THE FATHERHOOD WORK JUGGLE
Matt Beauchamp is a married father of two and a former stay-at-home dad, turned full-time work-from-home dad. His day job is working as a Creative Content Manager for a PR company, but he’s probably better known as Dashing Dad through his blog DashingDad.ca and his social media accounts. As Dashing Dad, Matt has written for Calgary Child, appeared on CTV Morning Live, come runner up for Best Blogger in the Best of Calgary Awards and is featured in “Top parenting blogs you should follow” lists across Canada. Matt has carved out a niche talking about the best things to do with your kids in and around Calgary and partnering with local businesses and attractions to host giveaways.
In this episode:
- Jumping in and figuring things out as you go is a big part of parenting including the journey of being a stay-at-home dad.
- A creative outlet can be important as a parent and can also be a way to facilitate connections, growth, and new experiences!
- Reaching out to others can create a community of mutual support. If you ask, people are incredibly willing to help and to share their experiences and ideas.
Connect with Matt:
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On this episode of The Part-Time Jungle Podcast, I had a great conversation with Matt about his journey as a stay-at-home dad and his transition to working from home full-time. We also chatted about his blog, DashingDad, and strategies that have helped him work successfully from home. Matt shared how reaching out to others and asking questions has been instrumental in his journey and in him being part of a community of mutual support.
If you prefer to listen, check out Episode 27 of The Part-Time Jungle Podcast.
It was so much fun to shift gears and change “the rules” to talk about the fatherhood/work juggle! Matt is incredibly nice and super easy to talk to. I appreciated how open and honest he was about the initial fears and uncertainty he experienced as a stay-at-home dad.
Matt and his wife have two children; a daughter who’s almost four and a son who’s just over a year. His stay-at-home dad journey started right after his wife’s maternity leave with their first child. At the time, it just made sense that Matt would be the one that stayed home as he was working as a freelance writer. His wife had a full-time job and was making more money. Matt was able to still continue doing some freelance work while his daughter napped or in the evenings or on weekends. It was important to him and his wife that one of them stayed home with their daughter.
ENJOYING BEING A STAY-AT-HOME DAD
Looking back on that time, although it didn’t come without its challenges, it was the probably the most enjoyable time Matt has had as a parent so far. He got to watch his daughter learn new things and he got to experience showing her new things as well. This was pre-COVID, of course, so they were able to get out everyday and go to places like the Calgary Zoo and Heritage Park. They also went swimming and to local parks. Matt says that it’s hard to complain about getting out and going to do fun things with your daughter every day. He and his daughter created an amazing bond through this.
SOME INITIAL FEAR
When Matt reflected back on being a stay-at-home dad, he remembered that at first he felt afraid. This was during the initial transition of his wife being there all the time to his wife going back to work. He was worried that he would do something wrong. He wondered if his daughter was going to get bored. Was he going to get bored? What was he going to do when XYZ happened? Of course, what he found, just like everything in parenting, is that you just jump in and figure it out as you go. It ended up being amazing! Matt says that it’s funny now, looking back on that, how nervous he was to be a stay-at-home dad.
HAVING A PLAN
One of the main strategies that helped Matt with his juggle as a stay-at-home parent was having a plan of people to see and things to do and look forward to each week. This was also an opportunity for his daughter to learn and experience new things. As well, Matt’s daughter is very social, so this created occasions for her to be around other kids. On Sundays, he would lay out a weekly itinerary.
FAV OUTINGS IN CALGARY
Matt got a season pass for Heritage Park. He loves the old timey stuff so he and his daughter spent a lot of time there. The Calgary Zoo was a further drive so they didn’t get there as often. When they did, Matt would try to strategically time the trip so that his daughter could nap on the way there and then, they would leave in time for her to nap on the way home. Getting out and enjoying nature in Fish Creek Park was another favourite as well as the Lake Bonavista Community Association which had a ‘Tumble Time’ program with balls, bouncy castles, and other kids to play with. His daughter also took ‘Swim Survival’ lessons which is a 5-week program that teaches kids what to do when they fall in the water. Matt and his daughter also enjoyed spending time with family including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Before Matt became a stay-at-home dad, he did some research on stay-at-home dad groups in Calgary and I really didn’t find much. He had heard horror stories about dads going to parks and having the police called on them. This was because they looked like the ‘creepy guy’ hanging out at a park, when really they were just the dad of the kids. This made him feel apprehensive that he would have to assert himself and the fact that he was the parent.
