The interview series with the dads in our NYC Dads Group continues as these caring fathers share their honest accounts of the at-home-dad job. Additionally, it enables other dads (and moms) out there to hear some of the truths about this growing trend. Here is a “spotlight” on Martin, a humorous “bloke” from London, who has a nine month old son. Below is our Q&A dialogue.
1. How did you come into the role of being an at home dad?
My wife was 30 weeks pregnant when she was offered her dream job but the catch was that it was based over here in New York. We always had it in the back of our minds to come and live in the US for a while but with the baby coming thought that we had missed the boat. We hadn’t fully formulated our plan for child rearing in London, but maternity leave in the UK is more generous so my wife would probably have taken the 1st year off and after that I would have thought about going part time or some type of flexible working. When I spoke about the possibility of moving to New York my work was incredible, they offered me up to 5 years unpaid leave. With everything else in place it just seemed a very natural step that I would look after the baby full time. I still find it a bit shocking how short US maternity leave is and paternity leave is pretty much non existent
2. What is the best part of being an at home dad?
I think that the ultimate “high” of parenting is when you elicit those deep belly laughs. I don’t think that there is any high like it. Staying home with him means that I get more than my fair share.
3. What is the most challenging part of being a stay at home dad?
The hours certainly can be long, when my wife is away on business there is nothing tougher than acting as the clown, cleaner, and chef for 12 hours during the day only to be woken up 2 or 3 times during the night…and then it all starts again at 5.30 the next morning. It has given me the ultimate respect for any single parent families doing it all by themselves.
4. Everyone has tips. What kind of tips or best practices can you share about being an at home dad?
It is very easy to get boxed in to staying in the apartment all day because you try to stick to his schedule. Make a concerted effort to get out of the house a couple of times a day even if it is just to go to the shops or to play on the swings. It is surprising how well they can adapt. All of the kids that I know that sleep well in strollers learned to do so because their parents take them out during the day a lot. Also, in the first few months when they will sleep anywhere take full advantage of it. If we had that time again we would eat out every night and take sleeping beauty with us, as a few months later this window goes and the babysitting costs can soon add up.
5. How has being a part of a dads group helped support you in your role?
I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for the dads group I would have looked to go back to work by now. As we were new to the city we knew precisely zero people when we first moved here. Now, I have a group of 10-15 really good mates who I get to mess around with during the week. I have been all over the city, taken part in activities that I would most certainly not have done by myself, and Alfie (my son) gets to have a blast with a whole gang of buddies.
6. When you tell your friends about your situation of being an at home dad, how do they normally react?
With friends it has always been easy as I think that most of them feel like it is a natural fit for me. Sometimes it is a bit awkward meeting people for the first time. A couple of times it has really taken people off guard and they don’t know how to react. However for every working man that couldn’t imagine being at home full time there is an involved father who comes up and talks about how much they would love to quit work and be the one at home.
7. Are you able to pursue your hobbies or part-time work while being Alfie’s primary caregiver?
It is tough, it is about all I can do to squeeze in a bit of exercise whilst he is napping now and then. I certainly felt a little bit of an intellectual void not working anymore so it is important to have a few projects on the go. I sell baby clothes online (http://www.babysnob.com/) and am hoping to complete a masters degree whilst at home, but that may prove optimistic.