For a while now, my wife and I have been discussing trading places for a bit, and by trading places, I mean her going back into the workforce full time after 7 years of being a stay-at-home mom and myself becoming a full-time stay-at-home dad. In a way I have kind of already been a stay-at-home dad for the last 5-6 years, thanks to the ability to work from home with some of the employers I have had during that time. However, even though I was present in the home with my wife and kids, I felt like a prisoner and my chair and desk was my ball and chain. My kids would want to spend time and play with their daddy because they knew I was home, but would not be able to until I went on lunch, or one of my fifthteen minute breaks. Sometimes they would have to wait until the end of my eight or ten hour shift.
Before we decided to transition our oldest child and son from virtual school (kindergarten) into physical school (first grade) while in a pandemic, managing three children at home everyday while preparing for a fourth one on the way was becoming very tough and stressful for my wife especially after spending countless hours during the week just taking care of kids. My wife has had part-time jobs off and on and has been able to go back to school in the last 7 years but each time she has decided to start working, surprise, we find out she is pregnant again. With the cost of childcare, we had decided when we were having our first that it did not make sense to us to have both of us working just so that one of us could pay for childcare and for someone else to raise our child. So we decided I would continue working and my wife would stay home.
I won’t lie to you, going from two incomes to one income has definitely been hard over the years, and it’s not like we were making buku money to begin with before we had kids. There have been many stressful moments of looking at the paycheck coming in and trying to figure out how you are going to use it to pay bills and provide for your family. Then think about childcare. In a 2021 article by cnbc.com on stay-at-home dads, it was reported that in at least 33 U.S. States, the cost of infant care was more than college tuition. Imagine adding the stress of also trying to figure out how we would afford the cost of childcare. Despite the challenges and stressors we have encountered, we still think it is more important for our children to always have at least one full-time parent around to feel supported and loved and we were determined to make it work.
It feels different now to wake up every morning and not have to punch in under an employer. Instead, now the time is dedicated to spending time teaching and caring for our four kids while trying to start and manage a family life educational business that focuses on being a help and resource to men and fathers of color. The question now becomes, how am I going to do this and what pitfalls will I need to look out for?
If you are a father reading this and thinking about transitioning to being a stay-at-home dad, consider a few things first. Know that being a stay-at-home dad has become more common than you may think especially in the midst of the pandemic. More fathers have been choosing to leave their jobs so that they can spend more time caring for their children and those fathers who did not choose to be at home with their kids but were either as a result of a layoff or chronic illness, decided to use the situation to their advantage. Rushing and Powell (2014) in their study on the Family Dynamics of the Stay-at-Home Father and Working Mother Relationship mentioned a 2012 U.S. Census Bureau reported that out of 24.4 million married fathers with children younger than the age of eighteen, 189,000 identified themselves as stay-at-home dads in 2012. So being a stay-at-home father is not a new concept even though we may want to think it is.
Stereotypes, Stigmas, and Lack of Support
Expect for others to disagree with your choice to be a stay-at-home dad and for attacks on your masculinity based on social norms and stereotypical perspectives. I don’t define a father or a man rather as only a provider. That is only just one facet of the male and some women are proving that they can be better providers than us men. Not only does a father provide, but he also protects and nurtures what he is the source of. A father teaches and cultivates those he is responsible for. I strive each and every day to stand true to these responsibilities and it is still my conviction to fulfill that provider role by still contributing to my family financially. However, that will not be the only way in which my family finds value in me being here.
Isolation and Depression
Though I have not experienced the isolation and depression part yet, research on this topic states it is something stay-at-home dads, or stay-at-home parents, should prepare for. I guess I’ll finally get a first hand taste of what my wife has been complaining to me about all this time. In my research I found that a lot of stay-at-home dads struggle with self-worth and this can be a heavy contributor to depression and isolation. Moms.com writer, Megan Glosson, in her article titled: How To Help A Stay-At-Home Dad Struggling With Self-Worth (2021), mentions that our society makes us all associate our self-worth as adults to our job status and salary. Furthermore, many families according to The Institute for Family Studies (2016), still equate a husband's primary duty as maintaining a breadwinner status. This mindset can push stay-at-home dads to feel worthless (Glosson, 2021), so stay-at-home dads will need support. Checking your area for local dad groups to join could be a big help with managing depression and isolation. City Dad Groups is one that I recently joined in Orlando that has been around since 2008. They have chapters all across the U.S. and in eastern Canada. There is also the National At-Home Dad Network which is a great support and resource for stay-at-home dads. The thing to remember as a stay-at-home dad or stay-at-home parent is that you are not alone.
I enjoy being home with my children, I really do. So far I have been able to keep the house in order and having a daily routine is very helpful in keeping that order. I have alarms set on my iPhone to let me know when it’s snack time, lunch, dinner, bath time, story time, and bedtime. When you’re juggling four kids, believe me, these alarms come in handy to help keep you on track. When it comes to education at home, I use ABCMouse.com for my 5 and 3 year-old. It’s interactive and it keeps their attention. To get more information about, check out the blog I wrote on it by clicking here. I’ve also been able to get some cool arts and crafts items for them to do through Discount School Supply. Anything you need for at-home education, they pretty much have from education furniture for your home to family engagement kits, and they also provide free resources such as free STEM and creative activities. I’m excited to go on this journey. The focus is seeing my family grow and be successful.