Mr. Mom Meets Stay-At-Home-Dad
We have all seen the movie “Mr. Mom” at one time or another. We’ve read or watched the news or maybe we even know of someone that is a “Stay-at-Home dad.” It seems to be a new trend in households these days. An interesting figure is the rate of fathers staying at home has increased 60% in the past four years. (Austindad.com)
Estimates today place the number of stay-at-home dads in the United States at nearly two million—a number that has quadrupled since 1986 and is now the fastest growing family type. The exact number is difficult to determine because many fathers who devote themselves full-time to the job of parenting also have part-time jobs, work from home, or are between jobs. (Kyria.com) Another interesting fact by the U.S. Census report on Childcare Arrangements states that 25% of the 11.3 Million U.S. children under 5 years old are being cared for by their dad while mom is at work.
With most of the situations I have researched, It seems to be the same story though, stay-at-home-daddy by de-fault. Daddy gets laid off and while looking for another job, assumes the role of Mr. Mom. That time is short lived as daddy eventually finds another job and he’s back to work leaving the kids with a nanny or some relative to watch the kids. Mom is busy with and/or doing well in her career, so someone else gets to experience the joy and privilege of watching junior take his first steps or say her first word.
There is another type of stay-at-home-dad, according to a study by Dr. Robert Frank, author of Equal Balanced Parenting and The Involved Father, “The families choose this arrangement not out of necessity, but of practicality: the husband’s personality may be a better fit for raising kids full-time or he can interrupt his career more easily or work out of the home. In most cases, the wife’s career provides greater benefits and career potential than the husband’s.”
This was the case with me or a lot of other dads, as I have found out. The difference is a lot of those other so called Mr. Moms or stay-at-home dads, will return to work. I have chosen this role and love it. Who would have ever imagined that a former football player turned corporate guy, would willingly hand in his paycheck for a diaper bag, apron and vacuum.
My fiancé and I had just moved into a nice two bedroom apartment. We had been planning and saving for our wedding coming up. We had begun preparing for our family and our future.
That plan was considerably changed when I was downsized. My last employer had been struggling in this economy, so they needed to make some cuts and I was one of them. I received my walking papers along with six other colleagues.
At first I began the rat race of looking for another job. My background was in sports. I worked in Sales and Marketing. I had a few stints in the NFL and then on to other opportunities. After several months of sending out resumes with very little interviews and no offers, I took some time to reflect and really think about my next move because it would have to be a calculated one. I was starting the next chapter of life which meant being a family man. I decided that while I look for another job, I’ll finish a project I had started years earlier. I had left the NFL inspired and passionate about the game and its fans, so I wrote a script for a t.v. sitcom. I found myself working on it night and day. Pitching it here and pitching it there. I had devoted so much time on it that my now pregnant wife had come to share my vision. She noticed the passion I had when writing, so she gave me the thumbs up to continue. I soon realized the process of getting a script picked up, let alone from a no name writer, was a very difficult one.
I didn’t want to give it up but I needed an income. I had to prepare for my unborn child. My savings was starting to trickle down, so I had to decide whether to get back on the job hunt or really make a go at starting my own business. The peace-of-mind of self-employment rang sweet tones through my mind. I found a couple partners and we decided to start an online news site. After a year of planning and implementing our ideas, The BQB was approved by Google News as an affiliate news source.
My wife gave birth to a healthy baby girl. After leaving the hospital and getting her settled in her new home, we spent the first month figuring out what the heck we were doing and with very little sleep. I had friends tell me “Plan on not getting any sleep” but I thought they were exaggerating. That couldn’t have been anymore true.
We are a team, so we tackled every challenge together. All the little things you don’t think about or know about once the newborn comes home. From feeding to diapering to the things like packing her diaper bag when we leave, we did together. Little did I know what was in store for me when mommy went back to work?
Make no mistake about it. The role reversal has been a tough pill to swallow. Working moms tend to blend both the “breadwinner” role with more traditional mothering activities such as helping with dinner, bathing the children, and putting them to bed. Fathers do most of the same household activities as stay-at-home moms, but still assume traditional responsibility for maintenance tasks such as yard work and fixing appliances. (Kyria.com)
For my wife, Mrs. Breadwinner, the hardest part of returning to work was leaving her family at home every day. At first I felt my wife had a decent amount of resentment towards me. I get to stay at home with our baby and she has to hear over the phone about all the fun or exciting things that happened that day. I didn’t have to openly ask my wife about her feelings. I could feel them.