The reality, though, was that everyone was super supportive. Matt met quite a few dads that were stay-at-home dads as well. He actually never had a bad encounter. In fact, Matt said that he almost got too much support. He referred to it as a ridiculous amount of support! As a parent, he felt like he didn’t need praise for getting his daughter lunch or changing her diaper. Moms have been doing these things for hundreds of years. Matt felt like he got too much praise for doing just basic parenting things. Other than that, being a stay-at-home dad was an incredibly positive experience for Matt.
NEEDING A CREATIVE OUTLET
Matt’s background is in journalism. He has a journalism diploma and worked in journalism for a while. Then, Matt got into marketing and communications writing. He has been a writer since he was a kid. While he was home with his daughter, his work as a freelancer was ebbing and flowing. He recognized that he needed a creative outlet. Matt also enjoys playing music but felt that wailing on the drums and guitar while his daughter was sleeping might not be the best plan.
STARTING A BLOG
Matt decided that his creative outlet would be a blog. He wrote 10 blog posts before he even told anyone, other than his wife, what he was doing. Matt wasn’t promoting it at all. It became quite a bit of work. So, Matt decided that if he was going to put the energy in, he needed to really commit to doing it. He felt that he had enough free time to build a website, put blog posts out, promote them on social media, and work to grow his social presence. Building from the ground up was a lot of work! For Matt, the first year was all about writing, growing, and trying to get people to know that he existed.
Matt feels fortunate to have had success with his blog! He was on CTV Morning Live talking about short day trips and things to do with your family over the winter break. Matt was featured in Calgary’s Child Magazine and on a blog hosted by Local Laundry, a Calgary based company. As well, his blog made some Top 10 lists across Canada!
A COMMUNITY OF DAD BLOGGERS
Matt says that he was fortunate to find a community of Canadian Dad bloggers on Facebook, from all across the country. They’ve helped each other out with how to grow and who to talk to. The ‘mommy blog’ niche is huge with some mommy bloggers, like Jillian Harris, having millions of people following them. Matt says that there are really only a dozen or so Dad bloggers across the country who are consistently writing. In that landscape, getting their voices out there has been difficult. However, they are helping each other to do it and it’s been fun!
Being on TV has been the top highlight for Matt in his journey with “Dashing Dad”. This was never a goal of his per se. However, in the back of his mind, he thought that if the opportunity ever came up, that it would be pretty cool. Matt says that he was very nervous and that it took a lot of energy out of him to do it, but he is so grateful that it happened. When the show aired, his daughter saw him on TV. She was perplexed that he was on TV and in the same room as her at the same time. It blew her mind!
DASHING DAD – THE STORY BEHIND THE NAME
Matt says that it wasn’t even him that came up with the name. He won’t take the credit. It was either his mom or his wife. He knew that he wanted a name that used alliteration because they are more recognizable, popular, and easier for people to remember. When he was brainstorming, he found that for some of his ideas the social media handles or websites were already taken. Those got eliminated right away. With “Dashing Dad”, he liked the play on words with “dashing”. It could mean that he was chasing his kids around or that he was sort of good looking. The name just stuck.
STAY-AT-HOME DAD TO WORKING FROM HOME DAD
The timing of Matt’s shift from SAHD to working from home dad coincided with COVID. For Matt and his family, this transition has been a combination of blessing, curse, and struggle.
Working from home isn’t particularly new for Matt as he has been doing this on and off for four to five year. With his current job, however, he had been going to an office two or three times a week. With COVID, they lost that space which led to him working full-time from home. Matt’s wife is currently on maternity leave. This means that she is home, the kids are home, and there isn’t a lot of quiet.
MAKING IT WORK
Matt shared some strategies for working from home that have helped him:
- CREATE A ROUTINE – Matt knows that there are times that he will need to be available to help out such as lunch time and nap time so he does his best not to schedule meetings around these times.
- COMMUNICATION – In the morning, Matt lets his wife know when his meetings will take place that day and when he can’t be disturbed.
- SCHEDULE UNINTERRUPTED ‘BRAIN TIME’ as best you can – Sometimes space and time with quiet and without distractions is really needed. It can be hard to maintain a train of thought with interruptions. Matt says that he has been fortunate to have access to a quiet space in his mom’s house and a coworking space through his work.
- KNOW IT ISN’T GOING TO BE PERFECT – Sometimes, there are interruptions. During meetings, he has had his kids walk into his office or has heard the sounds of drums and guitars coming from the basement. However, people seem to be very understanding during these “COVID times” where many of us are juggling things in our homes.
- ROLL WITH IT – Matt has become really adept at creating virtual backgrounds to hide some of the “reality”. His wife will put their son down for a nap and then, his wife will be crawling in the background to get the monitor.
