COVID Parenting: Worth it to temporarily become a stay-at-home dad?
June 28, 2020 8:17 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I have a 1.5 year old; I run a small business where I'm the only f/t employee. Her job doesn't give her much leeway to help with childcare during business hours; I'm burning myself out juggling full-time work and full-time childcare. Worth it to temporarily become a stay-at-home dad?

Like a lot of parents, we're having problems juggling childcare and work during COVID. We had a nannyshare arrangement with another family before the shelter in place order started, but the other family has financial problems now and looks unlikely to resume.

My wife's job requires her to be present at her computer and an active participant in meetings/phone calls for at least 6 hours of the business day; apart from her lunch break she's not really able to help with childcare during the day. Right now I'm doing a split shift where I work at my business from 5am-9am, watch the kid until 6 and then work from 6pm-10pm. It's not sustainable and I'm just exhausted.

Since everything happened in the States, my business has lost about 2/3rds of its project pipeline. I got a PPP loan to help pay out my salary and expect to have enough money from projects I'm currently working on to pay business expenses until the end of the year, but it's pretty unlikely it'll make any significant profit.

We did the calculations on the various scenarios (resuming a nannyshare for our kid, daycare, continuing doing fulltime childcare and fulltime work, becoming a stay at home dad through the end of the year), and it looks like becoming a stay at home dad is the best option when weighing money saved vs. money spent. It also seems like the safest move in regards to safety and avoiding getting sick.

My wife has a stable job and makes enough money for all of us if we exclude nanny/dayshare/preschool from the equation. Even with the lost income on my part, we'd still be making more money not paying for childcare given how badly my business is doing this year. As a result, I'm strongly considering becoming a stay-at-home parent for the rest of the year, completing current projects for clients and then resuming work in 2021.

My main concern is putting my business on hold and then resuming it months later, and any headaches that could result from that. I also never ever, ever thought about being a stay at home dad in the past... but, well, these aren't normal times.

With everything being the huge mess it is right now, is it worth it to consider this or is finding outside childcare the best option?
posted by allthethings to Human Relations (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think you lay out multiple logical and sound reasons why you should consider being a stay at home Dad- the pro of savings from child care and savings to you health and wellbeing.

What's stopping you seem to be nebulous concerns about restarting your business later- while I haven't got specific advice it seems to me that this is a possibility due to covid whether or not you have a kidlet or not. Also "I never considered being a stay at home dad" - that's ok, you're considering it now!
posted by freethefeet at 8:26 PM on June 28 [4 favorites]

With the caveat that my wife and I don't have kids and there may thus be factors I'm not considering...I don't see a downside to you putting your business on pause. If you're full-time dadding and your family economics actually get better, if it were me, I'd run towards that like the road runner running away from the coyote. And, you'll have a lot more time to spend with your kid, which, if this flaming garbage barge of a world has taught me anything, is the most invaluable thing a parent could have and give to their child right now.

I don't know what the nature of your business is, or whether it's something you've always dreamed of doing and are torn about putting on hold because it's something you've built over your entire career, but it seems like "putting my business on hold and then resuming it months later" is a highly solvable problem. Wrap things up with your current clients, leave no threads hanging, and go be a dad for six months.

You may find that being a dad full-time is as rewarding as your business was and never go back! Or you might figure out a way to balance the two. But even if you do end up restarting your business, it feels like this is more of an amazing opportunity than an agonizing decision.

Go be a dad. You won't regret it, and your kid will be all the better for it.
posted by pdb at 8:38 PM on June 28 [3 favorites]

Right now I'm doing a split shift where I work at my business from 5am-9am, watch the kid until 6 and then work from 6pm-10pm. It's not sustainable and I'm just exhausted.

We did something like this for several (6? 8?) weeks and I hope to never live that Sisyphean livestyle again. Honestly at some point the financial implications don't even matter when things get so overwhelming.