So I approached everything from then on through a different mindset. I would video or take photos of us during the day and either email them to her at work or show her when she got home. I would call my wife at her work just after she left the house and leave an uplifting message or when the baby began to jibber-jash (that’s baby-talk to the layman) we’d both leave mommy the message, so she would get it as she started her day.
When my wife would call me to tell me she was on her way home, that gave me about 30 minutes to get the baby ready for dinner, clean up the place and finish what I was working on. This way, she can come home to us and jump right in to family time. It’s a nice feeling for her to start her weekend knowing the laundry has been done, the grocery shopping is done and the house is clean. Well, clean until the baby wakes up in the morning.
So with mom back to work, I, Mr. Mom, now find myself with this fragile, little baby girl to watch over. I kept thinking to myself, “I can do this,” but how? There is no instruction booklet the baby carries out with him or her when being born. How am I going to take care of this delicate little life all day alone?
Well, you just do it. I had read every baby book I could get my hands on while my wife was pregnant. I attended every baby class that was available to us and bugged the heck out of the pediatrician every baby visit. I remember the look he gave me once when I pulled out my list of questions to ask him. I then began to cut him off when he was giving me the answers, because he was talking too fast for me to write the answers down.
Trust me, caring for your child and doing the laundry, cleaning, shopping, errands and other chores all while running a business, will leave you drained at the end of the day. Just packing her up for a trip to the gym or grocery store was a major production. Before leaving, I would get her ready by putting a clean diaper on her, dressing her and packing her snacks. The problem was I didn’t have a system down yet. She always seemed to make poopy when we were out. There is nothing like having to stop in your tracks to change a diaper. That can take a considerable amount of time and be a huge challenge on top of it.
So my trick was to time her feeding, change her messy diaper, clean her up and dress her before we go. This way, I can make it back home before her next “mess.” This system would lend itself to include all of my daily errands. I learned to incorporate what I need to do that day and where I had to go. So a no-brainer would be to hit all of the errands located in the same general vicinity.
Besides timing and organization, I also learned another key is to start a routine and stick to it. The baby has several basic needs in any given day. From the point she wakes in the morning and has her first bottle to getting her in her “jammy-jams” and ready for bed at night, the routine is the same. She now has an idea of how her day is going to go and we even try for the most part, to keep a similar routine on the weekends when mommy is home.
Challenges and Sacrifice
Not only do stay-at-home dads take care of the children and perform domestic chores like running errands, cooking and doing laundry, they also perform the traditional male roles of yard work and home and car repair. Despite all they do, many are met with condescension, even insults. At websites such as stayhomedads.com, slowlane.com, and daddyshome.com, you’ll see reports of taunts like “pansy,” “wuss” and “Why don’t you get a job like a real man?!” (careerpath.com)
I would definitely have to say that before one chooses this role, you need to be very confident with not only who you are, but what you’ll be expected to do. It was pretty tough at first for me to give up my daily routine. All that went away when the baby came into our lives. The baby comes first, with my ideas, dreams and even fun, put on the back burner. This is the big challenge I think for most men, they don’t fully realize at first that the baby doesn’t care about what you want or need to do. Only that their needs are met.
As mentioned before, my wife deals on a day-to-day basis with the reality that she carried this baby around for 9 months and now daddy gets to stay at home with the baby while mom goes back to work. I couldn’t imagine carry a life around for nine months and totally changing my lifestyle and habits to cater to this child. I remember my wife getting sick during her 8th month. She had a bad cough and cold and one day and she coughed soo hard that she tweaked her back. So here she is sick with terrible back pain going on, all while being pregnant and she can’t really take anything. Remember, everything consumed by the body goes directly to the baby. So she has this baby and gets a couple of months off to welcome and care for this baby and then she’s back to work.
The Joy of Parenting
Sure it’s a huge exhausting learning process, but the mere joy of being a parent far out ways any type of paycheck I could earn. Parenting is a fulltime job but when that little girl’s eyes light up when I enter her room first thing in the morning and she gets all giddy because “Daddy is coming to get me for the day,” it makes me melt. I still get the tears in my eyes watching hers light up.
I never planned on being a stay-at-home-dad nor did my wife plan on being the breadwinner. We are doing the best we can to adjust, but leaving the lines of communication open are key. There are days when my wife gets home and she is as beat as I am, so we just focus on what’s important at that time. Usually its feeding the baby and getting her ready for bed.
Sometimes we can plan all we want and even work really hard to get there, but if the man upstairs has a different plan for us, It’s out of our control. The key is to except these roles we now find ourselves in and embrace them.