WHEN David Keeley volunteered to be a stay-at-home dad to his two children after becoming unemployed in 2008, he never thought he’d volunteer for a myriad of sports and community activities as well.
“It is the most rewarding job in the world,” says David.
“When my own father was on his death bed he said to me ‘Spend precious time with your kids before they grow up’.
“And they grow up very quickly,” adds David.
“A pal of mine, a former colleague, told me to spend all the time you can with your kids before they are 10. The pals become more important after that.”
David took in what his father and his friend told him and when the opportunity presented itself he took it.
“Fortunately my wife, Deirdre, has a good job in CIT; I was happy to support her and for her to develop her career when I took a redundancy package from the business development insurance company where I worked for 10 years. It made more sense.”
He didn’t let the grass grow under his feet.
“I work part-time from home as a web and app developer after studying for an IT degree in CIT,” says David.
“I contract with Amazon among others. Working flexi-time suits me and it suits the household.
“I can take the summer off and we can all go on holidays together.”
David is well equipped for the job of stay at home parent, brimming with self-belief, dedication, energy, and resourcefulness.
He’s a dab hand in the kitchen too!
“Beef Stroganoff is my go-to signature dish,” says David.
“Both Leisha, aged 10, and Eoin, aged eight, love it.”
David doesn’t spend much time in the kitchen though, does he?
“That’s true!” he says. “I am a nature lover and I help to run the schools’ organic and pollinator-friendly garden, Gaelscoil Ui Riordan School Garden.
“We teach the kids all about nature and areas like crop rotation.
“I’ve also started helping Ballincollig Tidy Towns to become more pollinator-friendly and have had the scout group do various planting projects for the BTT. The plants provided are from the Gaelscoil. It is a great outlet for me and for other parents.”
“I get great satisfaction from volunteering,” he says.
“I’m involved in coaching in the Ballincollig Camogie under 11, and Ballincollig RFC under 9.
“I run the summer mini-tag and I do the social media and graphic design for both clubs.”
Is there no end to his enthusiasm?
“I love volunteering,” says David. “I think by doing it, I provide a good role model for the kids. We learn how to work as a team.”
David knows that team effort gets results.
“I was a coach and the PRO for Ballincollig GAA for two years. Helping to establish the Ballincollig Warriors, a team for children with additional needs in 2018 was very rewarding. The kids really enjoy being involved. I coach and help out with the administration.”
He has another string to his bow.
“Having a competitive nature helps!”
It’s not surprising with his mighty skills that David is a scout.
“I am a scouter for the last three years, helping kids to do projects in their community.”
He puts his technical skills to good use too.
“I run Coderdojo sessions in CIT,” says David. “I am a mentor and train 30 kids how to code every week during the school term; I’ve been doing that for three years.”
When does the washing, cleaning and ironing get done?
“That gets done too! Deirdre and I share the chores at the weekend. We do the grocery shopping together.”
Being a stay-at-home dad is a full-time job. But for David it’s not a chore.
“It was a bit of an eye-opener though when I took on the role,” he admits. “It is tough to balance everything at times, but it’s well worth the effort.
“It is still unusual to see the dad at the school gate or doing pick-ups after school.
“Even today, in modern Ireland, the expectation is that the woman looks after the kids. Dad doing it is unusual and not always respected.
“Raising kids is a very responsible, serious job. I recognise the value of that.”
Sometimes, there’s not enough hours in the day.
“Leisha does the Coderdojo classes, she plays GAA, hockey in the winter. She speaks Irish and she swims. At age 10, I wasn’t doing any of those things.
“We’re out a lot and lucky to be near everything. We can walk to the GAA pitch or to Beavers. Walking and cycling keeps us all fit. We make good use of all the facilities around us.”
It’s a way of making new friends.
“Before I had kids, I knew no-one!” says David.
“Now, with all the clubs, you get to talk to people and to meet new people. The clubs are growing with new people getting on board.
“Everyone is willing to give a bit of their time with the kids.”
Is screen time on the Keeley’s busy time-table?
“As you can imagine, there’s a lot of devices in our house,” says David.
“Screen time is controlled so it doesn’t become invasive or take over.”
Is there any ‘me’ time pencilled in?
“I watch sports on TV,” says David. “I don’t go the pub or drink beer. I’ve done that in my younger days!
“I am an avid gardener. And I’m good at DIY, so I put in my two- pence half-penny around the house.”
Can he be cloned?
Job satisfaction for him is at a premium.
“Being so involved in my kids’ lives and being involved in the community is very satisfying.
“I’d say to fathers; get your kids out there, get them involved in sports and in community activities. You’ll reap the benefits.”
David has reaped the benefits of choosing to be a stay-at-home dad.
“Kids need to be parented. We are here to do that. Sometimes I do it the old-fashioned way.”
No doubt his own dad would approve.