I left my job in advertising to become a full-time dad and a video game vlogger. It was, admittedly, a difficult decision. It was also one of the best decisions I have made in my life.
I had been working in advertising for more than a decade. When the pandemic hit and the lockdown started last year, my wife Karla and I were fortunate enough to continue our work at home. We thought this would be an ideal setup. We weren’t getting exposed to the virus, we could save on travel and other expenses, we were going to spend more time with our three-year-old daughter Sophie.
We learned immediately that it was difficult to balance our family life with our careers if there was clear separation between the two.
Our home became an extension of the office, which meant we had to sync our schedules to make sure someone was taking care of Sophie all the time. I was a creative director for an advertising firm; my wife, a brand general manager. We were both engaged in countless meetings, brainstorming sessions, and work presentations from nine to six. There were instances when one of us would have to take our virtual meeting in the bathroom and the other would be in the dining room attending to work commitments while taking care of our sweet and often rambunctious daughter.
Sophie wakes up to have breakfast with us. But after that, Karla and I have to take turns taking care of her. She loved the idea of having both daddy and mommy at home all the time, but she could not understand why we were not available to play with her all day.
So she would do everything to get our attention. Sophie had many tricks up her sleeve: from pulling our arms while we’re working to screaming and crying at random points in the day.
Every morning, Sophie would ask us: “Is it the weekend?” “Do you have work today?” “Can I play with you a bit?”
Before the pandemic, her two grandmothers took turns to take care of her while Karla and I were at the office. When we got home, we gave her our full and undivided attention. When we started working from home, not only did we find ourselves having a hard time taking care of our daughter, but we also became more stressed, short-tempered, and exhausted. The guilt of not being “perfect parents”--while making sure our daughter was not affected by the drastic changes happening around her because of the pandemic--became harder to bear as we were watching Sophie playing somberly in one corner of our condo, accepting defeat that no one was going to play Barbie with her that day.
We knew that the work from home setup was working well for many families. And we knew that our family was very fortunate to have our jobs unaffected by the pandemic.
But we also had to admit: the setup wasn’t working for our family.
One day, Karla and I had the talk. We knew that a two-income household was ideal, but the current home life that we had was not. Our daughter was in her developmental years and we don’t want her to remember this time as a time when she was neglected, alone, and confused. We decided that one of us had to let go of our career, at least temporarily or until we had more provisions to help us out.
So who should do it? Both of us have worked so hard to cultivate our careers. Who should let go then?
Deep inside, I knew the answer. Financially speaking, it would be wiser if I resigned. I am not ashamed to say that I love my wife more than my male ego. Karla is brilliant and she is in an industry that she loves. When we were younger, I always told her that she would be destined for greatness but she would always just roll her eyes at me. I promised her in our wedding vows that I would always help her follow her dreams.
I didn’t want to break that, especially when I knew giving up my job for now could help Karla thrive in her career and be a better mother.
As a full-time father, I now have more time with my daughter. I did most of the things Karla did for Sophie when we both had jobs outside our homes. I can confidently give Sophie a bath, clean her up after doing number two, and slice fruits for her–tasks that, honestly, I never felt the urgency to learn before. I have also memorized the lyrics of, you guessed it, Let It Go. We have enlisted the help of YouTube for our ballet and art classes. When we just want to relax, we have Peppa Pig.
The family developed some workable routines now that we have a new setup. Family breakfast, then while my wife is logged in at work, my daughter and I would do home school activities. Mommy would cook lunch, then my daughter and I would do some chores like washing the dishes and folding clothes. She would nap for a bit in the afternoon and this would usually be a time for myself, watching videos, playing video games, and thinking.
Thinking, what’s next? What do I do now? I love being a full-time father. But I have been working since I finished college. Admittedly, I had a hard time adjusting to my unemployment at first. As a creative professional, I am used to always conceptualizing and finding solutions. I realized the challenge for me now is to find a way to be the stay-at-home dad that my daughter needed, but also be able to provide for my wife and be proud of myself. I used that creative itch to discover different solutions. Solutions that I was curious about, solutions that I had always been too afraid to try.
I researched about passive income, so that even during the pandemic the fair bit of savings I had could grow. . I may not be a math whiz or a money expert, but I did my homework to understand the stock market and cryptocurrency. I watched a lot of videos and studied up and I really surprised myself on how much knowledge I gained on it after refusing to even try years back.
But while investments were well and good, I wanted to do something else to capitalize on my 13-year experience as a creative that was not tied to another desk job. I just didn’t want all the good years to go to waste. So I looked at different social platforms where I could showcase my talents. Looking around, I saw the one that had the most potential is YouTube. There are many success stories on the platform that really started from zero and now they had millions of subscribers. Everybody had their own shtick–daily vlogging (not for me), ASMR (cool but sometimes creepy), reaction videos (but of what?)
I decided to make a YouTube channel around the three things that made me the man that I am: Family, video games, and action figures.My story, I thought, could also be something some other dad can relate to: A responsible father that ensures he fulfills his roles, but also wants to make time for his hobbies.
Deep inside, I knew the answer. Financially speaking, it would be wiser if I resigned. I am not ashamed to say that I love my wife more than my male ego.
I named the channel “Daddy Player One,” a reference to the movie Ready Player One and my dual life as a father and a gamer. My wife was on board. Of course, my daughter Sophie had to be part of the project. We decided she was going to be part of my videos; she was used to seeing me play with my video games consoles at home, and Karla and I thought we could incorporate her reaction in my videos. I didn’t want to do anything that might isolate my daughter again, like when I still had my day job.
Karla and I started planning our first episode, which was supposed to be an unboxing of the PlayStation 5 that we lucked out in getting, considering the scarcity of stocks everywhere. My daughter and I got ready and my wife set up her iPhone for our shoot. But that didn’t go as planned. Sophie kept standing up and saying random things while on camera. Meanwhile, I was stuttering and uncomfortable. My wife and I locked eyes. We didn’t say a word, but we understood each other: this was not going to work.
But we didn’t want to give up on the concept.
Using my skills in customizing toys, I decided to create a visual representation of my family with Legos that would appear on our videos. This is similar to virtual YouTubers who use virtual avatars on their videos and livestreams. I hand crafted the accessories that made the generic plastic toy our onscreen avatars. I added a baby carrier on my Lego avatar, and a bow for my daughter’s. It took a while for my wife to decide on her Lego avatar’s outfit (just like in real life) but after all is said and done, we now had an animated family. Each episode, we decided, would be narrated by our virtual characters, particularly me. My wife would edit the script I wrote during the wee hours of the night. My daughter and I would do the voiceovers after our homeschool activities. I do not force her to do the tasks for the videos when she’s not in the mood, of course; while this is my personal creative project, it is also a family activity that should be fun for everyone.
As of this writing, we have a little more than 700 subscribers. It is not a lot, but this solid 700 is a product of a supportive network and a small but solid community of “dada gamers” that I really hope will continue to grow. And, of course, the love and support of my wife and daughter.
This whole experience of quitting my job to take care of our daughter and starting a YouTube channel has taught me to begin again. It’s scary, it’s stressful. But you just have to take that first step. Then, play your cards right. Harness your skills and take advantage of whatever resources you have.
The project allowed me to spend time with Sophie while doing something I am passionate. We have spent hours playing games such as Crash Team Racing, Little Big Planet, Overcooked. I learned that, when possible, it is best to do what we love with the people that we love.
If you’re not happy with how something is going, don’t be afraid to make a change. When it seems you’re getting stuck, just get that controller again, press start, and start all over again. With your family supporting you, it shouldn’t be so hard.