It is hard for me to believe that I recently marked three years since I choose to become a stay-at-home dad. When my wife was became pregnant in early 2015, the initial plan was for us to do the same thing for our latest bundle of joy that we did for our first child nearly four years before: each of us would take a few weeks of leave then put our baby in daycare so we could return to our full-time jobs.
When we found out we were having twins, those plans completely changed.
Having three kids in daycare would probably put us in the poor house because, for some reason, daycares don’t have any kind of “pay for one kid, get the second kid free” deal. So, my wife and I talked it out. I said I would be willing to stay home with the kids. Not to play Mr. Mom, but to be a parent, because dads do that, too, and they can do it well.
Three years in, I would hardly call myself a stay-at-home parenting expert. But, I do think my experience has taught me some valuable lessons I hope can help you in pondering that important question, “Should I be a stay-at-home dad?”
No sleep ’til (or with) babies
Don’t bother trying to catch up on sleep before you have a kid. It’s impossible. I spent most of the twins’ pregnancy getting in as much PlayStation as I could and binge watching Breaking Bad because I knew finding time to do that later would be impossible. I stand by those decisions because, let’s be honest, you can’t really bank sleep to use as a later date. But, I recommend that you do hold onto the memories of times when you could sleep in and wake up at the crack of noon with no one to answer to but yourself. Those memories will bring a smile to your face when you are trying to block out the smell of your child’s diaper blowout with a broken car AC during your first family road trip.
Make stay-at-home dad your full-time job
Even if the plan is to be a stay-at-home parent for a short time, embrace the role in the same way you would your old full-time job. Wear it as a badge of honor, not a mark of shame or some indication that you can’t get a “real” job. THIS IS A REAL JOB. I used to feel the need to let people know of my plans to go back to corporate America once all my kids were of kindergarten age, but it never it comes up anymore. Being there for your children is nothing to be ashamed of and more and more people I meet tell me they wish they could be home more like I am. If you are a SAHD like me, OWN IT!
Know your parenting strengths, weaknesses
In the same way I am not at all qualified to be an astrophysicist, not everyone is built to be a stay-at-home parent. Some people make it look easy, even though in reality it isn’t, and others visibly struggle every day. My wife often wonders how I do it — for three years, no less. I tell her it’s because I am awesome and she was very fortunate to have married me. Honestly, I could not do any of this without her support. She has never seen me as a lesser husband or provider because I am home with the kids and do a lot of things that have traditionally been associated with moms. (Also, I am a pretty amazing cook, so that helps.) Having the right partner can make a world of difference.
Seek support when needed
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I am fortunate enough to have parents and in-laws living nearby, and even if you can’t get a full day off, just getting a few hours to clear your mind and think can help you refocus and center yourself. Catch a movie or binge watch a few episodes of The Good Place or Ozarks on Netflix (both highly recommended). If you are struggling as a stay at home or just as a parent in general, tell someone. Don’t struggle in silence because often the anger we hold in just ends up getting refocused onto the ones who deserve it the least: your kids.
As I get ready to start Year Four of this amazing journey, I can’t say I truly know what will happen next, but I do know I look forward to whatever may come and hope I can become a better dad, a better husband, and a better son along the way.