It is hard for me to believe November 2021 marks my sixth year as a stay-at-home dad. My journey began when my wife and I learned were going to have twins. Well, she was going to have the twins. I would spend most of the time binge watching as many series as I could on Netflix when not attending to her every need while she adhered to the bedrest she so rightly deserved.
This was our second time readying for twins. The stress of our loss of twins at 19 weeks in 2011 made us ever vigilant to get to the finish line this time. We were better prepared to do everything necessary to see our bundles of joy, Jackson and Sophia, arrive right on time in September.
The pending arrival of twins is the main reason we even discussed me becoming a stay-at-home dad. It made sense financially since my entire salary would likely be going to a nanny or daycare. And in the end, who better to be home with my kids than me (my wife will tell you plainly the stay-at-home lifestyle is NOT for her).
Finding a detour along lonely road
But, my first few weeks by myself with the kids, I felt very alone. I knew about “mommy groups” and often saw gatherings of mothers at the neighborhood playground. Very rarely, though, did I see any dads.
I am a very social person by nature, and while many moms I encountered on playgrounds or at library story times were friendly, I felt my journey as a dad was very different than theirs. Not being the main breadwinner and doing many of the tasks traditionally handled by the mother made me wonder: Am I the only man out here in this role?
So I did some Googling. A few searches and emails later led me to The National At-Home Dad Network, an amazing organization at-home fathers who support each other and offer resources to help make them the best parents and partners they can be. And somehow, in a sea of amazing dads who outshine my accomplishments in any number of ways, I was honored enough to be selected as a panelist at this past month’s HomeDadCon, the group’s annual conference.
Seeing all these dads, from various walks of life, who came armed with a number of questions on subjects from camping to mental health to gender and beyond, my most important take away of the weekends was this: Find your tribe.
How to find your tribe
It is so important to know that no matter where you are in life, it is likely there are many others out there who are in the exact same place. Once you accept this and that many of these people have the same struggles, the next step is to find them:
- Look online. Try a random Interest search or using a social platform like Facebook, Meetup or NextDoor. It’s easier than every to find your tribe be they fellow at-home fathers, hobby enthusiasts, musicians or what have you.
- Get to know your neighbors. Sometimes help and comradery is just outside your own front door.
- Get involved. It can be at your place of worship, your local school or a youth center. Volunteering is a fulfilling way to contribute to your community and meet others with common interests and issues.
While you find your tribe, don’t concentrate on finding your own twin. Not everyone should blindly support or echo your way of thinking, your feelings and — worse — your own bad behavior. You can’t grow as a parent if your only reinforce the habits you already have, some of which may not be best to practice.
As parents, we should look to find others who can challenge our way of thinking or give us a new perspective on how raising our children. Maybe they will shine a light on where you truly excel; maybe they’ll help you find where you can improve. Taking a step out of your comfort zone will help you learn more about who you really are, where you really stand, and where you really belong.