Being Dad

Could I Be A Stay At Home Dad?

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?

Office meeting

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:

Career breaks 
Setting up a business from home
Your relationship 
What it’s like being a stay at home dad – by Dad Blog UK

And finally something to put a smile on your face…

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Categories: Being Dad

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6 replies »

  1. This has been a very interesting read because I’ve been living a very different routive over the summer holidays. I’ve been visiting different places with the kids where there have been loads of adults on tap to share the childcare and it has been considerbaly easier than the usual ongoing routine which is a bit hamster wheel-esque. Is it lonely being a SAHD? It can be. Is there reesetnment? I’d be lying if I said “never” but that’s normal(!). Is there drudgery? If only you knew the half of it!

    I’m going to put myself on thin ice and disagree with you on some points though. I don’t actually think you’ve highlighted enough positives. Perhaps that’s only because a week wasn’t enough. When you help a child count to a new, high number, see them manage a difficult climbing frame on their own or swim for the first time…these moments make it all worthwhile, especially if you know that it’s YOUR influence that has taught them these skills. I used to live in a fast paced media world (in fact, as my blogging activities have increased I’ve [accidentally] returned to it!). Even so, job satisfaction can be found in a tidy house, freshly cooked meal and happy children who are tired having spent an hour at the park. The truth is, I know my wife couldn’t do these things as she doesn’t have the mentality so it has to be me!

    The other thing I’d say is to start planning for when your boy starts school. The parenting rule book gets ripped up when they start Reception class and this was something I wasn’t entirely prepared for. Schools are not, generally, run for profit. They are not as flexible as childminders / nurseries. They exist to educate, not provide a service for working parents (and quite rightly too). Sure, a school may offer a breakfast and after school club but do you really want to make use of these? Your child may leave nursery tired at the end of the day, but wait until they’re at school and returning with homework, because they do get homework at the age of four. They practically fall out the classroom door at 3.15 they’re so knackered.

    Every family is different, and some parents have no choice so I wouldn’t want to come across as judging. But using a breakfast and after school club to fit around a parent’s working hours every single day must be very hard on the kid. I’ve known one or two people do it but it’s something I’d avoid if at all possible. Just a little warning that it’s gets harder once they’re out of the childcare system and in the formal education system!

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    • Hi John, thanks for reading and taking the time to leave such an in-depth comment. I think on the seeing milestones – of course I love helping Little B do these first things and it’s been a joy and a privilege to have that time with him so many parents don’t get. My point wasn’t to be down on stay at home parenting. It was a thinking out loud examination of how it made me feel and whether I personally could hack it. I can see how having a tidy house and so on are satisfying but I still think I would eventually go a bit crazy. And I get the feeling I am nowhere near as organised as you! Like you say, your own wife couldn’t do what you do so maybe I’m more like her?! Your points about school fill me with dread. It’s something I have never understood – what people do when their kids start school and they can’t get home for 330pm. I wasn’t a latch key kid and I don’t want B to have that life. But these days sadly two incomes are needed to cover the mortgage. Maybe I will find a way to work from home. Something has to give like you say – it’s not fair on the children to be in after school club five days a week. All the best.

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  2. Great post and I know how you feel. I’m a teacher so am on summer holidays at the moment and had been ( until my wife went back on mat leave) a sahd for 4 weeks. Long enough for me to just start getting into how to run a day well and make sure that we are both kept happy without instantly resorting to cbeebies to help. We’ve done a lot of baking together ( I’ve definitely put a bit of holiday heft on) and I’ve really enjoyed just hanging out with the boy for an extended period of time. I could quite happily do this all the time if I didn’t need to work.

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  3. Good post and I think a lot of the areas you touched on are valid and real. I’ve been a stay-at-home dad for 3/4 months now. Well, I say I’m a stay-at-home dad, but not in the true sense of the word – I look after the little one every day whilst the missus is at work, but I also do freelance writing work myself. If I didn’t have this, I’m not sure if I could be at home all of the time just focussed on the little one. As you say, feelings of boredom, loneliness etc could all easily kick in if I didn’t have something else to focus my mind on too.
    Our decision for me to become SAHD was something the missus and I discussed, taking into account a lot of the points you mentioned. At that time, she was earning more than me and worked just up the road – it therefore made sense for me to be the one at home doing a bit of freelance stuff whilst she brought in the majority of money. I’ve enjoyed the past few months and it’s right for us as a family, which is ultimately all that matters. I’ve not found myself excluded from baby groups etc which was one of my fears and I’m starting to get a couple of people around the area who I can meet up with if I need some additional company!

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    • Thanks for commenting Dave. Really interesting to hear that you manage to do writing work on top of childcare. I barely manage to write a blog post when I’m looking after the boy. He’s a whirlwind of activity!

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