Post-It Notes: an interview with the stay-at-home dad behind "Message With A Bottle"

Updated Oct 12 2015

Post-It Notes can be used for many things — to hold a place in a book, to remind yourself to pick up your dry cleaning, or, you know, to help you raise your kid. Right?

Chris Illuminati is the stay-at-home-dad behind Message With a Bottle, a Tumblr comprised of sticky notes he leaves himself to "remind myself what to do, and sometimes more importantly, what not to do when raising a child." Chris quit his job as a content editor in May 2010 and created this blog.

He says: "As a reminder of everything going on with my writing, I leave Post-It Notes around my office so I don't forget deadlines, meetings, and the fact my bank account is nearly empty (it's a sick motivational tool — the yearning to eat). I decided to incorporate those same organizational principles while watching my son."

I asked Chris a few more questions about his life at home and, of course, the sticky note messages.

What was your job prior to freelancing and becoming a stay-at-home dad? Why did you quit?
I was working as a content editor for PhillyBurbs.com and the wife and I did some number crunching; basically my entire paycheck would go to daycare for our son. So, instead of working so that other people took care of him, we figured it would be better for me to stay home with him and work freelance on the side to make up for the salary. It wasn't that difficult at first because the baby took plenty of naps and was on a set schedule. As he got older, it got a little more difficult. There are amazing days and days when I'd like to put my head through a wall (though my hundred-year-old house might fall down around me).

How has life changed since transitioning to being a stay-at-home-dad? Do you miss aspects of your work life prior to making this change?
There are days I've got to force myself out of the house. Even though I want to physically leave, mentally it's really hard to get yourself to leave. I've become a little bit of a homebody, even more so than before. Also, now that I'm both a father and stay-at-home-dad, I've started to rethink and re-evaluate my own childhood. The baby will do something amazing and I'll think of my parents and how they must have felt, or I'll think of something my kid will eventually do and think "I was such a dick to my parents." Also, things take on a different meaning once you have a kid. TV shows, movies, books, and music all mean something different now that I'm a father. It's really odd.

I'll never miss the PHYSICAL part of a job: the getting up, dressed, traffic, etc., part of work… but I miss the human interaction. My coworkers and day-to-day life was a huge source of writing material. Now it's just me, the kid, and the Yo Gabba Gabba crew, and they aren't very good at brainstorming. I'm thinking of going to places I don't work and just asking to sit in on meetings and lunches. "What do we sell? Fax machines? That sucks. I'm going to the next office. I think I saw a laser in one of their offices."

Do you have a favorite message from your post-it photos?
The most popular message I think was "baby fight club" but if I had to pick the message that meant the most, it would have to be the message about "this is starting to get fun." It was around the time that the kid started to turn that corner — growing from being a pooping, sleeping, crying machine, into a child that smiled when you entered the room and did little things to show he understood what was going on and was trying to communicate back in his own little way.

Are you saving the messages to show your son?
I have not saved any of them. I'm not sure why. I think because I'm hoping this all leads to something more where I'll have a copy of all of them together to say "this was the first couple years of your life when you and I spent all day together." Yes, I'm hinting at wanting to do a book. I CAN SAY NO MORE! I'll sometimes stumble across messages I forgot to throw out. I'll find them all over the house. That's more about senility than sentimentality.

Does your wife ever write post-its?
She was kind of the inspiration of the whole website. A couple years back she used to make our lunches for work and she'd leave me funny notes on the tupperware. I'd find them when I got to work. Those notes made me laugh and kept me sane at jobs I hated. They were the inspiration for the notes that make me laugh at this stay-at-home-dad job I sometimes hate — even when I love the kid I work with.

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  1. I love this. It's hard SAH and Working, no matter which gender you are. I love how much fun he is having. Great reminders!

  2. i love it! the sticky notes especially. so cute. i won't say bravo for being a male and staying home because i wouldn't say bravo for being a female and staying at home… i will say BRAVO for staying at home at being a parent full time. that is the hardest job ever! i would join some baby and me classes so you can meet some other parents with children the same age and you can get out and socialize and chat about baby things. that always helped me stay sane! another place i go to is story time at the library… it is filled with other parents with little ones!

  3. I especially loved the (possibly unintentional) Doctor Who reference: People have warned me not to turn my back on the baby, but I think better advice would be, "Don't Blink"

  4. I was wondering if anyone would mention him to Offbeat Mama and interview him. Wish I could take credit for it, but my name doesn't start with T and end with Rump.

    I religiously check MWAB every day because he reminds me to keep the stay-at-home role in check and just enjoy it, rather than stress because dishes aren't done or the floors are less that spectacular.

  5. "There are days I've got to force myself out of the house. Even though I want to physically leave, mentally it's really hard to get yourself to leave. I've become a little bit of a homebody, even more so than before."

    Hear hear! I remember getting to the point where I hadn't changed out of pajamas in more than 10 days…. Putting on pants just seemed so daunting!

  6. Such an inspiration Chris! <3 I loved finding the little notes in my lunches from my mom when I was a kid. I never thought of doing something like this. Thank you for the smiles and happy thoughts!

  7. Awesome article. I'm going to have to share this with my sweetie because he loves Fight Club and is thinking about being a stay at home daddy. I would love love love it if he decides and is able to.

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