Being a stay at home dad is something that many men can’t possibly envision. There is something masculine about the social norms of a dad being the breadwinner of the family. While in the past that was commonplace, today, with the high cost of living dual income families are now the majority.
That can be for a myriad of reasons including unemployment, disability, the high costs of daycare or just a family choice. Whatever the reason there are certain truths that you need to know about being a stay at home dad
It’s really hard
Comedian Bill Burr has a bit where he talks about stay at home moms. Basically, he’s in disbelief that someone called it the toughest job in the world. He says you’re living the dream. You wear pajamas all day and pop in movies for the kids to watch.
And I saw that bit and I laughed and laughed.
Boy, was I wrong. Big time.
Now admittedly there are tougher more demanding jobs. Being a roofer in the summer comes to mind.
But being a stay at home dad is hard. There is no other way around it. It just is. Whether you’re parenting one child or multiple like me, it’s a grind. Everyone with kids knows that being a parent is a full-time job. Think about being at home by yourself, without you’re better half and how much you can lean on them to carry half the load. Need a break mom can handle it for a while. Not
For a stay at home dad every tantrum, you deal with. Something spills, you’re on it. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, that’s you too. Dirty diapers? Dig in.
At the end of the day, if you’re like me, your brain is oatmeal.
People look at you differently
Although being a stay at home dad is getting more common it’s definitely not common. When I get asked what I do I say that I’m a stay at home dad and the responses vary quite a bit. From curious to disdain. Mostly, I either get questions or furled eyebrows.
That’s just what it is. Get used to it.
Don’t let it affect you. You don’t have time for that. You’ve got kids to raise.
You’re not babysitting you’re parenting
This should be obvious. You’re not the neighbor’s kid who’s watching your children so you and mom can steal away to a movie. You’re the dad. Act like it. If these kids turn into brats, that’s on you. Nobody else but you. You have a great opportunity to lay the foundation of what kind of person they are going to be. To shape them and mold them into the kind of people you want them to be. So do it. Be engaged. Hold them accountable. Challenge them and teach them. Explain right and wrong. Love them. You’ve got a great opportunity. Don’t waste it.
You will question everything
You probably already do this. I know I do. But I’ve found that since I’m home with them all day by myself I do it even more.
Undoubtedly, some of those questions will lead to regrets. That’s a big part of it. Why did I lose my temper? Should I have handled that differently?
But here’s the thing:
That’s good. You’re trying to be the best dad you can be and you won’t be able to do that without thinking about it. This is a plus. Embrace it.
You will probably deal with some depression
Being a stay at home dad is a lot to handle. It’s just you and the kids all day. And while that comes with enormous positives there are definite ways it can affect your mental health. My advice is to get out among the living as much as possible. Staying at your house every day isn’t good for you or your kids. It’s nice to be around other adults. If you can get someone to watch your kids every now and then take them up on it. Also, be honest with your spouse. They will tell you about their day, do the same. Get it off your chest.
It’s hard on mom too
Be aware of how this arrangement affects mom. You two are fighting different battles but you’re on the same team. It’s you two against the world. She’s dealing with her own issues daily too. Plus there may be financial concerns about going down to one income or the pain of missing out on being around her children and sharing experience.
Just know that this scenario will have an effect on her too. Be attentive to her concerns.
Mickey Mouse has your back
I don’t want my kids to sit in front of a screen all day and you probably don’t t too. However, there will be times when you need to tag the TV in. If you need to make a phone call or cook dinner or take a shower this is a great way to keep them occupied. Plus, depending on what they watch they will learn some things too. Don’t beat yourself up, everyone needs help. Parent smarter, not harder
Similar to a working dad, you look forward to the weekends
Just like a regular 9-5 job the weekends are a break. Just a different kind. You have help. Mom is back and things while still possibly hectic are a little more manageable.
It’s hard (for me) to feel like a man at times
I must admit that sometimes I get caught up in traditional social conventions. Because of that, it’s hard for me to feel “like a man.” To some, it may sound ridiculous, after all, you are taking care of your children and there is something inherently “manly” about that. This probably says more about me than maybe you but it’s something I struggle with from time to time so I wanted to pass it on.
