In time for Father's Day on Sunday, one special dad tells Personal Space his story of raising his daughter while his wife works full time.
Adam Ballard, 31, a former actor and fitness trainer from Louisiana, became a stay at home dad after his wife gave birth to their first child. After a string of different jobs, the couple decided that it would cost less for Adam to stay home with their 18-month-old daughter Zoey than it would to hire a full-time nanny. Adam’s wife Kellie is also expecting a son named Miles in October.
“My wife and I were married for several years before we decided to have kids. She works for a successful grocery company that her family owns, while I bounced around from one random job to the next, personal trainer, attorney's office, etc. I was doing freelance work for film and TV productions in Louisiana when we found out Kellie was pregnant. I decided to do the noble thing and find a steady job close to home. That steady job ended up being warehouse position in our local Best Buy store. I worked there for a few months before getting a potential career opportunity with UPS. I left Best Buy to load UPS trucks over the holidays under the impression that the hardest working seasonal employees would be kept on after the holidays. And while I worked my butt off for UPS, I’m not bitter, they were a great employer, the hours dried up after the holidays. And even though I could have went back to Best Buy or several of the other jobs I had before then, the minimal wages I was making wouldn't cover the cost of day care. So after a lot of discussion we made the decision to give the stay at home dad gig a shot. I'm basically a large child, so I get along with kids swimmingly.”
Adam says he loves the job, and that he gets to witness up close his daughter’s many milestones.
“I get that it's not for everybody, but again I'm still a kid at heart. I love watching our daughter Zoey's mind expand daily,” he said. “Each new word feels like a small victory. I understand that as our kids get older I'll have to go back to work eventually, but for right now I'm thankful for every single day. I don't think anyone on their deathbed will wish they had one more shift at work. But time with their family? Definitely. I'm thankful for every second.”
After the whole family wakes up at 6 a.m., Kellie gets ready for work while Adam walks the dog then fixes his daughter breakfast. They say goodbye to mom then Adam will do household chores, like laundry and organizing. Then he takes Zoey out of her highchair and out for a walk.
“We're fortunate to live on a street with lots of kids around her age, and we're a pretty close knit community,” he says. “We play with whatever toys we see. She pushes a dumptruck, we play in the neighbors swing sets, and pet the neighborhood dogs. Then we'll go back inside for a snack and find an activity to do, like read, color.”
Around 11 a.m., Adam prepares lunch and after Zoey eats, she takes a nap.
“While her mother can rock her to sleep, dada is more of a play entity than a sleep/comfort entity. I can't rock her to sleep,” he says. “ For nap times I fix her a juice, load her up in the car seat, and drive her around the neighborhood for about 10 minutes. Once back inside, I can lay her down and she'll sleep for about 2 hours. And during that 2 hours I have to strategically take care of chores and me-time. On days where I'm on top of my chores this becomes my TV time. I’m super into Game of Thrones and The Leftovers). And if I'm smart, I'll take a nap too. At 31-years-old I need a nap more than she does.”
When Zoey wakes up, it’s back to dad duty.
“We’ll get up and eat a snack before hitting the road. It's summer time in Louisiana so the weather is unbearably hot, nothing you'd want a kid out in,” he says. “So we'll go to places like Book-A-Million to look around in the air conditioning or Target. A local church has a nice indoor play place that is open to the public and a nearby Chik-Fil-A has one as well. We'll usually play for 2 hours then head back home. Around 4:30 PM I'll start prepping dinner. I typically put a movie on at this time so that Zoey isn't destroying the kitchen while I cook. We watch a lot of Disney movies and shows and I'm a big fan of Studio Ghibli so I try to push that on her too. Kellie gets home around 5:30 and we eat dinner as a family. After dinner Zoey and I will play outside, color, or read while Kellie runs on the treadmill.”
When Kellie takes over for bath and pajama time, Adam head stop the gym and lists weights for an hour. Later at night, it’s couple time.
“We'll watch shows together, chat, and God willing if we have any energy left after the day, make out,” Adam laughs.
He says it was actually uncomfortable telling people about his stay at home dad status in the beginning, saying he now fully embraces his role.
“I live in the south, home of good ol' boys and manly men,” he explains. “So in the beginning I played it off as being ‘between jobs’ a lot. But especially with older guys, the kind who place a man's purpose to provide above all, I could see it in their eyes. When I told them, ‘Actually, I stay at home and raise my daughter while my wife works,’ it was like telling them I had a contagious cancer that I got from touching myself in public. I was foreign, confusing, and wrong to them. But after a while I embraced it.”
Women react a bit…differently.
“When ladies find out that I'm a stay at home dad I get treated like a war veteran,” he laughs. “Well, that's if Zoey is happy. If I'm walking through the mall and Zoey is smiling and talkative, I am the dad of the century to bystanders. They think you're a hero for being a man taking care of a child. If she's having a meltdown though? You can feel the judgmental stares as people try to figure out if you're a abducting a child. It takes a little getting used to.”
Adam says he’s happy to have the bond he does with his daughter, and says he loves being the daily source of safety and love for her, even thought it was a major learning process.
“It’s an honor. I know she can't really express it yet but we're already buddies,” he says. “No one pulled me aside and broke down the day to day specifics of keeping a child alive. I wasn't looking forward to poop diapers, but all I thought about was the poop. I didn't know how many crevices the poop got into and was shocked at what real diaper duties entailed. I was so unprepared for this task that I nearly had a panic attack and reached out to another friend who also had a young daughter.”
The two swapped dad duty stories so often that they started a podcast called Dudes With Daughters, which chronicles the highs and lows of first time parenting.
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