1000 families project mathew and family

1,000 Families Project:
Mathew and Family

For this stay-at-home dad, moving from a small town to a big city gave him a whole new sort of family life.

Being raised in the relatively small Northern Ontario community of Sault Ste. Marie, I would often romanticize about living in a big city. There was something so attractive about the electric skylines and expansive metropolitan landscape in perpetual motion. And although I had not experienced urban living, I had naively affixed a mystique to it that drew me in.

Fast forward to December 2012 where this wide-eyed dreamer packed his family’s possessions and optimistically relocated to Toronto.

The move came at an exciting time in our lives. My wife was presented with an opportunity to realize her life-long career goal and I was enjoying my new role as a stay-at-home-dad to our two-year-old son, Cash. We were a happy, functioning young family with new beginnings to look forward to.

December fourth marked our first day in Toronto. My family arrived at our temporary lodging—a small two-bedroom condo in the heart of city. Busy work occupied our time as we laboured to settle into our new life. Elevators, sirens and bustling surroundings served as a distraction, keeping me energized.

The first days of our new big city lifestyle lived up to the image I had created in my mind. Looking out from our ninth floor terrace, the view had an iridescent quality that spoke of boundless opportunity. However, once the final box was unpacked, broken down and discarded, an abrupt silence fell over the city that I had thought so vibrant. Sitting among the “things” we had transported hundreds of kilometers, my two-year-old giggled and gazed into my eyes, filling me with a sense of unmatched anxiety.

The halted excitement of our move became apparent and I was now a stay-at-home-dad in a place that I didn’t call home.

In that moment, I felt like I had failed my son. It was my responsibility as the primary caregiver to fulfill his most basic needs. I hadn’t a clue as to where to purchase diapers or food, nor could I direct us to the nearest playground. There was no playroom, no backyard and no grandparents to rely upon—no more of the life he was used to. My brave little son had become an afterthought in my convoluted idea of a fantasy life that, clearly, I did not understand. For this I felt the deepest sense of regret.

What I failed to recognize at the time was the unique chance to live with my son in a paralleled state. What was new to him would be new to me. We were reborn to a fresh slate and an opportunity to explore and bond in a way that we had never experienced. It was time for me to step up as a father and forge a different path—a path beyond the complacency of a life previous.

For months we trekked across the boroughs of Toronto discovering parks, shops, architecture and art. At the end of the day we discussed our journeys as a family and connected through each of our new experiences. Discovering the unknown brought my wife, my son and me closer together.

Toronto had finally started to become home.

Two years later, my son is four and attends Junior Kindergarten at an inner city public school that he loves. My wife excels every day at her new career. She is the most special mother, loving wife and the driving force behind our family. And I have transformed into the father and husband I’ve always hoped I would be.

This is #1000families post number 86. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.

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Mathew Lajoie

About Mathew Lajoie

Mathew Lajoie is a writer and stay-at-home-dad. With his wife and four-year-old-son he is adapting to his new(ish) life in Toronto one city block at a time. If he’s not spending time with his family or writing, Mathew can be found skateboarding, golfing or enjoying a nice glass of wine. You can read more of his musings about parenting, fashion and wine on his website, “YOUAREdadTOme.com.” View all posts by