But in your case you'll be coming out ahead? Free yourself. The silver lining of this is some unexpected closeness with your child, which will pay all sorts of dividends.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:01 PM on June 28 [5 favorites]

Dont underestimate the value of quality bonding time with your child. 18 months can be really challenging, especially hard to enjoy it when your exhausted which patience is in short supply. Being able to really enjoy this part of your child's life is gift to both of you.
posted by metahawk at 9:07 PM on June 28 [4 favorites]

Well, let's worse-case-scenario this. You say your business isn't doing well because of the pandemic and the recession. What would you do if your wife lost her job? You said it's stable, and I believe you, but I also think we're only at the beginning of economic calamity (especially if you are American, as I have presumed). We've had eviction freezes and mortgage forbearance in place for many folks, which is giving us a bit of a breather, but much of that will be ending soon. With Covid is on the upswing, it could be a difficult few years ahead. So I'd be thinking more conservatively in general. How much do you have in emergency funds if she does lose her job? Enough to cover six months? A year?

Because I'm wondering if it has to be all or nothing. Could you keep working, say, from 6am - 9am three or four days a week and keep some projects? There are a few reasons this might be helpful: you keep active contacts and skills; you continue to contribute to your own social security; you keep your business infrastructure around as a possible back-up; and you don't have a gap on your resume for when you do back to work full-time (if you decide not to continue with your business). Women who have been stay-at-home parents sometimes have a difficult time re-entering the workforce. I don't know if the dynamic is the same, better, or worse for men who have stayed at home, but there can be financial and emotional fallout from this decision.

Also, make sure you and your wife are on the same page before you make this decision. We never intended for my ex-husband to be a stay-at-home dad, and he was unemployed or underemployed for most of the time after we had kids. There were a lot of reasons, but it was really stressful because we never really decided to do it, not as a team. This might not be an issue for you, but even for young folks who are more feminist, sometimes subverting traditional gender norms can cause additional stress for the marriage (for example, I still did a lot of emotional labor for running parts of the household even though I was was working so much more).
posted by bluedaisy at 9:12 PM on June 28 [3 favorites]

Is your business a full-time-or-nothing affair? Any particular reason you couldn't do half time, e.g. just one of your split shifts? I think if I was picking one, the morning one would be best since it would mean the 6-10 period would be the 3 of you for part of it, bedtime for the tyke, and then some time with your wife, or maybe a touch more sleep. (That's something you'd vary day to day, I imagine.)

I mean, it sounds to me like you are a stay-at-home-dad already; you're just also doing an FT job at the same time. You've already said that the business is throttled back, and while I imagine you've reduced staff down to you and one or more part-timers, they can probably also handle things without you as they are presumably doing during your dedicated child-care hours.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:37 PM on June 28 [3 favorites]

Yes, do it.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:27 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]

it looks like becoming a stay at home dad is the best option when weighing money saved vs. money spent. It also seems like the safest move in regards to safety and avoiding getting sick.

In addition to those benefits, there appear to be some benefits in terms of a stronger father-child bond and a better overall family relationship, according to a source that may or may not be dubious and that is a pain in the ass to link to from my phone. I think you should totally do this but also be prepared for feelings of isolation, because dads who are primary caretakers do not get a lot of support from the culture. Neither do stay-at-home moms, for that matter. You should also prepare to deal with any feelings around having centered your identity around your work (if you have) and no longer having work serve the same function. Sometimes we absolutely make the right choice and it still feels shitty for a while. If this happens to you, it doesn’t mean that it was the wrong decision. It just means that you will have to deal with those feelings.

If you decide to do this, please don’t forget to build in time to take care of yourself on weekends or whenever your wife is available. In the same way that she needs to take care of herself because you both need to be able to care for that child. By shifting from something that is unsustainable to something that is sustainable, you are actively protecting your wife, her job, and your family. Otherwise, your impending work crisis will become her crisis and might actually result in her losing her job as she tries to juggle everything that has fallen apart.

You are a wise person to reevaluate your assumptions and to try to make things work where are you are and with what you have. Being realistic can be a super power during certain times; this is one of those times. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 2:44 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]

stay at home dad is the best option when weighing money saved vs. money spent. It also seems like the safest move in regards to safety and avoiding getting sick.

FWIW this is exactly why I’m going to be full time stay at home dad for our 3 yr old in the fall.

