“Honey, after this, no more, ok? You need to spend time with your family this Christmas.”
“I guess,” I reluctantly replied. “It’s just that this is my busy season. And hey, you know what you married!”
“You were a Teacher when we met, not a Chocolatier,” my wife replied, her eyes rolling a little.
“Curse my ambition!” I over theatrically exclaimed as we proceeded to walk through the Busch Gardens light show. Again, I was met with the eye-roll. I joked about my ambition but the truth is, it’s one of the main reasons I became a stay home dad.
Whatever job I had, I always tried to go above and beyond, at first to advance in the company, but later it became ingrained into who I was. I spent many years in sales management where setting seemingly impossible goals then working your tail off to achieve them was the norm. When you run your own business it’s easy to get caught up in things and work 100+ hour weeks for months on end. I believed that’s what it took to be successful, and in some ways, I was right. I looked at my peers and noticed the same theme: Single people, no kids, and all working 100 hours a week month after month. This wasn’t what I wanted, so I made a career change to teaching.
I knew right away that teaching was my passion and with summers off, I fully expected to find some balance in my life. While going through the teaching credential program, I started playing a little video game, called World of Warcraft. It was there I became friends with a med student who lived across the country. After a few years of chatting and playing WoW together, she joined the Air Force and got into a residency program, which happened to have her move from Florida to California, my home state. One New Year’s Eve, we realized that we both were going to be alone and didn’t want to spend it online playing a game, so we made plans for me to drive the 6 hours from Southern California to Northern California. 6 months later I moved in and proposed to her and 6 months after that, we were married.
While she was still in her residency, I began teaching in Napa, and true to my nature, worked hard at perfecting my craft, eventually getting my Masters in Education (M.Ed) with aspirations in getting my national board certification, something about 3% of teachers obtain. My ambition was in full throttle as I made interesting lesson plans and went above what the typical teacher does. Parent conference during lunch? I was at each one. Videos of my lessons online for students to review if they missed class or weren’t paying attention? On it. Weekly emails to parents telling them what was going on in class so they were a partner in their child’s education? Those went out every Friday afternoon. I loved what I did and had no issues about working into the night and on the weekends. One Thanksgiving morning, I woke up at 5 am and worked 6 hours straight developing a lesson. As a new teacher, I was trying to make a name for myself and it was working. I had some pretty important people in the school district taking notice of my hard work. I also had a pretty important person at home who noticed my long hours, and she wasn’t thrilled with my ambition. With our first child on the way, we talked about me staying home and leaving the workforce. I wasn’t prepared for how difficult that job would be.
When our son came into the world, I left work right away (I was a substitute teacher at the time so that was pretty easy) and started the Stay At Home Dad (SAHD) life. My wife was in her final year of residency and was putting in some long hours at the hospital. Having experienced those same hours early in my career, I knew what she was going through and did my best to support her. I realized by me staying home, that in and of itself was a huge help for her. When the cat needed to go to the vet, I took her during the weekday instead of wasting a Saturday. When her oil light came on in her car, we’d switch cars for the day and I’d take care of it. When my son had a doctor appointment, no one had to take time off work. I began to realize that while I first thought being a SAHD was a luxury for me, it was actually a luxury for her. I also realized that I kept thinking of the work life and had to stifle creative lessons that would pop into my head as I drove around town. I needed something else to sate my creative and ambitious impulses.
For 30 years, as a kid, my dad made candy for the family during the holidays. I had decided that I wanted to continue that tradition with my family and when my wife received her new orders to Maryland, I picked it up. My wife had a friend who took an online chocolatier course and told me that if I wanted to continue my family tradition, I should do it right and be professionally trained in it. After going through the extensive course, we decided I should start my own business with it, knowing full well that it was seasonal and I could do it at home and not disrupt my duties as a SAHD. We named the business Epic Chocolates as a nod to our video game days, because in video games, epic gear for your character is usually the best.
My creative juices were flowing again and I constantly thought about flavors, techniques, marketing strategies, and other aspects of running a business. Our second child came just before the holiday chocolate season and still I needed to be reeled back in from my ambition. Thus explains the interaction my wife and I had at Busch Gardens this past week.
My business expanded from selling to neighbors to having corporate clients, including a local diner, and online sales, especially within the DMD Facebook group. My desire to succeed grew and I found myself with more orders than time to complete them. My wife saw this and urged me to stop taking orders for the season, which I did. I had doubled the number of boxes I produced and included many new items such as red wine gummy bears, peppermint bark, and 2 new fudge flavors. When I look ahead at next season, my natural urge is to try to double my business again while introducing more items (English toffee was so close to making it to this year’s menu) but I have a feeling I’ll be reminded of my actual job; the job that is the most important to making my family run smoothly and producing awesome kids. I guess this is the life of a SAHD being married to a doctor. My income is insignificant so kids and family come before personal ambitions and my ego. You know, that suits me just fine too.
I’d love to hear your experiences about being a dad married to a busy professional spouse. Share it below in the comments or send in a note!
Scott D. is a former high school history teacher and current SAHD/Chocolatier in Southern Maryland with years of sales and business management under his belt. Husband to a radiologist in the U.S. Air Force and dad to two incredible kids, he spends his free time going to baseball games, watching movies, and playing video games. Just kidding, he has no free time. Remember? Two kids! You can see his delicious creations and contact him via messenger at Facebook.com/EpicChocolates and Scott@epicchocolates.com.