Becoming a Stay-at-Home Dad: 5 Things You Need to Know
By Marc Courtiol
A growing number of new parents are bucking traditional gender roles by having the mom go out to work while the dad stays home and takes care of the baby. The Hollywood image of stay-at-home dads tends to portray a bumbling oaf who cannot do anything right, feeds the baby soda, and watches sports while the baby gets into dangerous things, but this is clearly unfair to many modern dads who are engaged as equal partners in the process from the time when the baby is just a distant dream. Stay-at-home dads can be just as attentive and caring as moms, and though there is still at least a little stigma attached to the role, the life can be perfectly healthy and rewarding for the whole family.
Being a stay-at-home dad does come with unique challenges, however. If you are a dad whose baby is imminent or has just arrived and you plan to be the primary caregiver while your spouse is at work, here are some things you will need to know.
1. All stay-at-home parents have mixed feelings about it. Today, both dads and moms are expected to work hard throughout their adult lives to advance their careers and make a decent living. With this sort of pressure hanging over one’s head, it is perfectly normal to feel as if you are not contributing if you do not have a traditional money-paying job. Of course you know that caring for a child is a job in its own right, but this does not always provide comfort. Just know that you are not the only one with these feelings. Many stay-at-home parents of both genders wrestle with this.
2. Do not expect to have much time for home-based work. Many stay-at-home parents of babies are able to do some home-based work during the infant and toddler years, but you cannot expect to find enough time to make a full-time income. Children in their first year need constant care and attention, and then toddlers demand your time in a whole different set of ways. You might be able to do some time-limited freelance work—or whatever you have going at home—but both you and your partner should understand that you are not going to be an equal breadwinner during this stage of your family’s life.
3. Finding others in your situation can be hard. For mothers, finding other stay-at-home moms is relatively easy. It is just a matter of visiting the playground regularly. Dads will come across other stay-at-home dads from time to time, but the numbers are far lower. If you want to make friends with others like you, you might have to take extra measures, such as joining a meetup group, visiting a local playgroup with your child, or putting out ads or fliers in your community for other dads seeking dad-baby social experiences.
4. Getting out is important. For any stay-at-home parent, cabin fever can set in fast if you do not make an effort to take the baby out every day, or at least on days when the weather allows it, and also to get out on your own sometimes. Over time, a sense of isolation can set in. Even if you have a good partner, much of your conversation will revolve around the baby, and you may come to feel like being a dad is the only thing you have going on in life. So, even though you may feel strapped for time, find at least a couple of hours every week to get out and do something that reminds you that you have an identity bigger than just being a dad.
5. Know that it gets easier. Whether you are starting mere days after the child is born, when your spouse’s maternity leave ends, or sometime thereafter, your new role will be difficult at first. There is no getting around it. But eventually, you will come to appreciate many things about your life. For instance, you will develop a closeness with your child that many new dads do not get to enjoy, you will not have to deal with the sorts of pressures that you would face in a workplace, and if you do a good job (which you will), your daddy skills will make you irresistible to your wife (once she gets past the hormonally chaotic months following childbirth). Soon you will wonder why you were ever daunted by this challenge, and you may even come to dread the idea of going back to work.
About Marc Courtiol: Marc Courtiol is an accomplished health researcher in the field of natural wellness. A graduate from Cornell, Marc is a contributing author for several online journal sites and believes in the many uses of gripe water.
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