This world isn’t designed for Stay at Home Dads

Not easy being a stay at home dad

I asked Mrs. Family Worth to write a guest post about her experiences with our decision to have me transition to a stay at home dad. Here are her thoughts…..

Mommy and me classes. Mom huddles at the playground after school. Mom Facebook groups. The world, and especially our little suburb, is designed for stay at home moms, not dads.

I am slightly terrified to have my husband be a stay at home dad. He’ll have to swim upstream in this society that’s not quite designed for him. Then again, he’s 6’6’’ and airplanes aren’t designed for him either, but he’s somehow managed to get gold status on Delta.

There is no harder job than a stay-at-home parent.

I had a 5 month maternity leave with our first son – it was awesome! I remember our naps, snuggles, mommy play dates, and strolls through the most scenic parts of the Pacific Northwest. My son and I were always on the go. This time around, and five months into this leave with the twins, I have driven them in the car alone exactly one time – to the doctor. It was incredibly stressful, apparently so stressful that I haven’t tried it again. 

In fact, the first 4 months of leave with twins were super hard, and I mean the kind of …I just ran 4 back-to-back marathons in a hail storm, on no sleep, with only 1 bottle of water, and push pins in my shoes … mentally, physically, and emotionally hard. Ok – maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but you get the point- this twin thing is hard. 

It was also during these 4 hard months that my husband brought up being a stay at home dad, and I thought he was legitimately nuts. I was barely hanging on, and starting to count down the weeks until I go back to work just to get a mental break. But in my true husband fashion, he was able to see the forest through the trees. Some part of him knew that twins will get easier as they grow. He also knew that if both of us kept working, with three kids 3 and under in daycare, we would both be barely hanging on…indefinitely…and that’s just not a great way to live.

Making this decision was not easy....

Making this decision was super hard for me because it challenged my preconceived notion of what life is suppose to be like. With the exception of maternity leave, I’ve worked since I was 16 years old. I’m a self-admitted workoholic, and love being both a mom and a bad ass employee. Every time we discussed my husband staying at home my list of cons would get longer and longer, I was worried about his sense of identity, ability to re-enter the workforce, our finances, you name it…. Ultimately I came around to the idea. Now I look forward to having him to stay at home and be the primary caretaker for our boys, specifically for these three reasons. 

Loving parents are the best caretakers.

A stay at home parent can make the family unit stronger.

He knows what he's getting into.

  1. Loving parents are the best caretakers. I had a very hard time with daycare for our first son. I picked apart everything; how the center operated, toys babies chewed on, how inconsistently they were fed, infrequent diaper changes, wet clothes, lost shoes, microwaved lunches etc. My biggest issue was the ratio. 4 babies for 1 caretaker seemed to stretch the limit of what any human could do. I worried our baby wouldn’t get the love and snuggles I wanted him to get. Then we had twins and I was convinced that 4:1 ratio was ridiculous. I could barely keep up with two babies, and I was their mom. It gave me an incredible peace of mind knowing my husband will be the one caring for our kids, instead of a stranger. I admire his love, compassion, and patience toward our kids.
  2. One stay at home parent can make the family unit stronger. The struggle is real when it comes to two working parents in corporate jobs and kids in daycare. Whether it’s early morning or evening meetings, work travel, or a networking event; something often conflicts with daycare drop off and pick up. For my husband and I, we felt a ton of guilt leaving our son in daycare for 9 hours per day. Sure, he had fun but we also felt like we were missing out on fun years with him. Having him stay at home will eliminate the daily debate of who will pick up and drop off. The stress of getting babies out the door in the morning is gone. 
  3. He knows what he’s getting into. My husband spends hours researching the best car floor mats, shoes, jeans, and lighbulbs before he buys one. He’s a researcher and a planner. He took the time to fully understand the good, bad, and ugly of stay at home dad life. One of the most challenging things to wrestle with will be re-entering the workforce when he’s ready. Stay at home dads are finding it harder than stay at home moms to re-enter the workforce, the path isn’t really paved yet. We debated all of it, and generated ideas on what we’d do if the ugly got really ugly. All in all, he’s going into this eyes wide open. 