- GIVE YOURSELF GRACE – It’s going to be a little messy and that’s just the way it is.
Matt feels incredibly fortunate that his employer is very flexible with how and when he works. They don’t care as long as the work gets done and he attends the meetings that he needs to be at. Matt hopes that coming out of COVID there will be an increase in flexibility across industries and with companies. He feels that COVID has shown that people are capable of working from home. You don’t need to be tied to your desk from nine to five or from eight to four. Just because you can’t see your employees doesn’t mean that the work isn’t getting done.
THINGS ARE SO DIFFERENT
Matt talked about how there are going to be so many changes as a result of COVID and truly, we can’t even foresee what will come from all of this. For young kids, like Matt’s, he wonders how this will affect how they grow up. When his daughter looks back at being a child, she won’t remember pre-COVID times. Matt is trying hard not to be sad about the things that she is missing out on and how, right now, things are so different from when he was a kid. Matt feels that she won’t mourn a loss because she won’t have known it. That’ll just be for him to do.
KIDS ARE SO ADAPTABLE
It will be interesting to see how our kids come through all of this. Kids are so adaptable. Every year of their life, they’re doing something new and they’re trying something new. In many ways this new experience for them is just how things are now.
CLARITY THROUGH ASKING QUESTIONS
Throughout Matt’s life, both professionally and personally, he has been incredibly fortunate to have people that have given him their time and let him pick their brains. What he has learned is that people are willing to tell you about what they do, if you ask. Before Matt became a journalist, he thought that he might go into radio, TV, or maybe even sound engineering. He was thinking about a bunch of different careers. So, he reached out to people at CTV. He went to the radio station for CJ92 and to a sound engineering studio. He talked to them and asked questions:
- Do you like your job?
- How did you get into your job?
- Does it pay well?
- If you were going to do it again, would you go down this path?
- What would you recommend that I do?
A COMMUNITY OF SUPPORT
Talking to people and asking questions helped Matt narrow down his career choice to being a writer. He applied these same practices in creating his DashingDad blog. Matt reached out to some of the really popular influencers and bloggers in Calgary including Mike Morrison and Rachel with Bows and Bentos. He asked questions like “How do you do what you do?” and “What are you willing to share with me?”. Some people were more forthcoming than others but overall, Matt got a lot of support and direction by putting himself out there.
COMMUNITY OVER COMPETITION
Matt feels that people genuinely want to help other people succeed. In the blogging and influencer space, people are not trying to be super competitive with each other. They might feel like someone is doing better and want to do what someone else is doing. However, they are not hoping that someone else fails so that they can succeed. Overall, Matt has found that people are incredibly willing to help, if you just ask.
Both of Matt’s kids are allergic to peanuts. This was surprising to him because no one in either his or his wife’s families are. When they learned this, he and his wife immediately got rid of every product with peanuts in the house. Matt said that it was surprising how many things have peanuts in them!
AN ALLERGIC REACTION
Matt was out with his daughter one day and stopped for gas. While there, he decided that he really wanted a chocolate bar so he bought his favourite: Reese Peanut Butter Cups. They went home to eat lunch and his daughter kept reaching for the chocolate bar. Matt decided to let her have a bite. His daughter immediately broke out in hives. Matt was trying to think about why this had happened and what his daughter might have eaten. In the moment, it did not even dawn on him that he had just given her peanuts.
THE AHA MOMENT
When Matt’s wife came home and he was telling her about the day, she noticed the chocolate bar wrapper. In that moment, Matt clued into what had happened. Fortunately, his daughter’s reaction was only hives. It could have been much worse and was definitely a learning opportunity.
A MILLION THINGS ON HIS MIND
This stop at the gas station had been Matt’s first time getting gas while out with his daughter. His mind was thinking about a million other things like whether or not he should leave her in the car to go pay or if he should bring her in with him? He decided to take her with him. After paying, he was focused on making sure that she was properly buckled. The whole chocolate bar thing wasn’t even on his radar because he was thinking about all the other stuff.
THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG WAY TO RAISE YOUR KIDS
For Matt and his wife, their philosophy is that there’s no right or wrong way to raise your kids as long as you’re doing it with love and trying your best. Every child is so different and every family situation is so different. We’re all trying to do the best job we can. We’re all doing amazing. There are good days and bad days. Have some grace for yourself when things aren’t going well. Also, take the time to recognize the wins when you have them. Your kids love you and they love spending time with you. Matt says that, as parents, we often make things out to be a lot worse than they actually are, especially in the eyes of your child. There really is no right or wrong way to get through this.
Thanks so much to Matt for this awesome conversation and thank YOU for tuning in!