Written by: Caroline Meyer
Gone are the days when Mom was the home maker and Dad had to bring home the bacon. Over the past 5 decades, many families have become partnerships where both parents work or even in some cases, where Dad stays home with the children and Mom works. Many Dads are enjoying spending the formative years with their offspring and loving it! While this is not for everyone, for some families it makes sense for Dad to be the caregiver while Mom works on her career.
For moms and dads, staying at home and caring for the little ones is not as simple as many would think. A full time, stay-at-home parent has a lot of responsibilities and don’t be mistaken in thinking that it isn’t work! It may be a very fulfilling type of work, but it is work, nonetheless. It can be frustrating, lonely and you may feel that no one appreciates you. There is no pay, no time off and you have to do the same thing day after day. You do get to enjoy your children and get to know each one as an individual. Each child develops at their own pace and different kids will take up more of your time than others. If you have special needs children, you can expect even more of a learning curve and a lot more of your time invested. Here are a few tips to help you get through the day:
Love what you do
You don’t have to hide your role in the family. If you are a stay at home Dad, embrace the role. There is no need to be embarrassed about what you bring to your family. Love what you do and don’t let anyone make you feel less of a person for being a stay-at-home Dad. There are still people out there that will pass judgement on you, but don’t let this get you down. Give no apologies and make it clear it is something you choose to do, and you will find that the haters can’t get to you. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself as a confident, competent parent. Show pride in what you bring to the table and in the importance of your role in the family. As things change, more people will recognize that Dads can be fulltime carers as well without being compared to Moms and many activities will also become more inclusive than they currently are.
Don’t let anyone disparage your partner
The opposite end of the stick is when people try and make your partner feel guilty for not being the stay at home parent. Sometimes the guilt may also be self-inflicted. This may also be done in front of the children. Don’t allow anyone to run your partner down and make sure they know that your choices are intentional, and no one was forced into their roles. As your children see your reaction to the nay-sayers, the more they will come to appreciate that both parents can be the caregivers, which may also bode well for equality of the genders in the future as well. Make sure your partner also knows how much you appreciate what she does. Include her in decisions with regards to the home and children and discuss any issues or concerns you may have. Been open and honest with your partner will go a long way to ensuring a peaceful, happy home. Don’t drop everything into her lap when she gets home as your role does not change when she walks in the door. You can, however, share some responsibilities as well as allowing her quality time with the children when she is home. Work together as a time for the good of the family.
Share the housework
As the primary caregiver, you will be doing the tidying up after the children, making them meals, doing the laundry and so forth on a daily basis. This may mean that you do not have the time or energy to do many of the other household tasks such as grocery shopping, vacuuming, cooking meals for the adults, dusting and everything else that goes in to keeping a home. While you will be carrying a lot more of the burden on cleaning and cooking, you can also ask for help if you need it. You are the primary caregiver, but that doesn’t mean you are the housekeeper as well. If you can afford to, you might want to get in a service once a week, arrange a laundry service or at least hire a gardener. You can also discuss chore sharing with your partner so that she can handle some of the work that you are not able to manage with everything else that is required.
Enjoy time out of the home
Being a stay-at-home Dad only means you don’t go in to work, it doesn’t mean you are trapped in the home. Take the kids out sometimes to the park, to the beach, to the zoo, go for a walk, visit a museum or anything else that is kid friendly in your area. It helps you get out and is often a good educational experience for the kids as well. You could look for groups in your area of Dads (or even Moms) for a more communal experience. This also helps you with more support, ideas and offers resources that may not be available to you otherwise. It also allows you to plan play dates so that you get some time off to do personal things such as go to the bank or the dentist.
Don’t try and do it all
Yes, there is a lot to do and while some people will expect you to do the bare minimum and praise you for it, it is important that you do what needs doing for the benefit of your family. You also cannot go the opposite route and try and do everything yourself. You will be given tons of advice but what works for some people does not work for everyone. Use your own initiative. Ask for help from family and friends if your need. Talk to your partner if you are struggling. With the support of your partner and other people, things will go a lot smoother.
Have a routine
One of the biggest tips for a stay-at-home Dad is to have a routine. The routine may change as the kids get older but knowing what is planned when and being consistent will make your life easier and also get the little ones feeling comfortable, knowing what to expect and when. If need be, have a white board set up at home to help you stay on track and make sure nothing gets forgotten.
Being a stay-at-home Dad can be a blessing and a joy. Embrace the role and have fun with your little ones. They won’t be little for long. This is a time to bond and enjoy your kids. Make sure that you still take the time out to relax a little and have some personal time to enjoy a hobby, go to the gym or just have an hour or two relaxing with friends.