I don't really have to stay at home all the time, right?
August 23, 2006 6:28 AM   Subscribe

Considering becoming a Stay at Home Dad. Experiences?

Our situation: DD is 3-1/2, DS is 1-1/2. DD starts Junior Kindergarten in the fall, and I did a visit with her yesterday to her new daycare, attached, and came away depressed with the quality of the daycare. Both children have been in a superior daycare, and her new daycare will be simply mediocre.

I'm tired of having other people raise my children, and I'm considering leaving my meaningless IT job to stay at home.

Financially, my wife is lucky enough to have a job that she loves, and we can exist on one salary once daycare costs are taken out of the picture.


Any Dads here done this? How did you adjust? What were people's reactions when you told them you were leaving a perfectly fine job to be a housedad?

My concern is maintaining the level of care, the level of enrichment that DS is getting at the superior daycare, and ensuring he remains socialized until he starts JK. Could anyone suggest resources, books, for daily activities?

Other Resources, either to help me make this decision, or afterwards?

This is in Ontario, by the way.
posted by Brando_T. to Human Relations (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I sympathize with you about the quality of the daycare. Here in the states, it can be very spotty.

I'd say the first thing to learn is to keep home life normal. You might feel a big responsibility to make every day one big "fun time". This is a big mistake and will quickly burn you out as well as give the children the impression that they should expect to be entertained every day. You should absolutely plan special outings or other whatnot, but make that the exception, not the rule.

You will need to network the other stay-at-home parents in the neighborhood, if for no other reason than to arrange play dates, trips to the park, etc. This will help with the socialization skills. You can also see what the other parents are doing to educate their kids...what books or materials they may be using. I would also suggest asking any of the teachers at the daycare you seem to like what materials/activities they may suggest. I've found that most daycare teachers are eager to help.

As for other's reactions...being a man, you may, indeed, encounter some odd looks for awhile. It's just a societal norm to expect the woman to be with the kids. I can recall noticing some very suspicious looks directed my way when I was at the grocery with my daughter. But that fades away as they get used to seeing you in that position.

Good luck and enjoy!
posted by Thorzdad at 7:04 AM on August 23, 2006

I've been doing it for 2 years. I was pretty intimidated by the idea at first but it's turned out easier than I thought. People's reactions are strange for sure. I've noticed my friends who have wives that stay home consider that a great sacrifice on their part (one income) but my staying at home is considered a luxury (you've got it made, man). It's sort of a strange latent sexism. So you have to let some comments slide. It's great fun though. I do what comes naturally and try to keep it fresh so you don't bore yourself or the kids. The kids like being with a parent so I just engage them in whatever sounds fun that day. My only book suggestion is not for you but them. Read to/with them a lot!
posted by beachhead2 at 7:08 AM on August 23, 2006

When our daughter was 8mos my wife went back to work and I quit my (also meaningless IT) job to stay home with her. It was an amazing experience and I felt very lucky to have been able to do it. When she was about 3.5 she we found a very good day care that was willing to take her part-time (2 days/week) when I started a home-based business. She really thrived there, so over time we kept adding a day until she was full-time and stayed there until she went to grade 1.

How easy it is may depend on your location. If you're in a city, there will likely be many many things to do - museums, wading pools, etc. Our favourite things were within walking distance of our house - song and story time at the library one morning a week. Story time at the local book store another morning. On the way to / from these things we got to know all the cool store owners along the street, and got to know lots of other parents - mostly moms, but the occasional dad.

Sure, you'll have to deal with comments ... the most insulting are when people coo over the baby/kid and say to him/her 'oh, mama's day off today is it ... is daddy able to take good care of you?' Mostly I just ignored such things ... when the same people see you week after week they get the idea.

As beachhead2 said - read, read read. Hang out. Wash the car. Cook dinner. Visit mom for lunch. Picnics. Fly a kite. Pitch a tent in the backyard.

However, remember that you need time for yourself. If the kids nap, yeah you do need to do the dishes / laundry, but make time to read the newspaper as well. Do you have family nearby? My daughter is lucky enough to have grandma very close and has been going there one afternoon a week forever.

If you want more specific info or advice, feel free to email me at the address in my profile. You mention Ontario ... if you happen to be in Ottawa I can give you endless tips!

