I kind of knew what I was in for when my wife and I decided to have children. We were certainly not young parents, but there were advantages to being “older” first-time parents.
We were financially set, had established careers, and plenty of life experience under our belt.
We also knew that we didn’t want someone else to raise our babies. We were in the fortunate realm of at least one of us being able to be with them every minute of the day and night. At least, as long as that person was me.
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Background in Education
I was the sole male elementary school teacher in each of the three school districts I had worked with. It could translate well with me becoming a stay-at-home dad as I had already demonstrated I had a penchant for such a thing.
Plus, my wife was earning enough money for the family as a medical doctor. While I could give up my job for now and we would still be financially fine, she could definitely not give up her job at the moment as it would be hard to raise a family of four strictly on a teacher’s salary.
The Statistics for Stay-at-Home Dads
According to the latest data provided by the Office of National Statistics, there are approximately 19 million families currently in the United Kingdom. Only about 1.2 percent of these families have a stay-at-home father manning the home (data gathered before the pandemic). This stat shows it is quite rare to have a stay-at-home dad to take care of the children while the mother is providing for the family financially.
In the Beginning of Being a Stay-at-Home Dad
While living for days on end in just my sweatpants and changing baby nappies constantly throughout the day doesn’t sound like a glamorous lifestyle for most dads, I wasn’t minding it. But after a few months on the job, I started realising something very important.
It can be very difficult to stay sane at all times while you are a stay-at-home dad. Sometimes I could feel myself becoming downright loony.
With that in mind, here is my:
Official Survival Guide for Stay-at-Home Dads
Being a stay-at-home dad for weeks, months, years on end can make even the toughest of men start to doubt themselves. After all, how many other men do you know who are undertaking the same “occupation”?
But keep that stiff upper lip and follow this survival guide to keep from losing yourself in the craziness.
Establish a Routine
If you can establish a routine with your children, no matter how young they are, after a while, taking care of the basic things will become easier.
In the beginning, it may feel like you are trying to drive a car without a steering wheel. But once the routines are in place, it can become a finely tuned machine and they will know what to expect and not put up so much of a battle here and there.
For instance, allow the children to play a bit when they wake in the morning. But after a half an hour, it is time for breakfast. Furthermore, a half an hour before bed, it is bath time. Snack time can be at 10am and lunch will be at noon.
Of course, the best-laid plans can be disrupted for a variety of reasons, but if you more or less stick to a set routine, everyone will be better off.
Remind Yourself that You Are Doing It for the Children
When many people hear that you are a stay-at-home dad, they automatically mistakenly think you are an unemployed father that can’t find a job to save his life so the wife has to financially take care of the family.
No matter how tough you are, comments like this will sting. And even if the people do not say something like this out loud, it is not out of the ordinary to catch that “look” they offer up when hearing you are taking care of the children.
I’m comparably a big guy to most men. I lift weights almost every day (at night once the kids have fallen asleep) in my home gym. I’ve entered weight lifting and strong man competitions. But… It still hurts when people wrongfully judge your situation.
Still, just remember you are doing this for your children. How many other fathers will be able to say they spent almost every minute of the children’s formative years not only helping to form their personalities, but teaching them the difference between right and wrong? You are doing this for the kids. You are making a sacrifice just like your wife is making her own sacrifice in many instances. The people who are incapable of understanding this simply never will no matter if you take the time to explain your situation or not.
If you can recall, John Lennon, one of the most famous recording artists in history, took almost five years off at the height of his fame to raise his son Sean. He would refer to himself as a “house husband” and became a bit of a hermit. Unfortunately, he was murdered by a madman in 1980 right as he was deciding to reemerge back on the music scene, but surely he would look at these five years as some of the most important of his life.
How to Manage the Isolation
Imagine being in prison where Sesame Street, Wiggles, and Bounce Patrol are played in a continuous loop and the only personal interaction you have may be with kids that can’t even talk yet.
Even if you basically consider yourself anti-social, after a few weeks of this, you start to become stir crazy.
There have been countless times when I literally have not left the house for three weeks other than to pick up groceries. During the pandemic, with my newborn and one-year-old, I once went four months without leaving the house.
My wife is constantly gone on-call at the hospitals so I basically cannot leave the house the majority of the time since she may be called in at a moment’s notice.
But I am here to tell you that you must find ways to be social with friends outside of the home otherwise it will start to affect your relationship with your spouse and kids. And if you must, pay for a babysitter for an hour or two. It may cost you a little money, but can you really put a price on your sanity?
Decide on Your Support System
Just like a stay-at-home mom will have a support system in place, it would not be a bad idea to establish one for yourself as well.
I once joined a Stay-at-Home Dad group on Facebook thinking it would help me to hear from others that are in similar situations. I lasted two days in this group. It just seemed like everyone was complaining about something. And if you spend too much time around pessimistic people, you yourself will become discouraged and gloomy.
Perhaps there is a fun little group of parents that like to take their kids to the park once or twice a week that you can join up with. Tag along with them a couple of times and see if that will work for you.
Remember that different people will need different things from their support people. While others will want advice and detailed instructions about what they can be doing better, others will just be happy getting a smile and pat on the back every once in a while.
Find a Job You Can Do on the Side
Rightly or wrongly, I always want to feel like I am contributing financially to the family. With my prior experience as a journalist/editor and educator, I am able to do freelance work for others that will fit into my complex schedule.
There are jobs that will fit into your skillset as well where you can decide just how much time you have to dedicate to these tasks.
You may have accounting skills where you can figure out taxes for others.
Perhaps your emerging woodworking skills will allow you to create pieces of art on the side.
Do you consider yourself a chef? You will be amazed at just how many people would love to purchase your healthy meal options.
All you have to do is put yourself out there a bit, promote the skillset you have to offer, and figure out how many jobs you can do while still taking care of the kiddos.
Remember – It Gets Easier!
The smaller the kids, the more patient and busy you will be. Babies are in constant need of being fed, changed, and watched every moment.
But once the children are officially toddlers, you can take more than a step back from them now and then. Their attention spans grow and they will even be able to play on their own or with friends without you having to be hovering about.
It won’t be long before you are able to have conversations and be able to reason with them when they are having their fits.
Before too long, you will be wishing for them to go back to being babies so you can experience all of this craziness once again! Because it is just a matter of time before they are in school, graduating, and eventually will be leaving your protective nest.
And only then will you be able to truly look back and realise raising your children in a responsible way was the most important thing you ever could have done with your life.