It can be hard on your marriage
A lot of this can depend on your overall financial health. If you’re well off financially you may not experience some of this stress. However, as we’ve discussed earlier there are other factors that go into being a stay at home dad. Now, this isn’t to say that it will definitely add stress to your marriage but don’t be surprised if it does.
Going to a single income is scary
Sacrifices have to be made. This decision leads you to have half the amount of money you used to have. That’s a big shave. Things that used to be affordable now maybe aren’t. That takes some getting used to. Your financial standing can be precarious depending on your situation.
There’s never enough time
From the moment they wake up you’re on the go. You’re trying to get them set up and going for the day while handling household chores like laundry and cleaning and cooking.
I start the day with an idea of what I want to accomplish and then hope it works out. I know that I like to have the kids bathed and dinner ready when my wife gets home. Most days that happens but some days you know it’s just not going to. On those days I feel less like dad and more like a chaos manager.
I spend a lot of time picking up stuff. Even though my kids are able to pick up after themselves and we do make them, there always seems to be random things lying around. Sometimes it’s easier to just do it yourself. If I had to guess I would say I bend over to pick stuff up 20 times a day.
Now that I’ve spent the last 1100 or so words telling you about the trying and difficult parts of being a stay at home dad, however, I would be remiss if I led you to believe that’s all that there was. No, check that, I would not be remiss in fact I would be full of s**t.
This is a great time. Every day is a great day. Even the bad days are better than most. Let’s get into it.
You’ll never get these days back
It’s true. You’re going to want these days back. Kids change so much day to day and week to week much less year to year. These are precious days. Be thankful for them. Cherish them. Take pictures. Write down what you did. You’ll miss these days. My kids are nearly 3 now and I already think back to things that they used to do when they were a year younger and I miss it terribly. Live in the moment. Be mindful these are your best days.
You get to spend every day with your favorite people
I’m introverted. My social circle is non-existent. I don’t have drinking buddies and I’m not in a fantasy league. Haven’t been for years. These aren’t necessarily by choice rather it’s come naturally. I don’t feel like my life is empty. Quite the opposite, it could not feel more full.
The big reason for this is that I get to spend every day with my favorite little people. I get to live their heartache and celebrate their accomplishments. For me, there’s not anything I would trade for that.
Strengthens the dad/child bond
Dads are good but mommas are best.
This was something my wife and I joked about when our twins were babies. It didn’t seem to matter what was wrong they wanted mom. And that’s fine if not a little humbling. It only makes sense, she was at home with them, fed them, bathed them, changed them, loved on them. I was just the guy who got up with them at night to feed them and change them and then off to work I went.
Now that I’ve been with them more I get a little more respect. Still not on mom’s level but definitely more. Sometimes something goes wrong and they only want dad. That’s a great feeling.
And it’s not just that. We are sharing experiences every day. From roughhousing to laughing to falling asleep on the couch together. These things add up. And while they may not remember them I certainly will.
Hopefully, my experiences give you a better idea about what to expect when you become a stay at home dad. When I was considering writing about this I was expecting a submarine dive into my soul to gather these thoughts and feelings but that didn’t happen.
What I found was that these truths flowed pretty easily as I set down to write. I didn’t spend much time in reflection and I think I know why.
I think it’s because when you are a stay at home dad, everything is right on the surface. You are keenly aware of your feelings. I think this happens because you’re around your kids all day. Their emotions affect yours. Everything is raw. There’s no pushing it aside or burying it. You wear it.
And I think in the long run it’s good for you.
I don’t want this to scare you away from being a stay at home dad. Only you and your partner know what’s best for your family. Doing this will have some adverse effects on both of you. In the end, you have to weigh the options.
I want to leave you with this.
Despite all the rough parts that come with this choice, I know without a doubt that my life is better. I laugh and smile more. The experiences are richer. And I think the best part of this is that a daycare worker isn’t stealing these little moments and not knowing great they are. I get them. I share them. These days go into my bank. I’ll always have them. And who knows maybe I’ll need to call on them when my kids get older.