Do it - you won't regret it.
posted by valleys at 7:24 AM on August 23, 2006

I say yes! I had a stay-at-home dad and a breadwinning mom when I was a kid, and I was so lucky to have any parent around at all times and also specifically to have my dad. I've grown up to be very comfortable with both traditionally male and female responsiblities, jobs, etc (I love to cook and work on my car. I have kids myself and love being a mom, and also fixing stuff and taking out the trash. OK, maybe i don't love taking out the trash, but you get the idea).

as far as socialization goes - I do believe that comes naturally and that it's something people worry about excessively. However, you can sign your tot up for any number of classes (gymnastics, art, water/swimming are usually open to little preschoolers). You could tag along with a homeschooling group - they usually have weekly park days where families meet to play in the park. Mostly just model being social yourself!
posted by serazin at 7:29 AM on August 23, 2006

First: congratulations! I was a stay-at-home dad for over a year, and found it an enormously enriching experience. However, it was also an exhausting experience: children of that age will soak up all the attention you can give them and still keep on asking for more. By the end of the day I often felt completely drained -- tired and irritable and easily distracted, which undermined the whole purpose of staying at home with my daughter.

My advice to you would be to go for a half-and-half arrangement, if you can afford it: putting your children in daycare part-time, and keeping them at home two or three days a week. This will ease the burden on you. It will also give a structure and pattern to the week which your children may enjoy; my daughter loved planning ahead ('today I'm staying at home with Daddy, and then tomorrow, after the sleep, I'm going to nursery' (daycare), 'and then after that .. it's the weekend!'), and it helped to break the monotony. Children benefit hugely from one-to-one care, and from knowing that they have a parent's total undivided attention; but I don't think they necessarily need this all day and every day.

Other people's reactions: I did get a few sarcastic comments -- 'so, you're going to be a house-husband, are you? how does your wife feel about keeping you in the lap of luxury?' -- but nothing I couldn't handle. (Then again, I was lucky; taking an eighteen-month gap between jobs didn't affect my career, and I was able to get back into full-time employment without any difficulty.) Adverse reaction tended to focus less on the fact of my staying at home, more on the fact of my being supported by my wife's earnings, which some people obviously found very disturbing. But this reaction tended to come from people of an older generation, not from people of my own age.
posted by verstegan at 7:30 AM on August 23, 2006

My husband has been a part-time stay at home dad for five years now (kid is now 6 and finally in first grade--yay for school all day). We both felt it was very important for one of us to be at home with her while she was growing up, and we could not afford day care. So, DH found a job where he could work part-time in the evenings and take care of the kid during the day. It's worked well for us, and he does the majority of all the household chores--especially since I hate household chores and don't cook. He'd starve. lol

A friend of mine and her husband even decided to follow our example: her hub stays home with the two kids and she works.

The few times he's received comments, he replies that we thought it was important for one of us to be with our daughter, instead of having other people raise her. That shuts them right up. The only time he ever got really annoyed was when he took our daughter to get some shots at the health department. The kid needed a changing and the nurse was like, "do you need help with that?" As if he was too stupid to function with a baby! He probably changed more diapers than I did.

Who cares what other people think? Do what's right for your family. :)
posted by cass at 7:39 AM on August 23, 2006

If you're worried about her losing the enrichment, then I suggest trips to the park or playdates for socialization, and Daddyschool for the learning.

I've done Mommyschool at my house during summers and pre-K. It's about 2 hours a day of structured activities and lessons, but I differentiate it from homeschooling because I teach them whatever I want. It's meant to keep them learning, not to follow any particular standards or requirements. It's solely for our edification.

This summer, for example, I taught my 4 year old daughter our phone number, same & different, and specific instructions (color the big apple red, etc., etc..) Meanwhile, I taught my 12 year old son Egyptian Hieroglyphics, how to do math Ancient Egypt-style, and we read The Egypt Game together. Obviously, my daughter was learning life skills; my son and I were just having fun.

Any local education store will have tons of materials to help you, and don't hesitate to turn to the Internet. My son especially loves word searches and crosswords, and I found free generators for both online. His worksheets were always relevant to what we were covering that day.

