Turning my parenting experiences into a magazine column

January 4, 2018

Turning experiences into a writing career, Fatherhood, Becoming a Dad, Writing Life

Here I was, something like a hybrid — a has-been journalist who just recently, and perhaps stupidly, quit a well-paying, high-profile corporate PR job to become a stay-at-home Dad and reinvent my writing career. Career and huge retirement benefits? Pssssht! Give me shuttling young kids to doctor appointments and scrubbing old, crusted peanut butter smears off the couch cushions while trying to convince a 3-year-old boy to take a much-needed nap.

I had to write. Sure, to make some money, but also because my sanity depended on it.

All my life as a writer, I aspired to be a magazine columnist. I surmised that something prestigious could be unlocked by attaining such a status, as if people’s eyes would light up in wonder whenever I was introduced. “And this is Dave. He’s a magazine columnist.” “OH! Well, how do you do?”

That’s all pompous poppycock, of course. The truth is I found the idea of writing a regular monthly column attractive because it would require some serious skills, the ability to maintain a high-level performance to go beyond basic journalism into something that truly reaches the heart of a reader.

At the age of 38, shortly after I began life as a stay-at-home Dad, I decided to knock on fate’s door. I sent an email to Keely.

Writing a stay-at-home Dad magazine column
My youngest son nicely sums up the experience of having me home full-time.

Keely Childers Heany works as the editor-in-chief of Susquehanna Style, a regional lifestyle magazine covering my home area of Central Pennsylvania. I pitched an idea of a column about my misadventures trying to corral two young boys, going from the blazer and dress shirt world of corporate spokesman to not giving a damn about whether I’ve shaved or not as long as the kids didn’t burn the house down or themselves it’s been a good day.


And so the Dad Diaries was born.

The first column arrived a few short weeks ago, all about how not to descend into a deep parenting depression during the winter. Of course, when I wrote it, the leaves hadn’t fallen off the trees yet in October, I was optimistic, and little did I realize we’d start New Years Day with one whole degree of warmth outside.

Somewhere in there I suggest ignoring the cold and get the kids outside. Go ahead and ignore my advice, at least until the temperature reaches a number that’s at least more than your own age. I’ll be waiting until April, thank you.

All kidding aside, my goal with the column is to go beyond service journalism and offering five tips for that or three secrets for this or seven things they never tell you about whatever. The monthly pieces provide a narrative, something Keely generously describes as “funny yet poignant” in her From the Editor column.

That’s exactly what the experience is like as a stay-at-home Dad. If you put aside the isolation from other adults; the nightmarish attempts to grocery shop with a 5- and a 3-year-old, both who wish to push the cart; the daily cries for hot dogs when you instead serve PBJ, and when you serve hot dogs they lift their forlorn voices for PBJ; then yeah, being a stay-at-home Dad is funny yet poignant.

The love and misadventures of being a stay-at-home Dad
This time with them is fleeting. And so I do my best to take it all in every day.

Actually, I’m incredibly grateful to have this time and opportunity to be at home with the boys. I make it a point to once a day study their faces, to take in the innocence of their eyes like deep pools of sapphire, the roundness of their cheeks, their messy hair, their tiny chins. Tomorrow, they’ll be one day older, and before you know it, we’ll have teenagers in the house instead of toddlers and young children, and I’ll be in my 50s then.

Now that I’m rebuilding my writing career, penning a monthly column about being a Dad seemed apropos. What other role do I play in life that could eclipse this one? Much more ahead in the magazine. There’s no link at this time to the column, but if one appears, I’ll be sure to share it.

Dave is a professional writer and photographer from Lancaster, Pa. His writing podcast, Creatively Genuine, is available on iTunes and Google Play.

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