Stay At Home Dad
A story about one man who finds the joy when he is forced to exit the corporate world and become a stay at home dad aka Mr. Mom
Stay at home dad refers to the lifestyle many men have been forced to take on as a result of the current economy. The lifestyle of a stay at home dad has been featured in the news, highlighted in magazines, and even portrayed on the big screen by Mr. Mom himself, Michael Keaton. Whatever way you came to discover the meaning behind the term stay at home dad, it is becoming more prominent amongst 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 a stay at home dad while mom is at work.
With most of the situations I have researched, it seems to be the same story, stay at home dad 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 a nanny or some relative to watch the kids. Mom is busy with and/or doing well in her career, leaving the joy and privilege of watching junior take his first steps or say her first word to the babysitter.
There is more than one type of a stay at home dad, according to a study by Dr. Robert Frank, author of Equal Balanced Parenting and The Involved Father. Dr. Frank states, “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 case of practicality seemed to apply to not only myself, but “practically” every stay at home dad I have come to know or researched during this article. What separates me from other fathers who fit the stay at home dad role? Most of those forced to become a stay at home dad will return to their careers after a few months at home with the kids. 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 up-coming wedding. 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, cuts were inevitable, and unfortunately I happened to be 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, not a stay at home dad. 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, passionate and determined to tell a story, not about the game, but it’s fans. Writing a script for a TV sitcom focusing on football fans, I found myself working night and day. Pitching it here and pitching it there, devoting so much time on it that my 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. So I protected the script and put it on the back burner.
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.
Then the day came, 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.
My wife and I operate as a team, we tackle every challenge together. All the little things you don’t think about or know once the newborn comes home, we discovered and achieved as a team. 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 and I became a stay at home dad.
Make no mistake about it, becoming a stay at home dad has been a tough pill to swallow. Working moms, tends 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, aka 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, exciting things that happened during that day. I didn’t have to openly ask my wife, my teammate, about her feelings, I knew they were there.
As a stay at home dad, grateful that my wife supported my passion for writing, I approached everything from then on through a different mindset. I would video or take photos of us during the day, which I could either email to her at work or surprise her with when she got home. While my wife was at work I would call her, leaving uplifting messages or filling her voicemail with our daughter’s jibber-jash (that’s baby-talk to the layman). Always leaving mommy a message together, letting her know that just because I was a stay at home dad, I did not make her the at-work-out-of-sight-out-of-mind mom. My baby girl can be a handful during the day as you can see here.
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 whatever writing 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 washed and folded, 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?” For a stay at home dad there is no instruction booklet that comes with the baby after being born. How am I going to take care of this delicate little life all day alone?
Well guys, you just do it. Not only had I 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. Furthermore the shock on his face whenever I would cut him off as he gave me answers, because he was talking too fast for me to write them down.
Call it what you will, trust me being a stay at home dad, aka Mr. Mom, entails caring for your child, doing the laundry, cleaning, shopping, errands and other chores. Add onto that running a business; trust me it 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 my stay at home dad 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 needed to do within a 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 “jamyjams” 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 does a stay at home dad take care of the children and perform domestic chores like running errands, cooking and doing laundry, we also perform the traditional male roles of yard work, home maintenance and car repair. Despite all a stay at home dad does, 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 now 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 carrying a life around for nine months, let alone completely changing my lifestyle and habits to cater to this child once they enter into our world. I remember my wife getting sick during her third month. She had a bad cough and cold and one day she coughed so hard that she tweaked her back. My poor wife was not only three months pregnant sick, dealing with a terrible back pain. Well she was very limited with what she could take for her cold and backaches. 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. Being a stay at home dad is a blessing and no one will ever tell me otherwise.