Steve Huffaker's parents divorced when he was young, and he made a personal vow to never be separated from his children without an enormous fight.
"I didn't get to spend as much time with my father as I wanted, so I swore as a kid that I'd never do that to my children," the Coeur d'Alene man said.
"I was going to be the patriarch of my family like my grandfather was. I ponied up and did it."
As Huffaker reflects on fatherhood today, he said he'll remember his drive to raise three children as a single dad as the greatest decision of his life.
"It's a short period of time when you get to raise your kids," said Huffaker, a real estate agent at Windermere. "Once they're gone, all you can do is look back and have regrets or be happy about what you did. I was happy about what I did."
His children — Joseph, Taylor and Courtney — are all in their 20s now and navigating life with success, he said.
Huffaker said he's at peace knowing he was a "solid rock" when his kids were raised to help them build foundations for life.
He worked as a mortgage loan officer, which was a 100-percent commission job but also gave him the freedom to be home for his kids.
"Mothers take up that structural support role so often, but kids also need that solid discipline that the buck stops here," Huffaker said. "Because my kids had that, they're pretty straight up. To this day, they confide in me."
Huffaker said he couldn't have accomplished what he did in fatherhood without a supporting cast that included his girlfriend, Gerri Dohn, and boss, Don “Pepper” Smock.
Huffaker said it was his children who gave him the strength to make it through challenges, including divorce.
"Embrace your children, and you can actually get strength from them," he said.
Huffaker said he enjoyed boat outings and vacations when his children were growing up, but what he'll cherish most was just being together.
"To be honest, some of the most fun times were sitting around the dinner table and talking about what happened during the day," he said.
Tyler Wilson, another local dad, said he has sensed the stereotypical undertones of being a stay-at-home father: Shouldn't you be the one who brings home the bacon? You must have a lot of time on your hands since you don't have a 40-hour-a-week job.
But being at home and raising his three children — Marion, 6; Elliott, 3; and Sawyer, 2 (with Marshall on his way) — while his wife and the kids' mother Angela works at Avista Utilities, fits their family structure.
"We didn't want to send our kids to daycare if we didn't have to, and my wife had the higher-paying job," Wilson said. "It made sense for us since she's the one providing that financial stability, and I wanted to be home with our children.
"It's not for everyone nor is it a long-term thing, but it works for us right now. It's best for me and it's best for our kids."
Wilson, a Coeur d’Alene High and University of Idaho graduate, is a freelance writer from home whose income supplements the family coffers.
"I can contribute financially; she's the one who pays the bills," he said.
Wilson said he believes he has a more rigid schedule as a stay-at-home dad tending to three young children than he did working at an office. He said there's a misconception that stay-at-home parents have a ton of free time.
"I'm way busier now than when I had a full-time job," he said. "There are days when it is overwhelming but that's just more parenting than anything else."
Wilson said he has no regrets about choosing the fatherhood path he did.
"There's not a day when I wished I had it any other way," he said. "It's still a full-time job; I'm just not getting paid for it (financially)."
With three kids and a fourth on the way, organization is key.
"You have to plan your outings because everything is built around a nap or an event, so you only have one- or two-hour windows," he said. "Spending a lot of time talking to kids reminds me that I also need to talk to adults every now and then."
Wilson said he knows the time of raising children is precious and flies by.
"I wanted to be there as much as possible to sponge off of that time," he said. "I like being there in the daytime and not coming home at 5. I get to see my kids at their best — and sometimes even at their worst."
One fear that Wilson said lingers with his "break" from a full-time job is getting back into the workforce.
"When I go back into a more traditional role, my resume’ will have a gap on it," he said. "I may have to catch up a bit, but I'm just taking that day-to-day right now and focusing on what I'm doing."
He readily admits it takes teamwork for a household to run smoothly.
"My wife and I make a good team," he said.
Wilson said when the going gets tough, he doesn't have to look very far to be re-energized.
"My kids are the energy that drives me to do other things, so the more time I spend with them is to my advantage," he said.