My first day on the job as an at-home-dad began with my wife boarding a plane and traveling to a new city to find us a place to live. For the next 30 days, I was to take care of a newborn, a 19-month-old toddler, sell our current house, keep everything clean, and solve the world’s energy crisis.
Well, not that last bit. But it felt like the entire world was my responsibility. In the beginning, I was cocky and self-assured. How hard could this really be?
In four days, projectile vomit was streaming down my back, the newborn was screaming as I dealt with the puke, and the dog was eating everything. It was super gross. Four days in, and I broke. By the time I had the house sold and left to meet my wife a month later, the reality of what I had decided, and wanted, to do was right in my face.
In the beginning, I tried to find advice for at-home-dads. Wait, that’s not right. I tried to find advice for dads, period.
And I wanted something more than the usual pep talk that is given to dads. “Stoically raise your children and support them.” What the hell does that mean? I need to know how to take a shower with a toddler nearby that likes to go into the knife drawer.
Then, and even now, the advice for fathers is subpar. It’s full of “bro” talk. Everything is covered in camouflage for some weirdo reason.
And the advice is still pretty much the same. Empty abstract statements that we were all given in the locker room. Believe in yourself and you can win? That’s crap.
Take a look at so many of the parenting books out today. Do any of them really speak to dad? And the ones that are geared toward us pretend that parenting stops at 3 months of age. It’s been scientifically proven that we are fathers longer than that. I looked it up, trust me.
And please, don’t talk to me like a bro. I need actionable advice that tells me how to get things done. How to raise children, how to organize meals, and for the love for all that is holy how do I take a shower with an armed toddler nearby.
Dads don’t need platitudes, and many of us hate camouflage. I wanted to be involved in every aspect of my children’s lives. That’s the problem with so much of the advice out there written for dads. It treats mom as a problem, the baby as an obstacle, and parenting as a distraction. We are better than that, and we deserve better than that.
And I’m going to say it. Moms deserve better than that. Throughout this pandemic, it is no secret that moms are taking the brunt of the childcare duties. They wash the clothes, do the schoolwork, and work their jobs. Every time I see a headline like that I cringe. Here is a secret that I’ve learned in my 13 years as an at-home-dad: Dishes doesn’t give a crap who does them. Moms deserve better dads. To me, it’s not even worth arguing about.
But that’s not to say that there aren’t a ton of dads out there that want to be more involved. There are, but they don’t know how. From the working dad to the stay-at-home dad, the face of fatherhood is changing. And as it changes, we need to see ourselves in the books, columns, and advice that is given. We want to be better. Younger me yearned for something that spoke to me as I actually was, and not as a second-teamer that had the unfortunate job of taking care of kids. It was my choice. It was the best choice. I regret none of it.
In the beginning, I needed something to show me how to break the isolation that many fathers feel. Many are lonely islands when it comes to parenting and have zero support. I needed something that recognized the fact that dads can go through depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues that are brought on by parenting. God, I needed someone to speak to that so bad. Someone to show me that it was not shameful to reach out for help. To admit that I was struggling. I needed help.
That’s why I wrote The Ultimate Stay-At-Home-Dad, Your Essential Manual for Being an Awesome Full-time Father.
Not only for the dads that need solid actionable advice but for dads that could see those of us who have gone before and struggled. To reach them.
I wrote part of the book on top of a castle. Other parts I wrote late at night in my walk-in closet just to get some peace. I finished the book at a civil war battlefield. That battlefield was one of the first adventures I took with my children. On a long drive by myself trying to figure out how to end the book, I stumbled upon that civil war battlefield again in a no-name town in Missouri. The book was written in the places where I learned the lessons.
I don’t know if The Ultimate Stay-At-Home-Dad book will change the conversation of fatherhood. I don’t know if anyone will read it and the advice from not only myself, but 57 other dads. But my editor at Penguin said something to me once that stuck with me as I wrote. “Shannon,” she said. “Your book is going to help someone.”
I keep that thought near me now. And if it’s only one guy that is screaming for help, for connection, or to learn how to take a shower while a toddler goes through the knife drawer, I hope that finds my book.
I wrote The Ultimate Stay-At-Home-Dad because he deserves better.
YOUR ESSENTIAL MANUAL FOR BEING AN AWESOME FULL-TIME FATHER