“And what do you do?” We’ve all been asked that. You can be a teacher, a doctor, contractor, truck driver, or a lawyer. Any of those is an expected reply. Not me, I’m a SAHD. Tell someone you’re a stay at home dad and watch their response. What? You’re the dad, shouldn’t you be the breadwinner? How you handle that response will help determine your happiness when you are a SAHD.
Be Secure Being A SAHD
This is a big one so I’m putting it first. Becoming a stay at home dad is a shock to the psyche. You are cannonballing into the cold water.
Here are a couple of reasons why.
First, there’s not a lot of adult interaction. You are probably used to conversing with other similarly aged people who are living similar lives to you.
They have a job that doesn’t pay enough. Have a commute that they hate. The air conditioner just went out at their house. Wife, kids, and a dog.
These relationships can be tedious and forced. But part of you will miss them.
Secondly, it’s not terribly common to be a stay at home dad. Some people still don’t understand.
The quicker you become ok with all this, the better off you and your family will be. It’s hard. It was terribly hard for me. It still is some times.
My advice is to not look for confirmation in other people’s eyes. Look for the smile on your kids’ faces.
You Aren’t The Only One
Pew Research found that in 2016, 7% of all stay at home parents were dads. That’s up 3% since 1989. There are roughly 2 million of us and that number is growing.
So while it’s not near as common or as accepted as being a stay at home mom, the numbers prove that there are more and more men every day choosing to stay at home.
Sometimes it’s important for SAHDs to know that they aren’t alone. There are millions of men just like them fighting the same battles they are.
AtHomeDad.org has a great network of stay at home dad groups throughout the United States. If you can’t find one in your area, you can always start one.
Being alone all day with your kids can get lonely. If you are feeling like that, reach out.
Forget About Having Free Time
Don’t even let that thought enter your mind. Ain’t happening.
Have you ever tried to hang bike racks with the help of 2 4-year-olds? Takes forever.
How about grocery shopping? I can do grocery shopping for my family for the week in about 45 minutes. With my kids, double it.
The only respite I can find during the day is nap time. However, that is usually spent working on dinner or laundry or anything else.
And you know why I like to do those during nap time? Because doing laundry with kids takes about 3 days to finish.
Here’s one last thing, my wife leaves for work and I go in on the SAHD clock. She gets home and I’m still on the clock. You aren’t off the clock until they go to sleep.
By bedtime, my brain is mashed potatoes.
Stay At Home Dads Need To Adapt And Overcome
No two days are ever the same. Heck, no two hours are ever the same.
You can’t be too rigid and thrive. Kids change their minds in an instant. I can’t tell you how many times we sit down to play a game or read a book and they just decide they want to go do something else.
It happens all the time.
The key is to not get too high or too low. They’re not doing it to mess with you. This is a magical time in their development. They are learning something new every day. Don’t be a mad SAHD.
If you aren’t able to laugh at the whims of your kids, something is wrong.
Remember To Be A Husband
It’s incredibly important to be a good dad.
SAHD’s aren’t just dads. They’re also partners.
And that’s just as important.
Your significant other is fighting their battles too and may need to vent when they get home. Be present and listen. Ask questions.
Dads have to wear a lot of different hats. This is just another one.
The other side of this coin is that you need to be open to talking about your day and what goes on at the house while they are gone.
It’s good for you to let off some steam and let your partner in on the craziness that goes on while they’re gone.
Screentime Gets A Bad Wrap
People worry about kids spending too much time in front of a screen and I get it. I’d rather my kids spend their time doing other things.
But a TV and tablets do have their place. In fact, I’ll argue until I’m blue in the face that some screentime is good for kids.
I don’t let my kids watch junk. They watch Disney Plus, Nick Jr., PBS Kids, and play ABCMouse on their tablets.
These shows teach problem-solving, how to follow tasks, and empathy for others, among other things.
Did you know that Blaze and the Monster Machines on Nick Jr. teach math and physics?
On PBS Kids, Xavier Riddle teaches history and The Wild Kratts educate kids on animals and nature. Plus they do it better than me.
Here are some real-life examples.
My daughter told me yesterday that bats were nocturnal and that means they sleep during the day and they eat mosquitoes at night. She learned that from Wild Kratts.
A few months ago we were doing a family hike around the lake. Close to the dam, there is water intake. My son saw that it was creating a vortex. “Look dad that’s a water vortex. ” I said yeah, that’s right but I wasn’t as sure as he was, had to Google it.
He learned that from Blaze.
ABC Mouse is a great learning program. They learn to read and write and do math. Plus it shows them how to follow instructions.
I don’t let my kids watch TV all day. But I do understand that these shows have their place. In my opinion, they can be incredibly valuable.
On a stay at home dad level, these shows are time buyers. If you need to find some time to knock out something on your to-do list, tell them to turn on Mickey Mouse.
The Absolute Most Important Truth About Being A SAHD
I’ve told you all the hard stuff to tell you this: If you only take one thing away from reading this post I hope it’s this.
Being a stay at home dad is the absolute best thing I’ve ever done. I’ve gotten to spend so much time with my kids that I normally would not have. Laughs and cries and smiles are all stored in my memory box.
Not only that, I think they’ll be better off for it. I think that they will remember these times when they get older. These memories may just flash across their mind like a comet but they’ll think of me.
I remember such random, inconsequential things from my childhood. When I tell my parents they of these memories they have no recollection. But you know what, it makes them happy.
Here’s another thing that my wife wanted me to mention another thing that I seem to have taken for granted. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve become use to this that it doesn’t register with me.
What is it?
Life is easier. So much easier.
Think about your day to day life. You wake up early to get dressed to go to work. You hustle to get yourself ready while getting your kids dressed, fed, and out the door and off to face the world.
Then at the end of a long day, you do the same thing but in reverse.
Think about running around. You may sit in traffic. You get home and try to get something whipped up for dinner. While that’s happening you have to get them bathed plus deal with whatever else rears its ugly head.
Think about that.
Then you lay your head on the pillow to get up and do it again.
For millions of families that’s their week.
But not for my family.
Being a SAHD allows me to take care of all of that. I take care of the dinner, chores, bather and everything in between.
When mom gets home we spend time together as a family. There’s no racing to get things done. I already did them.
For me and mine that’s priceless.
Ultimately, you and your family will have to find what works best.
I hope this helps give you some insight into what it’s like to be a SAHD.