It can seem like a never-ending list of things to consider when deciding to become a stay-at-home dad. But addressing issues like gender roles, stereotypes, financial situations and household duties will go a long way in preparing to be a successful stay-at-home dad and remaining happy in the role into the future.
Deciding to stay home probably means forgoing a pretty decent chunk of take-home pay. So it is imperative that prospective stay-at-home dads do the math and make sure that the family is taking steps – with a good budget and a few inessential cuts among others – to help weather the storm and be secure financially in the new role. Once the adjustment is made, you may be surprised to find staying home even has its financial benefits.
Adjusting to a flip flop of traditional gender roles can be a challenge for everyone involved. You’ll have to come to grips with not being the financial provider and your wife will have to deal with being the provider. It may not sound like much on the surface, but it will likely need to be something the two of you support each other on and continue to address in the future. After all, you’ll need the ally with all the comments shot at you from the grocery store and at her from the board room.
As a stay-at-home dad you will feel alone. There won’t be office banter – outside of the interrogation over who put the candy bar in the clothes washer – and no more water cooler talk about the big game. A lack of adult interaction can create a lonely place. Fight isolation by joining playgroups, connecting with other stay-at-home parents, finding time with friends and talking often with your spouse to make sure you feel connected to a more mature audience from time to time.
There isn’t any true official data on whether stay-at-home dads face a greater burnout rate than any other profession, but dealing with a job that never ends can sometimes grow thin. Getting time to your self can fell like winning the lottery. By making sure you find that winning ticket from time to time, keeping up with your interests and remembering why you took the job in the first place are among the ways to keep burnout from over taking you.
Doing nothing but tuning in to PBS’ fine children’s programming every day probably isn’t enough to keep the old ticker ticking for most stay-at-home dads. Find time to read the news, chat online, watch a movie or take some classes to keep mentally sharp. Maybe some of that up-to-date knowledge will rub off on the kids.
Unfortunately, stereotypes are a very real part of stay-at-home life. You will encounter them from all types of people – men, women, young, old, other parents and so on. Misconceptions will get to you at times and will be the source of a good laugh at other times. It is important to try and not take off-hand remarks too seriously or personally and to travel the high road when responding. You know the job you are doing, don’t worry about the misguided thoughts of others.
Routine is essential to managing day-to-day tasks and helping the kids develop. You don’t want to get into a daily rut, so leave some flexibility in there for different types of activities. But make sure you instill good morning, eating and sleeping routines to set the foundation of a good day. It will help teach the kids healthy habits and help dad survive until he gets some backup.
Enriching the lives of your children is a top priority for a stay-at-home dad. Don’t get trapped in a routine where the TV rules all. Make sure there is plenty to do that is fun and educational. Better yet, use your interests to help keep things fresh. You’ll get to have fun too and your kids will get to bond with dad in a whole new way.
Relish all the good things that come with being a stay-at-home dad, and there are a lot of them. It very well could be the most rewarding job you have.