I recently spent a week at home with Little B when our childminder was on holiday and it got me thinking, could I do this full-time?
Since February I’ve been looking after our boy on Friday’s after reducing my hours (and pay) to a four-day week. I’m lucky my employer allows this flexibility as I know many wouldn’t or couldn’t due to the needs of the organisation. And that many people wouldn’t be able to manage financially.
That one extra day a week of dad time – Daddy Friday as it’s become known – has been a great way to get to spend more time with Little B and understand his moods, likes and dislikes, and watch him blossom from a ten month old baby into a toddler.
The downside is that as it’s only one day it’s taken me a bit longer to get to grips with his routine and I confess to falling back on toddler-friendly ready meals, sandwiches or things Mrs B has frozen for his meals, as I haven’t yet got into cooking from scratch. This is something I want to rectify so I’m going to be trying some recipes from Ella’s Kitchen and I’ll let you know how I get on!
It also means that after each month just as I feel like I’m getting somewhere he’s changed again! And after a few days being busy with his brilliant childminder he is often tired and grumpy when he gets to Daddy Friday.
But back to the point of the post. Could I be Little B’s carer full-time? Could my office meetings look like this?
There’s the practical and financial question, which I’ll come back to, but also would I want to be a full-time stay at home dad?
I’m aware that for many people this is not a choice. Either they have to give up work because the childcare costs outweigh their salary or can’t give up because they need to keep bringing in money to pay for their home, food, bills and so on.
After one week I can now see why some mums and dads don’t want to be at home all the time, at least not after the first year. I already knew it was hard work but what I hadn’t properly appreciated was the feeling of drudgery. I think that’s the best word.
My job can be stressful and fast paced and I’d say a day in the office is definitely harder than looking after Little B in many ways, but it’s also more stimulating and there’s a lot of intelligent banter and conversation about the issues of the day.
(As always – this is simply my experience. If you disagree about a job being harder than parenting that’s fine – it may depend on what you do for a living or how difficult your children are to care for.)
On the other hand at least at home I do get a break to eat or sit and blog like this sometimes. But the work involved in caring for a toddler is of a different sort (less varied for a start) and I wonder if that’s what I’d find hardest to get used to.
After only three days of being with him I found myself feeling very low. I think it was the point where he’d tried to push his toy buggy through an immovable object for the fiftieth time and started crying again. Or maybe it was when he’d refused to eat his dinner again and tipped the plate on the floor. Or simply when I was clearing up his toys again. All these things I am used to doing part-time but doing them every day, hour after hour, with no one else to talk to. Yes, I was starting to go stir crazy.
Now, if I was a full-time stay at home dad I’d obviously make an effort to join groups and get to know others in the area. But the impression I got from being out and about in playgrounds and soft play was that there aren’t that many of us. And I am sad to report that the mums I tried to make conversation with eyed me with a certain suspicion. I’m perfectly pleasant (despite the occasional ranting on here) and I don’t look like a murderer (I hope) so I can only think that SAHMs find it a bit odd or uncomfortable to have a SAHD in their midst.
I’d love to know what people think about this.
But leaving this point to one side, I know when Mrs B was on mat leave she also often found it quite isolating, despite the few mums she knows locally. It’s just very different to having stimulating adult company all day.
It’s something I’ve read about on a lot of other people’s blogs too. So I can see why lots of full-time parents struggle with feelings of depression or lack of self-esteem. And why in that regard blogging helps connect with people in similar situations.
On the plus side we did get out to lots of parks and I can see that summer is a far better time to be a SAHD than winter. I think our daily fix of sun and fresh air kept us both going, and it certainly helped wear Little B out for his afternoon nap.
Here are the things I think you would need to consider if you’re thinking about becoming a stay at home dad:
1. Your career: do you love what you do? Could you give that up? If you don’t love your job could you give it up and still feel confident about getting back into it after a year or two? Perhaps your employer will hold a role open for you? Could you find time alongside caring for your little one to develop a new skill or a new business idea? Lots of bloggers seem to do that when they give up full-time work – not an easy option but worth thinking about.
2. Money: Sit down and do the sums. Childcare is very expensive in this country, especially in London and other big cities. We pay £1200 a month for three days a week of childcare. And we realised that losing 20% of my salary was only going to leave us £80 a month worse off. Not a lot to exchange for getting to know my son better. And one less day panicking about leaving the office to get back for 6pm. I can see why some people simply don’t see the point in working to pay someone else to care for their child. But mortgages are also expensive. So there may be no choice. Frankly, as a society we’ve really got ourselves into a pickle.
3. Your sanity: see my earlier points. Try it for a week, two weeks. See if you can hack it. Or if you still decide to go ahead at least you know what to expect and can start coming up with coping strategies. Start a blog perhaps?
4. Your relationship (if you’re in one): a lot of mums will love their other half to experience what it’s like being stuck at home all day with a
monster baby. If you did ante-natal classes it was probably one of the excruciating group discussions; what kind of tensions would one person being at home all day throw up? Cue: two big list of resentments.
So yes, I think it’s a good idea for the working person to get a taste of the child-caring person’s life. The working person and the stay at home person are literally dealing with different kinds of shit. You are BOTH stressed and tired. You BOTH think the other person has it easier. You BOTH have it tough in different ways. Neither of you has the moral high ground. Give each other a break. Have a row first if you like. Support each other, agree how you’ll do that. Rotas, checklists, wine, whatever works for you.
5. Your child: remember them? Oh yeah, it’s not all about me. It really depends what kind of baby, toddler, wild animal you have sired but is it actually a good idea for you to be with each other every day? I get bored with my best mates after a day or two on a weekend away. I like variety. So if you do too, your toddler probably inherited some of that. Little B likes to be on his own sometimes. And he loves other children. And sometimes he loves me and only me. And sometimes it’s only mummy. Or his caaaaarrrrrs! So I think for us the split between three days with a childminder (who has two lovely older boys) and one or both of his parents is perfect for now. I wouldn’t want him to be in nursery full-time as he is very tired by Friday and we can tell he needs his quiet, recharging time. It’s whatever works best for your family.
That’s the five most important considerations I can think of. There are other smaller ones like can you cook a meal for your baby? How much do you love CBeebies? Can you do a wide range of voices for all the books you’ll be reading? Are you embarrassed about being on public transport or in a shop with a toddler having a meltdown? Can you change a poonami nappy in a park?
But you probably get to practise all that at the weekend.
On balance, after six months of Daddy Fridays, I am glad I made the decision to be a part-time SAHD.
I salute those parents who are the real thing. Many of the blogs I love are written by you. I’m not going to do a list. You know who you are.
I will miss my time with Little B when I go back to working full-time, as I fear I must one day. But I hope to be able to do this until he is two and then I think it will be nursery five days a week for him. By then judging by how he is at 17 months Little B will probably be running the place!
I’d love to hear what you think about this issue. And here are what I hope are useful links:
And finally something to put a smile on your face…
Categories: Big Issues