Just pick something you like, and structure it. Those two hours a day are their two hours to have your full and undivided attention. Then, after that, they need to entertain themselves- being able to fend for themselves is important, too- and you'll need your just-me time, as well!
posted by headspace at 8:00 AM on August 23, 2006

A friend of mine did this and said it was great-- the only downside was the lack of adult conversations. When he takes Junior to the park, the moms connect with each other easily but don't know what to do with a dad there. He felt left out, like he didn't have a place to connect, but he's dealing with it. As long as you're ok with being the only man in a room full of women and babies at baby yoga or story time at the library, go for it. And bless you for being unconventional, un-sexist, and open to it. Your child will benefit in ways he or she won't be able to count.
posted by orangemiles at 8:02 AM on August 23, 2006

Am I the only one who doesn't know what "DD" and "DS" are?
posted by epugachev at 8:12 AM on August 23, 2006

Response by poster: Dear Daughter, Dear Son.
posted by Brando_T. at 8:20 AM on August 23, 2006

I'm doing this and loving it. Do the kid stuff--flying kites, etc., but also take them to adult interactions--dinners, plays, concerts; the "extended family" experience is important.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:24 AM on August 23, 2006

If you can afford to stay home with the kids, then I totally recommend it. It's a way better job than going to work every day. I was lucky because one of my best friends was in the same situation, so we'd get our kids together and hang out at the park or beach.

I wouldn't take them completely out of daycare, however, I would look around for a better daycare and give them at least a few hours a week. It'll give you a few hours of freedom, but more importantly, it'll give your kids some socialization. No matter how much fun I am, I can't simulate a room full of children their age. My daughter was quite anxious before going to daycare, and within a few months, she was completely over it.

Find a great daycare, maybe one that has a preschool program and put them in for 8-12 hours a week. Use that time to keep your IT skills up on some side projects. It's all about balance.
posted by fcain at 8:39 AM on August 23, 2006

I had a couple of periods where I was either home or mostly working from home when my daughter was between the ages of 1.5 and 3ish, and I consider myself lucky for the time spent. I encourage you to give it a try.

Echoing those above who mention local resources such as bookstores, libraries, museums, etc. Also check your town's Park and Recreation department. I don't know if you have an equivalent of the YMCA in Canada (community gym/resource/activity center), but we have a family membership there and it provides not only kid activities (yoga, swimming, sports, art, dance) but they also have a childcare room. So once in a while you can drop the kids off for an hour or so while you get a workout at the gym, and they get some extra socialization (you can probably find this at most regular gyms as well).

I don't recall any adverse reactions, but as mentioned above you get the occasional dumb comments which are easy to ignore. To help you socialize in groups that are mostly moms, you can try to casually work some mention of "my wife" into the conversation early. This helps establish you are not a single dad cruising for dates.

Instead of saying you are a "stay at home dad" you can identify as "taking a sabbatical from your career to focus on family", which implies you will some day return to the paid workforce. You can also say you freelance and/or work from home, so you set your own hours. And in fact it might be fun for you to find something that interests you that you can do part-time at night - just to keep your mental gears going at an adult pace on a regular basis (and possibly bring in some extra money).
posted by mikepop at 8:39 AM on August 23, 2006

Echoing Verstegan's recommendation of a 50/50 arrangement if possible. I am an academic with a extremely flexible schedule (love those internet classes) and spent many days with my son until he went into kindergarten. Some days he went to preschool, some days we went fishing. Those mornings at the lake catching sunfish were among the best experiences of my life (and his I hope).

But daycare is good too, to give you time for other things, and also to socialize your kids to other kids. If all your children get at a mediocre daycare is socialization, that is still worthwhile.

Could you work for yourself, as a consultant, or part time, or get a flexible schedule with work from home?
posted by LarryC at 9:27 AM on August 23, 2006

There are a ton of web resources on this and a lot can assist in addressing some of the questions you raise or will end up encountering. A good one I keep hearing of is www.slowlane.com, which has a TON of links that may be of interest to you. Not to mention forums to ask other SAHDs stuff (like this!) I'm sure there are plenty more web resources but this is probably a good starting point.
posted by ml98tu at 10:25 AM on August 23, 2006

Ontario dad here. I'm working now, but still look after our children one or two days a week. I don't think anyone's mentioned Ontario Early Years Centres yet, but they can really be a lifesaver as far as keeping your kids socialized, and just being somewhere you can sit down for an hour or so and relax. The one where I live is pretty big: there's a gymnasium filled with different play areas (kitchen, play vehicles, slides, tunnels, etc.), as well as different themed rooms (water play, sand box, trucks, building blocks), and a storytime. I believe they also loan out books and toys, but I'm not sure. The whole thing is free.

Then of course there's the park, and, if all else fails, a bit of TV. I get tapes from the library for my kids (I work there too, so that's easy), and we have no cable so it's pretty easy to say, "you can each pick a short show". That's usually when I do some quick cleaning or laundry.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:47 AM on August 23, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies. At this point, we're going to sit and let the idea percolate for a month - both daycares need a month notice anyway, as well as my job.

But I think the decision will be to stay at home.
posted by Brando_T. at 5:54 AM on August 30, 2006

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