It’s a funny thing being a Stay At Home Dad. It’s not considered normal to others or to ourselves. You would never here a young boy/adolescent/young man say, “I want to grow up, marry a smart woman, build a family with her, and then stay at home.” No young man has ever said that. With that simple fact established, a man staying at home and raising the children is unnatural to most of us. This unnaturalness comes from societal norms on gender roles here, and around the world. A man provides for his family and a woman nurtures her family. A well established tradition for centuries. If we are going to buck centuries of traditions and societal norms, we might as well analyze our situations as Stay At Home Dads in a way that helps us and our families. Let’s get to it.
Dads, you are in a situation. You are an unicorn in a field of mustangs; you are adrift on a raft at sea ebbing and flowing with the tides; you are simply an oddball. Understanding your situation is key to moving forward in a positive direction. Some of us Dads openly choose to stay at home and raise our kids. Egads man! This choice doesn’t come with a bit of sacrifice I tell you. Besides throwing our manhood under the bus, trading our tools for kitchen utensils, or swapping our business suites for cargo shorts; we are making a sacrifice. I had a lengthy conversation on this subject with my last boss. He was a very smart man and wanted to unsure I knew that I was leaving millions of dollars in earning potential on the table. I understood completely and assured him I knew what I was doing. The only time I feel a little regret is when I look at my meager checking account.
Some dads have no choice about staying at home. These dads married a person with earning potential that exceeds theirs outright, or exceeds theirs solely due to geographical constraints(don’t want to move away from family). Whatever the reason, this new job and everything that comes with it must be embraced. That’s a lot considering we never grew up wanting this job. I wasn’t dreaming of a challenging and rewarding career as a homemaker when I was a kid. This is my reality today and it will be my reality for the next several years. What keeps me going is the fact that I’ve embraced my new position by developing short and long term goals.
It’s easy to sit at home with the kids and get sucked into a daily grind. This grind wears on you after a while and you begin to get frustrated. This job was much harder than you ever thought it would be. The isolation is brutalizing. The screams wear on your nerves. The cleaning and cooking has become mundane. If you spin far enough down the rabbit hole, the color begins to fade from everything in your drab and dreary existence. You know why that is? You are in the trenches taking grenades from the enemy. You are overwhelmed with with so much chaos that you can’t focus on what happens after, and I mean after people stop throwing grenades at you. You mean there is life after toddlerhood? Yes, my fellow Dads, there is life after toddlerhood.
Ask yourself some questions. What do you want to do when all the kids are in school? Let me tell you this, it only takes about 2 days of work to completely clean the house, do the laundry, and grocery shopping. So, when the kids/kid is now moving on to school, what will you do with your time? Who do you want to be when you have grown beyond this position of stay at home dad? These are important questions to ask yourself. You can use these wants and desires and turn them into actionable plans. Having a plan for your future is so critical in maintaining a certain amount of positivity when those rough days or weeks descend upon us. If you find yourself pissed off that you are not out working or doing something that you really wanted to do, develop your 3 or 5 year plan. Use that plan to find hope when you are cleaning the floor, washing the clothes, or changing dirty diapers for the millionth time. Now, some of you may actually want to stay at home.
I do think staying at home permanently is somewhat appealing, especially when the kids are a little more grown up. I could imagine the kids all at school and I had the whole day to do what I wanted. Like I said before, it only takes 2 days of work to manage a house. Give me two six hour blocks of time and I can get a lot of stuff done. It’s the other three days that poses a problem. I’m not the kind of guy to sit around and watch TV. I wouldn’t be able to afford me staying at home and renovating the house, because that’s what I would do. New bathroom, Baam! Redrywall the garage, Baam! Build a new deck, Baam! Reshingle the roof, Baam! Custom shelving, Baam! Meanwhile, my credit card is maxed out at Lowes and the checking account is coughing up cobwebs. I could be productive at home, I just couldn’t afford myself.
So remember guys, come up with a new plan, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” Having that plan or idea is just enough to keep your sanity glued together when things get tough. You’re a stay at home dad; an oddball. You can’t be framed within other’s framework. You can cook or you will learn how to cook.
Cooking isn’t any harder than hanging drywall, changing the oil in the mower, or writing computer programs. You will clean the house, deal with dirty diapers, and do the laundry. Except you won’t do your wife’s laundry if she values the integrity of her clothes, but you will do most of the laundry. You will do all of these things while building a strong bond with your children. When you find yourself in the trenches taking grenades or the color is starting to fade from your existence, think about what you are going to do when the kids are older. Those “future plans” have gotten me through some rough times before.
And most of all, when the going gets tough, just embrace the suck.