The big con: mental health...

I still have my list of cons for stay at home dad; but now it only has one con, the big con – mental health. After my maternity leave I admire stay at home parents more than ever before. It is a job that requires incredible mental, physical, and emotional strength – and it never ends. With little kids, the isolation that comes from being a stay at home parent is real and can lead to depression. 

In the suburb where we live, stay at home moms are prevalent and they’ve made very strong communities. There are playdates, facebook groups, mom’s-night-out etc. As strong as these communities are, they are not inviting for SAHDs. There is no community for SAHDs. So imagine the typical isolation of SAHM plus no community to support you – this can be trying. We have come up with coping mechanisms to overcome this. Get a babysitter couple hours per week to work on this blog and do some consulting, self-care (golf), date nights, actively keeping up with his friends sans kids, and get out of the house. 

SAHD: Part of an elite club

Pew Research Center has conducted a number of polls overtime on the role of stay at home moms and dads. Central to their findings is the reality that our society has somewhat evolved in our acceptance of dads as primary care takers for children, but not much. My husband will still be joining a very small percentage of men who stay home to take care of their children while their wife works. 

Applying Pew Research percentages to our town, 20% of families with kids under 18 have a parent who stays at home (1,059 parents). Of those who stay at home 16% are dads (170 dads). Of those stay at home dads, 21% are home primarily to take care of their children (35 dads).  So, my husband is a part of a really small club of 35 stay at home dads roaming around our town – I hope they find each other….

7 Replies to “This world isn’t designed for Stay at Home Dads”

  1. Your family is off to a great start. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and trials in making this very important decision.

    1. Thanks Joan for reading! We still have a lot to learn about our new life set up, but happy to share what we’ve learned so far.

  2. I admire you both so much! You are an inspiration to young families. Love to all❤️

  3. This is amazing!!! As a new parent, I was captivated by this post. Look forward to keeping up with you guys and those three handsome fellas. 🙂

    1. Thanks for reading, Michelle! Hope you are doing well and enjoying the fun, crazy ride that is parenthood =)!

  4. I was the stay home dad for our 2 sons for 20 years. It was the hardest, and most regarding this I’ve ever done. The rewarding part is the relationships I have with my 2 sons. They’re priceless, and I’m closer with them than most parents I know.

    The hard part is society at large has no idea how to deal with stay home dads. Other working men either say man, that’s a bummer, or hey I help with my wife with my kids too. Men just don’t get why I chose to be with my children walking in circles cleaning the same mess for 20 years, while my wife was out checking off her life and career goals.

    Being the only dad in a sea of moms was difficult. I made a lot of great friends I still have today, but I was met with nothing but suspicion meeting most new parents. The hardest part of being the only dad at play dates was listening to all the moms complain about their husbands, then getting together with our friend group listening to the men talk about their work and careers, while I’m sitting there thinking you wife is an awesome human being who’s knocking herself out to make you happy. Why are you being such a dick? Not to mention 99% of them thought I was sleeping with their wives.

    On that note, I learned quickly that moms talk, and one wrong comment would cost me my whole friend group, and my children their whole social network. Luckily I have a brain, and deep respect for women so that never happened.

    What I’m finding now that both my sons are grown and moved out is joining the work force isn’t as much an issue, as rejoining society in general. I haven’t had a real job in 20 years, and all my closest friends have been women, whom I have way more in common with than men my age (53). Making new friends is tough. I have little to nothing in common with most men who’ve been working all this time. I feel most comfortable talking to women, but trying to initiate a new friendship either comes across as hitting on them, or if I get past that hurdle their husbands flat out hate me and think I’m moving in on their wives.

    All this said, it was worth every second of crap and 5 trillion sinks full of dishes. I got to spend every day of my kid’s childhoods together. I was there for all the firsts, all the triumphs, and all the laughs. That’s way more important than what society thinks of me. It was the most thankless, horrible job I ever loved. To the fellow stay home dads, time passes quickly, and your kids will grow up and move out. Enjoy it while it lasts, it’s totally worth it.

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