The stay-at-home-dad: so much work, so much joy
Although the stay-at-home dad (SAHD) is still considered a rarity in some places, the fact is that these days, more and more men are deciding to stay home with the kids — close to 2 million in the U.S. and growing.
Whether you’re raising your child (ren) on your own or while your partner goes to work, check out these 10 survival tips to make life as full-time dad a little easier.
1. Be proud of your decision
Although there are more SAHDs than ever before, there will always be people who don’t understand why you’re staying home with the kids while your partner goes to a job each day. No matter. It’s important to be comfortable and confident with your decision, knowing that this is what’s right for your family right now.
2. Discuss your duties with your partner
First, you and your partner need to decide what your duties and responsibilities are going to be. Exactly what does “taking care of the kids” include? Cooking dinner every night, cleaning the house, doing laundry, running errands, time off on weekends…all these need to be discussed up front to reduce conflict and resentment later on.
3. Connect with other parents
Isolation is one of the chief complaints of stay-at-home parents, male or female. Make it a priority to connect with other parents, especially dads, to get out of the house, share advice and sometimes just vent. Try joining a local parenting group or finding other SAHDs in your area through websites such as Meetup.com, Athomedad.org and Dadstayshome.com. If you’re having trouble finding a group, start your own!
4. Take time for yourself
Even though parenting is your full-time job, this doesn’t mean your whole world needs to revolve around the kids, which can lead to serious burnout. Make sure you carve out personal time for yourself to get together with friends, work out (most gyms offer babysitting) or read while the kids nap. Scheduling some “you” time will give you a clearer head and enable you to be a better, happier dad.
5. Establish a routine
Having your child (ren) on a consistent schedule (eating, napping, bedtime routine) will help them (and you) know what to expect each day so you can more easily plan errands, classes and play dates.
6. It’s not forever
Being an at-home dad may not be your job forever, which is helpful to keep in mind during the seemingly-endless diaper changes, crying episodes and ear infections. With an eye on the future when your child will enter school, stay abreast of ongoing developments within your area of expertise.
7. Get out of the house
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with housework on top of all the parenting responsibilities that come with being a stay-at-home dad. Getting outside is so important for you and your child, even in bad weather. Make sure you get out once or twice a day to visit a park or playground, run a few errands, take a child-parent class or meet with other parents.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
As much as you might want to (or think you can) raise kids all on your own, this can lead to unhealthy levels of stress. For your own sanity, ask for help when you need it. Maybe hire a cleaning person to help with housework or a sitter so you can get to the gym. If you’re really feeling overwhelmed, call other parents; they probably know just what you’re going through.
9. Cherish the experience
Sometimes it may be hard (impossible?) to realize, but caring for your child during the first few years of his/her life is one of life’s most precious opportunities. Not only will you get to witness the big moments (walking, talking, lost teeth), but all the little ones that happen along the way, too. And remember: all too quickly, these moments will be gone, so enjoy them while you can.
10. Stand up for other dads like you
At-home dads rarely get the respect and recognition they deserve. Your example that fathers can be nurturing, competent and caring parents can go a long way to bringing society at large up to speed.