5 Regrets of a Stay-at-Home Dad

09 Sep

Keith Kendrick, stay-at-home dad and author of ‘Chronicles of a Reluctant Housedad’, shares those thing he wishes he’d done whilst he had the chance.

Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention. At first, I thought my life was filled with regrets, but when I really thought about it, if I’d done things differently, I wouldn’t be where I am now with a bossy gorgeous wife and three annoying beautiful kids. And I wouldn’t be a housedad – with all the ‘joys’ that the role brings – after my wife and I swapped roles after I was made redundant last year. But there are a few things I’d still like to do and regret not having done them, or regret the trait in my personality that prevents them happening. Here they are…

1. Not Learning to Play the Guitar Properly
This baby is my pride and joy. I bought it in Washington D.C when I worked there for a few months in 1990. It was going to be the ultimate incentive to finally learn to play guitar PROPERLY – a dream I’d held since I was 13 years old. Back then, I had nagged and nagged my dad to buy me a guitar for my birthday and he eventually told me to shut the heck up succumbed and one night brought home a nylon-strung acoustic which had conveniently fallen off the back of a lorry. I learned all the chords, a few blues licks, a handful of rock licks and then teamed up with a pal to start our own heavy metal band called Minotaur, named after the bull-headed man-monster of Greek mythology.

We played one gig – at the Concord Suite in Droyslden, Manchester – to a crowd of a thousand ten screaming indifferent girls. I was 17 at the time, and more obsessed with becoming a journalist than I was a rock star, so I put my guitar down, and pretty much didn’t pick it up again until I brought the Explorer back from the States. But there were too many distractions back in those days for me to give it the dedication the craft deserved, and so my repertoire is forever frozen in time, extending to a few Dire Straits tracks, a clutch of Pink Floyd and a smattering of Oasis. I keep promising myself that I will pick it up again and master it properly, but three kids, an obsession with making a living after I lost my job last year and, well, an ageing brains probably means it will never happen. An eternal regret. One day, though, I will pass it on to one of my sons and through them I will my fantasy of becoming Guns ‘n Roses’ Slash, Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour or Dire Straits’ Marc Knopfler.

2. Continuing to Trust Customer Services
An ongoing regret, exemplified by my dealings with a major mobile phone company last week. I wanted a dongle – the USB stick that allows you to access the world wide web when you’re in wi-fi-free zones. The woman on the phone in customer services was lovely. They always are. She promised me I’d have the device on Friday. I waited in. It never arrived. Then I received a text: ‘We tried to deliver but you weren’t in.’ I was. I called the courier firm. They’d been given the wrong address – despite the fact they send me bills to the correct address every month. I phoned them. They apologised profusely. I told them of my disillusionment, about people who make promises that are never kept. She promised me she was different. They always tell you they are different. They always let you down. But this one would be different. I was convinced. She sounded so genuine, so sincere. She promised me I would have my coveted dongle on Saturday morning. And I believed her. I regret that I did. I always regret it. I waited in. It never arrived. I don’t want to be a gobby cynic every time I talk to a customer services department, but they’re turning me into one. I hate them for that.

3. Inability to Tell My Dad I Love Him
We don’t do verbalised sentiment in my family. Actions, not words. It’s different wth me and my kids. I tell them I love them a hundred times a day and they are very proud of embarrassed by that. But I can’t remember ever telling my Dad I love him. Except once. We were in a pub and Dad was talking to a younger friend of his. This friend’s dad was seriously ill and it was a huge regret of this friend that he didn’t have the courage to tell his old man what he thought about him. ‘Just tell him,’ I overheard my Dad saying. ‘He needs to hear it.’ I took this as a signal that I should declaring the undying for my old fella. So later that evening – a few sheets to the wind – I told him. Dad looked at me, mortified. His face reddened, but he wasn’t blushing. He was angry. ‘Behave yourself, you ponce,’ he snapped. Then he left the room. I told my late Mum about this and she said: ‘Keith, he knows. He just knows. You don’t need to say it.’ And I never have since.

4. Not Going to University so I Could Have a Gap Year
I never thought I would regret this. I left home at 16, got my A levels, worked at my local newspaper in my holidays, went to journalism college and got a job on said paper when I was 19. I thought people who went to university were mugs. Earning was what mattered. Getting on the career ladder was more important. But over the years, I’ve come to realise that I missed out of a big opportunity to expand my horizons – not least in the form of the all-important gap year. I’ve travelled far and wide during the course of my job, and when I was single, used my holidays to see places I wouldn’t normally have got to see, such as India and Nepal. But I wish I’d done more, wish I’d taken the opportunity to find my young self and visited places that I now – being an older dad with three yong children – know I will never get to see: Machu Pichu, the Far East, Australasia etc etc. My wife did what I didn’t do and she had amazing experiences and created many memories from her travels. You never get your youth back. If only I’d known then what I know now and hadn’t been in such a rush to become part of the Rat Race.

5. The Last Few Months of any Relationship
It’s over when it’s over, isn’t it? You know it, the other party knows it, but you cling on for dear life hoping to make amends, hoping you can see it through. OK, it’s different when there are children involved: you owe it to them to make a go of it. But when there are no kids, you’re just dragging it out, hoping those straws you’re clinging to might result in a bale of hay. It never does. You’re better off quitting when the realisation dawns. When she says it’s over, it’s over. When you say it’s over, walk away and don’t look back. I went out with a girl for six months, but I knew after a couple of months that it wasn’t working and never would. But we both hung on. I tried to extricate myself in a nice way, explained that I ‘wasn’t ready’. That I ‘needed space’ blah blah. But sometimes hints aren’t enough and I eventually had to sit down with her – in a restaurant, where it was crowded, because I’m a coward and I didn’t want a scene – and said: ‘It’s not me, it’s you: everything about you irritates me. The way you eat, the way you breathe. Everything.’ She was crushed, and I’m not proud of myself, but we should have both moved on much earlier.

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Posted by on September 9, 2011 in Parenting & Family


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