More detail: I like the kid and parenting/teaching full time, which is not necessarily a given. Also it’s good timing for me in that all I have to do is not seek to re-up my employment contract which was already set to expire at end of summer. I may incur similar problems leaving the workforce for a while but hey that’s life and nothing we didn’t expect/demand women to do always up until fairly recently. Also I was already in a situation where I knew/planned to be less employed while my child is young.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:21 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that if you decide to do this it is also ABSOLUTELY OKAY to not like it even if it makes obvious financial sense. Being a stay at home parent is not for everyone, especially not during a pandemic. You’ll be taking the pressures of work off, which will help the exhaustion, but it might still be hard emotionally.

Give yourself permission to not be thrilled. I have kids, it’s hard.
posted by lydhre at 6:48 AM on June 29 [10 favorites]

I'm making similar calculations although my kids are at very different ages (but we have a high-risk person at home). I think it's fine to stay home and pause your business. For myself, I am also using the time to retrain (pursuing a certificate) and network.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:40 AM on June 29

I think it's a great idea. Make sure you put all your work commitments on hold as gracefully as you can, so it's possible to start back up again if/when you decide to, and then go enjoy your kid (and take a nap).
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:56 AM on June 29

To be frank, from my quite-distant POV it seems to me that you going into stay-at-home-parent mode is about the only thing that makes sense. the point that I wonder if perhaps there's some reticence coming from elsewhere, and that may be worth mulling over (I mean things like social expectations, residual cultural expectations, etc.). Anyway, I guess I mention this mainly to say you should consider that possibility.
posted by aramaic at 9:05 AM on June 29 [4 favorites]

This is the math a lot of women have been doing for decades, pre-pandemic. If you're worried you're missing a factor to consider, ask around among the women you know (especially talk to a few with older kids who've been through the whole cycle).

One factor that I think a lot of men tend to not consider in the Before or now: there is a hidden dollar value to making sure the more-stably-employed person can work at their max potential without disruption. Even in leaner times, that person is going to be of more value to the employer longer, which means less disruption in paychecks and health insurance; in better times this can mean faster advancement and increased pay. That does mean making a crystal clear arrangement with your partner on when she'll be exclusively doing Work Stuff and when she will be doing Home Stuff and it's going to be on you to make sure the latter doesn't bleed into the former. Yes, you should get breaks (but probably not lunch as she needs a break from work), and yes, she should participate in parenting/domestic life, but I'm just warning you there might be a bit of a shock if she's been handling the second shift all this time and expects you to take more of that on.

Along with childcare savings, when one person is running the home full-time that usually means more efficient food management and less reliance on paid entertainment (especially in this pandemic) to "make up" for busy work-weeks. It's likely you will see a surprisingly obvious change in finances beyond your estimates.

The person who stays home to take care of the kids will take a career hit, that's just how it is in this world. But at this junction, especially in THESE times, you can't assume that continuing to work is going to be particularly productive anyway, and nobody has any idea what After will look like. You may need to prepare yourself in your head that you're staying home more or less full time until kindergarten, which hopefully by that time will be some kind of normal "kid leaves the house every day for an entire period of time" thing again.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:25 AM on June 29 [13 favorites]

As a data point, I stayed home with my 2 y/o for a few months because of the pandemic and it was really magical. If you can afford to do it, it's a really nice time to bond with your kid. I'm really grateful I got to do it.
posted by namesarehard at 10:25 AM on June 29

Thing to remember too when analyzing the benefits of a stay at home parent is not so obvious money saved. You have time to plan meals & cook meals & shop sales etc, repair things etc. Start thinking of money you can save as money by being home you've "earned" for the family unit. Throw in your wife won't have to spend as much time after work doing housework & chores now you've increased the amount of family time you get with all 3 of you together.

If you worry about getting your business back up to speed after this is all over, is there anyway you can shift it to skeleton crew mode? Maybe a day or two a week you could work on the weekend or evenings.
posted by wwax at 8:24 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

« Older video games for kids where you explore a world to...   |   I shop can I shop here too? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments