Eight years ago when my husband and I made the Mutual decision that I would go back to work after having our first child and he would stay home , we really knew we were doing the best thing for our daughter having a full time stay at home parent. My husband is the At Home Daddy Rock Star and I am so appreciative of all that he does for us on a day to day basis. But here are some things you should know before your commit to this lifestyle or what you should know so you can support someone who has chosen this lifestyle.
- Other people are going to comment openly about your decision. I did not expect the many opinions everyone else would have about “our” decision. Even though it was becoming more acceptable for men to be home with their children, I do not think it reached my circle.
In 2014 Pew Research (http://www.pewresearch.org/) reported 2 million dads are stay at home primary care givers. That is roughly 1% of the US population. 40% of all households are Female Lead. I find it so unsettling that women are almost expected to work and men are not expected to be good child care givers. If we want to truly have equality then the road has to work both ways for men and women.
The comments I have directly heard from friends and family are : “when is he going to get a job?” , “when is it going to be your turn?”, ” Does he plan on working again after they are both in school full time?” to the exact opposite “You have it made!” , ” He is so good with the kids and you are so good at what you do”, “You like the routine of working”. I am sure there is more that has been said over the years. You would think that less people would cringe at the thought of my husband being home. After all our generation grew up watching the Sever family on ” Growing Pains” so the idea of having Dad at home is not a foreign concept.
The truth is that my husband is a really great Dad and he juggles the house and errand and kids and shopping really well. Sure he has his moments when he needs help or feels stressed but honestly who doesn’t. And once we got the taste of what freedom from a job was we wanted more of it so we do what we can to create additional income from home and reduce our living expenses. He will sometimes joke that he is retired but the truth he works really hard all day long with the house, errands, kids, cooking, being President of the PTA and working his side business.
- Expect Emotional transition along the way. Your Husband is going to go through some emotional changes along the way. I don’t care who he is, what kind of family he came from it is going to happen. Once you both make the decision that he will be the primary caregiver to your child he will go through some emotional changes along the way. You must be stealth to recognize what is happening because men are action doers not emotionally lead (aka your not going to come home one day and find them crying on the couch). Some men may feel emasculated and they may begin to feel isolated from others. Knowing your husband is so important so that you can recognize when he needs support. He may even want to join a local or online community of stay at home dads such ashttp://athomedad.org/
Ladies, you will also have your own set of emotional challenges along the way. Many women feel jealous of their spouse’s time spent with the kids. Some have felt resentment toward being the sole or majority bread winner. Some are overwhelmed with all the responsibility, especially if they are the other responsibilities of the household also fall on them.
I can tell you from my experience and what I can say of my coworkers with children and working spouses. I am fortunate that my husband is the main coordinator of the house, bills and dinner. We share the housework more now than we used to and that helps him a great deal with being able to run his side business. We just both do what needs to be done. I do feel jealous of my husband’s time at home and with the kids. He has freedom to work when he chooses where I am restricted at work. He has time with the kids while I have an hour or two at the end of the day when they and I are both cranky. He is better known at their schools. Last year I had to update my cell phone number with my daughters school and they required that my husband do it because they knew him and they only had his signature on file….that will make you feel like a bad mom. Teachers and parents know my husband by name and have trouble remembering mine, sometimes I am actually referred to as ___’s wife, not even DD’s mom or Mrs ___. It is not as if I have a difficult name to remember either… ” Sue” it is such a short name. I feel guilty about taking any additional time out of the house by myself to connect with friends or do something for myself. I try to only do activities where I can take my kids along as well. I irrationally sometimes feel left out of the family and only like “just a paycheck”. I have thoughts while at work that they are home having this glorious time together doing art projects , reading lessons and field trips and I am missing all the photo perfect moments. When in reality, every time I go home for lunch there is usually chaos. Now that my kids are a little older, forts are built in the living room, dishes from breakfast and lunch are on the counter the kids are either playing loud or fighting loud together and my husband is running around frantic trying to get something accomplished before his next interruption. When they were younger it was colic and poop disasters.
In comparison to my working mom friends who are married to working husband’s and whose kids are close in age as mine; I would say the stress is just as heavy. Their responsibilities are just as much and they have to juggle schedules with their spouse to be sure someone can get the kids.
- Set a Trial period.I would recommend setting a trial period and resetting regular evaluation dates together as you move forward. Your husband may be Superman at first but what happens four or six months down the road? He may decide that working outside the home suits his personality better, perhaps your job situation changes or your financial situation changes, or you are expecting another child. Make a plan together and decide on these evaluation periods in advance so you are both have the same expectations.
- Ladies, learn to let your husband take control of the ship.I think one of the most difficult things for a woman is returning to work after having her child. In my lifetime alone women have gone through such a change in society. It is no longer a necessity for a woman to choose between career or family. Actually it is extremely difficult for families to not have two working parents because of income needs. but I have yet to see a working mom coaching class. Moms may expect things to be done their way when it comes to child rearing and maintaining the home. I know for me this was the case. I had a closet full of baby clothes but all my daughters baby pictures are of her in the same onezies. I had a way of doing the laundry and I had to concede and let my husband to do it in a way that works for him without judgement. He even grocery shops different than I do. There will be things that come up along the way and you have to let go of the little things and have an understanding of the larger picture.
In conclusion both being a working parent and stay at home parent is hard. Heck being a parent it hard, so give each other grace and lots of support in your assumed roles whatever that may be. There is no perfect situation that fits all families. I wish there was. If you are considering Dad as the At Home parent I suggest to try it and see where it takes you.