “paternity leave” to cover the fact that I wasn’t working. But when it seemed to me like my “paternity leave” was abnormally long, I said I’d gone back to work. I’d be on my computer “working” when I was really looking for jobs. I even did some job interviews while my mom was in the house (“I have a work call”), finding enough privacy where she couldn’t hear what I was saying on the call.

Limiting my job search was that I had to find another work-from-home position. Our parenting plan always involved me working from home. Of course, I also had to stay within a respectable salary range to make the job worth my time.

If you know anyone who works in the media/journalism field, ask them how the pandemic impacted the industry. A lot of my colleagues and former co-workers found themselves out of a job in 2020. Like many of them, I entertained the idea of changing careers. I looked into going back to school. I did the paperwork to start my own business, which is more of a side venture than something I can devote myself to full-time. I took on various freelance projects.

Meanwhile, I still couldn’t land a “real” job. I got rejected for jobs I felt I was overqualified for. I got ignored for jobs I felt would be the perfect fit. I got call-backs after interviews I thought I’d bombed, and bypassed after interviews I thought I’d killed. I got this/close to being hired by iconic companies that would’ve been dream-job scenarios, only to lose out to another candidate.

Fortunately for our family, Taylisha and her master’s degree in an important industry stays holding a great-paying job. Even when she decided she wanted a work-from-home position with another employer, she had no problem finding something else. She was rejecting good offers that weren’t quite ideal, while I was hoping for any decent offer to come through.

In November, my unemployment was slowly running out and pressure was mounting. And that’s when I finally got a job. In fact, I got two jobs. I received two offers on the same day from two media outlets: one was in sports journalism and the other was with SOHH. Both were short-term contracts. Both paid less than what I’d been making at my last real job.

Driven to make as much money as possible and hopefully get a full-time permanent offer out of the deal, I took both jobs and tried to juggle working both at the same time. (This is also when I finally told the people close to me about my employment situation.)

It didn’t take long to realize that the sports publication was not for me. The job became a chore and an annoyance, which had never before been the case in my sports journalism career. It was essentially full-time work plus overtime for part-time pay. The demands of that job impacted my parenting, ate up my time and energy to look for better jobs, and hurt my performance at the other job that I actually liked and hoped to turn into a permanent one.

In January, the sports job contract expired. I turned down their renewal offer. In February, I accepted a full-time offer from SOHH. (And I started going back to the gym. Things are looking up.)

The twins are eight months old now, and so far I’ve gotten a sample of the working dad life. I’ve had to re-arrange work duties around appointments for the twins. I’ve written and edited countless articles with one hand while holding or feeding a baby with the other. (I’m literally pecking these words you’re reading right now with Austin cradled in my left arm.) My kids have made several cameos in video conference calls. I’ve learned to be mindful of my background so the work team can’t see the mountain of laundry on the couch. On occasion, I’ve had to turn the webcam off to change a diaper or clean their spit-up.

Now we put this stay-at-home working dad thing to the test, full-time and for real.

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