My wife Nell was seven months pregnant with our first son when I finished my first major architectural commission in Las Vegas. I was five years out of architecture school and had managed to build a project so exciting that it received an AIA Award for “Best New Residential Work.” Meanwhile, my wife was working in television as a writer and producer, and was finally getting serious offers and multi-year development contracts. My wife and I are both driven, creative people and at that moment, we were both poised to have the momentum of our careers carry us to the next level. We excitedly planned my move back to Los Angeles.
But we had some important data. Women who left the business of Hollywood to start a family never returned at the same level. There was no way my wife could take time off to raise a baby and then pick up where she left off. But I could. If I stayed home with our son, she could lean in to every opportunity presented. And my whirlwind of activity since leaving college had not yet been documented in a portfolio. I could spend the time with our baby learning one job and cataloging the results of the previous one.
My ideas about raising a baby were incredibly naive. I had no idea how much work it would be, or how rewarding the “job” would become. Rudy was born by caesarean section and two weeks later, Nell was in a casting session for her pilot. She pumped breast milk on the studio lot and I did the 4am feedings, defrosting little baggies for a mewling baby. I grew to love being a stay-at-home father, versus hearing about his day only after I finished mine.
After more than three years as the stay-at-home parent, I brought Rudy and our second son, Dexter, all the way up to Vancouver, where Nell was directing her first movie. There should be some sort of Olympic event where you have to travel across an international border with two toddlers, but the heroic effort meant that Dexter got to spend his first birthday with his mom, rather than just hearing her voice on the phone. And it meant that Nell was able to focus on her career without feeling guilty.
Rudy turned seventeen this year; his younger brother will turn fifteen in the spring. Along the way Nell has created many pilots, directed two movies, and worked on several television series. Once the boys were ensconced in middle school, I even returned to Las Vegas to build a bigger, more exciting residence for a new client. We had some help during the years we both had projects, but I was always the primary caregiver, which allowed Nell to lean in and give her all to writing scripts, articles and the occasional book.