There are a ton of good reasons to be a stay at home parent. Here’s how to do it well.
I would love to do this, if I could afford it. Everyone everywhere agrees that stay-at-home parenting (SAHP) is the toughest job there is, rewarding, but tough. I’ve actually seen some blogs where people think SAHP is easy, and I think to myself, What planet are they and/or their kids from!
It’s not as if SAHP isn’t hard enough, think about all the stereotyping guys will get (or do get) when they become an SAHD. Rightly or wrongly, men are not perceived as natural caregivers, especially with kids. Especially at 1:00 in the afternoon on a Tuesday. In the park. The constant scrutiny and suspicion has got to be awful. But, I digress.
Let’s look at the numbers. I used to be a numbers guy and I know that the whole story may not be reflected in numbers, statistics or averages. Nevertheless, I can appreciate that numbers may provide a glimpse or snapshot, if you will, of a particular situation.
For instance, the U. S. Bureau of the Census reported that in 2006 there were 143,000 SAHD’s vs. 5.6 million SAHM’s. That translates into approximately 2.5% of all stay-at-home parents were of the masculine persuasion. Not a big number. Apparently, that number has been growing in some reports, but it is still a relatively small number in terms of percents of stay-at-home parents and, of course, all daddies in total which is well into the tens (if not hundred) of millions. Moral: Beware of those reports that claim that the number and percent of SAHD’s is growing. It is still a “relatively” small number.
Let’s start with the reasons for doing it, i.e., becoming an SAHD. At the end of the day, there are only two primary reasons: One is to save money by having a parent stay at home, and, Two is so that Daddy can raise the kids.
The financial decision will be the key to making it work. Even though you would potentially be losing one income, you would eliminate the expenses of outside child care including day care, baby sitting, transportation, etc. Mommy’s job and career must be substantial enough to provide the ways and means for all the expenses including mortgage or rent, food, clothing, car and health insurance, utilities and everything else.
Do women really earn less than men? A resounding No! But, I’ll leave that discussion for another day. Suffice it to say here that if her job and career can handle it financially and it makes more sense for hers vs. yours, then the rest of the list to follow is just working out the details.
As for Daddy taking care of the kids, why not? Not all Daddies can or want to, take care of the little tikes, but for those that do, I ask why not? Why not encourage men to do it? The traditional notion that men don’t want to be involved in child care and rearing is just that, a tradition and a bad tradition. But, the newest generation of Daddies seem to have learned that the Absentee Father, which many of us grew up with, just didn’t work and they, we, want to change that by taking an active role in our kids’ lives. Why not? (By the way, I don’t have any data on the newest generation of Daddies because nobody has compiled anything yet that I can find).
The strategies for actually making it happen fall into four basic categories: Taking care of the Kids, Taking care of the Home, taking care of Mommy (or spouse or significant other), and Taking care of You. I will present them here in that order for no particular reason. Feel free to place them in whatever order works for you.
Taking care of the Kids
Caring is age-dependent. The younger they are, the more hands-on you will be. Routines and structure are important for kids. It’ll be boring and monotonous for you, like having lunch every day at noon, but the kids need that anchor in time to look forward to. The fun part is how to be creative and flexible with activities while maintaining a schedule. Oh, and you’ll be happier too. Please don’t use the TV to entertain them (unless it’s a Yankees game). My advice: don’t forget to nap when the kids nap.
Taking care of the Home
Sometime, somehow the house and the rooms therein will need some kind of cleaning. This section, though it will be the shortest, is usually the most overlooked and neglected.
Disease, germs, bacteria translate into kids’ colds, allergies, illnesses which translate into extra care, vigilance, sanitation by Daddy. Sometime, somehow you need to figure out how to do this. (Hey, I never said it would be easy!)
Taking care of Mommy
One small thing that usually gets overlooked in discussions about women’s careers is that the more money they make, the more hours they will be putting in. Think about it. If she has a job that will support a family, she will be putting in north of sixty hours a week. Talk about the shoe being on the other foot. Nevertheless, mommy (or whomever) will not be around much to help with child care.
Furthermore, she will be tired and stressed a lot. Try to spend as much time together as a family so that the kids get used to the family feeling. As for mommy (or whomever), small things mean a lot. A little foot massage, a compliment, nachos when she comes home, a greeting card made by the kids, etc. will work wonders with her. She will probably feel a little bit guilty anyway cause she’s not the one who’s home taking care of the kids. Remember the Mommy wars? Who said they’re over?
As for special time for the two of you, schedule it if you have to, but just do it.
Taking care of You
You’re tired. You’re bored. You’re alone. And you’re changing diapers or planning meals or telling kids to leave each other alone for the fifth time in a row. As I mentioned earlier, there are other SAHD’s. Find them and network. In fact, network any way you can so that you are not in total isolation. Online is ok, but the personal touch is always better. Recognize that not every other person is an enlightened being who appreciates SAHD’s. Find fun in the daily activities and always remember, it is YOU who get to spend time with the kids. How would you be different if your dad had spent more time with you?
In those fun and educational activities with the kids, who said that one of them can’t be about how to play baseball or roller skate or play or read or sing or whatever you like to do? Go to the park and socialize. Go to the gym (kid’s gym). Go to the kid’s school and volunteer. Go somewhere, anywhere. Get out of the house. The kids will feel better and so will you. Get a job at home. They are supposedly, allegedly out there. If you can find one, email me. The extra money will be nice and you get to be productive. Win/win.
Ok, it’s not a totally exhaustive list, but hopefully you now have a better idea if it is feasible and how to make it work. I hope you can do it.
Personally, the only way I could make it work is if I have a job at home and the kids went to day care at least part of the time so that I could make some money. Of course, there is that vicious cycle, sending the kids to day care and earning extra money which would probably be used to pay for the day care. Oy veh!