Contrary to popular belief and assumption, a greater number of fathers today are choosing to take the plunge at being stay-at-home dads. Even if it’s for only a short span of time, more and more fathers are willing to do this if they saw it benefiting their families as a whole. Even though it is indeed one of the most fulfilling experiences you can have, you have to also understand and realize that it is equally one of the hardest jobs in many ways.
Every child is different, and every stage of a child’s development has pros and cons when it comes to the demands on their caregiver. But in general it seems like we all know that the image of the stay-at-home parent doing nothing but playing games on their phones or watching TV all day is a total fallacy. It’s hard work. And like any vocation, to be happy and successful at it you need to be intentional about treating it like a job, with clear expectations and preparation.
As a stay-at-home dad you must first understand your role and the pros and cons that come along with the role. It is a rewarding experience that can be equal parts educational and fun. Lets have a look at some of the things that you should know and do as a stay-at-home dad.
- Have a clear and realistic discussion with your wife/partner on responsibilities: It is imperative to discuss expectations and responsibilities early and often regarding all aspects of parenting. Discuss expectations about cooking and home care, contributions to parenting at night and on weekends, managing relatives, etc. Setting clear expectations up front will reduce conflict and resentment.
- Understand your role and take your job seriously: As with any other job, you should navigate parenthood with the goal to be the best dad you can be, the same way you strive to succeed at any job. It is as real a job as any. For those stay-at-home dads who are working from home it is very important to clearly divide and prioritize your goals for both of your jobs at the beginning of each day or the night before.
- Have a clear understanding of your future: Being a stay-at-home dad may not be your full time ambition. It is very important, therefore, to continue networking within your friends and your field and areas of expertise. It is best to keep your skills sharp and keeping up with the developments and latest trends in your field and otherwise. This will help you get back into the groove easily once you decide to start working again.
- Understand your baby’s needs: As a stay-at-home dad your primary job is to provide care for your little one. Know everything about your child especially if he or she is on any form of medication. If you find it difficult to remember details then it is best to sit down with your partner and write up a schedule that you can put up and follow. Get yourself acquainted with your baby’s food routine and prepare meals accordingly.
- Learn basic First-Aid: Knowledge of basic first-aid will come in handy when you have a crawler or a toddler just learning to walk. Treating minor cuts and bruises or fever and colds should not faze you. Having knowledge of how to treat minor injuries can also come in handy to help you save as you would be saving unnecessary trips to the doctor.
- Stock Up your Medicine Cabinet: It is always best to keep your medicine cabinet well stocked with child-friendly medicines for common ailments such as cold, cough, fevers, stomach bugs, and others. You can discuss with your pediatrician regarding which medicines are suitable to be given to your child. Keep track of the dates of expiration of the medicines and replace them when necessary.
- Connect with other parents: You are not alone in this journey of parenthood although it may feel isolating at times. In fact, isolation is one of the chief complaints of stay-at-home parents. It’s so important to socialize, network and share your tips and frustrations with other dads. Join a dads group (there are so many of them now) or a local parenting group. Many men have a tendency to push back against the idea that they need outside support, but isolation is one of the biggest hurdles that stay-at-home dads battle — particularly when kids are very young. Next to having the support of your partner, having a community of fellow stay-at-home dads around you is probably the key factor in success and happiness as a stay-at-home parent. Moms are much more likely to have a plethora of resources and support available to them, so us dads have to be far more proactive in seeking them out and/or starting something new where we are if nothing is available. Believe me, you may feel like the only stay-at-home dad in your area, but you are not.
- Establish a routine: Having your child(ren) on a consistent schedule (eating, napping, bedtime routine) is important for them so they know what to expect every day and for you so you can confidently plan your day.
- Get out of the house: It’s easy to feel overwhelmed at home with housework or parenting responsibilities. Getting fresh air is so important for you and your child. Make sure you get out once or twice a day (even during winter) to take a walk with the stroller through a park, run a few errands, enroll in a parent and child class or to hit the local library or bookstore. Seriously, just because they call us “stay-at-home” parents doesn’t mean we can or should just stay at home. If anything, you will find that getting out of the house does wonders for not just your kids’ attitudes and behaviors, but for yours as well. It doesn’t have to be a grand day-trip to the beach, or hours walking around the zoo, either. It might just mean going for a short walk, or a bike ride, or an hour in the indoor play area at the fast-food joint down the street.
- Schedule mental breaks: Life with small children is sometimes like being a soldier in a foxhole; even when there is no actual fighting going on, you can easily feel on edge all the time. There is a high level of exhaustion that comes less from a lack of sleep (though there is that too) and more that you can often feel like you can’t let your guard down for a second. So make sure you actually get breaks, whether it’s an hour in the morning before the chaos, time in the evening after everyone is settled down for the night, a few hours out by yourself in a coffee shop, or any regular opportunity to talk to adults. It will do wonders.
- Shattering stereotypes and informing society: At-home dads oftentimes get a bad rap based on negative perceptions in media and society at large. It’s your duty to inform others, as well as demonstrate through parenting, that fathers can be nurturing, competent and caring.
Though the numbers of stay-at-home dads in ever increasing, and your experience not nearly as rare as many think, you are still in the grand scheme of things extremely fortunate compared to most men through history to have this extended opportunity for quality and quantity times with your child. So have fun.