Last fall I went back to working full-time while my husband resolved to about a year off work to be home with our second child. Here in Finland, fathers are encouraged to be at home with their kids and any parent can take up to three years of leave from work to care for their children. However, dads are still a minority among stay-at-home parents. Back in Italy, it is not socially acceptable. I would like to give space to the voices of dads who chose to be the main carer for a long period of time. Is their experience any different from the one of moms’? Do they appreciate their choice? What are the struggles and the rewards?
This series “Daddy’s Got This” is gaining momentum and this time I’m please to introduce Andrei from Daddy Is Home, father to a lovely toddler boy. You can find him also on Twitter and Instagram. Let’s read how his daily life looks like.
I have the pleasure, I would even say privilege, to be a stay-at-home dad to a beautiful, curious, energetic 2 year old boy, Lucas. I have been a stay-at-home dad for over 6 months now and there is no end in sight. As with most things we experience first hand, we discover there are some awesome things and some not so pleasant ones. Being a stay-at-home dad is just like that, it has its ups but it also has its downs. It’s all a matter of perspective (as is everything), what one stay-at-home dad loves, another may not like. So the following pluses and minuses on being a stay-at-home dad are my own but I’m sure many other SAHDs would agree with them.
Time – I was in college, long before thinking of becoming a dad, that I realized that the most important, priceless thing we have in this world is time. How we choose to spend it and with who becomes a rather heavy decision. For me, spending it with Lucas from dawn to dusk, sometimes even in the middle of the night when he wakes up with some unfinished business, is the best investment of my time. Having the chance to see him grow, learn, experience, wonder, and develop right in front of my eyes is perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing…so I won’t.
Hobbies – Being a stay-at-home dad I do some things I would normally not have to do, or not want to do. Some of these turned into things I now love to do, new hobbies. The main one for me is cooking. I like food but never cared much for cooking. I would make myself a sloppy sandwich or some pasta, fry me an egg, eat out in the city, basically the simplest and quickest way to get by. But since now I don’t have only myself to feed, but my 2 year old son, I put some effort and take some pride from cooking. I look up recipes online, ask my mom and grandmother for cooking ideas and recipes, and I do my best to make sure it turns out great. Now I experiment with my own ideas, flavours, textures, presentation…and when Lucas takes a bite and says “Yummy” then proceeds to lick the bowl clean, it gives me great joy and satisfaction.
Time Management – Despite knowing that time is the most important thing in life, I can’t say I was making the most of it before becoming a stay-at-home dad. I would waste time on mundane things instead of using it more productively. To be fair, I did have the freedom to waste it but that went out the window the day my son was born. Now as a stay-at-home dad, I am very good at organizing and prioritizing the day. I use time wisely and productively. When Lucas is playing quietly on his own or watching Peppa Pig, I try to tidy up, do some laundry, wash some dishes. When he’s taking his nap, I do some cooking and whatever chores I have and when all is done, I get to have some daddy time be it blogging, watching TV, playing video games.
No Work – This ties in with the other pluses and it’s a pretty obvious one. As a stay-at-home dad, I don’t have to work. Bye bye to putting on a suit, going to work from this time to that time on this and that day. I didn’t hate my job but I didn’t love it either. My approach was always work to live, not live to work but I am thrilled that I get to spend my time with my son rather than with customers.
Workout – As a stay-at-home dad, I workout way more than when I was working. Sometimes it is my choice, but mostly it’s Lucas related. I may do the odd pushups/pullups/situps when he’s playing or napping…a day every other month when I remember. But I get consistent training from being a stay-at-home dad. I never miss a workout because I CAN’T. Lucas has me on a strict endurance/cardiovascular/muscle building routine. Sometimes I have to jog to keep up with him on his bike, and usually at the bottom of the third hill he gets tired and I have to carry him home, back up the hills, Lucas in one hand, bike in the other. But walking, jogging, and carrying him are just a tiny part of it. Among many other exercise activities, I participate in piggyback riding, crawling, jumping. For weight training I have an approximately 12kg weight in Lucas that for example, I get to pick up from the floor and lift above my head so he can closely inspect why the fire alarm light is flashing. This movement right there has my squats, curls, and shoulder press for the day. Sets and repetitions vary so I don’t hit a plateau.
That’s where I will wrap up the pluses of being a stay-at-home dad although they don’t end just here but it is a good summary of my favorite things about being a SAHD.
Finances – I personally don’t like money. Hear me out. I don’t like the need for money that our society revolves around. It is an expensive trade-off: time for money. But it is what it is and I accept it, I need money to buy food, clothing, accessories, and toys for Lucas and my family. I used to be the breadwinner in the family, taking in all the sacrifices (time, effort, nerves) for that pay check. Now my girlfriend is the breadwinner in the family and it’s taking a while to get used to this role reversal. I’m not on an allowance or anything like that, but since I’m not the one making the money, I think twice or three times before spending it on anything.
Social Stigma/Isolation – Depending where you’re from, being a stay-at-home dad may be frowned upon or admired. I live in Ireland and I’d say it’s more of a neutral attitude, leaning towards acceptance and admiration if anything. But still, last week I went to my friend’s house because he was having a boys’ night with some FIFA and beer, so I went over and met a few other people. When asked what I do and saying I’m a SAHD, they really didn’t know how to react. One of them basically said, not in a mean way or anything, that it’s not so common with dads as it’s more of a mommy’s role. He was right and from that comes isolation as there’s not many stay-at-home dads around, I have very limited options in hanging out with dads during office hours. Even when we do meet up on the weekends, when they start talking and going on about their work, I feel a little left out.
No Flexibility/Freedom – Obviously my freedom and flexibility took a big blow the day I become a father, not necessarily a stay-at-home dad. But even so, when I was working I had more flexibility and freedom to do my own things. Small things, like telling my girlfriend I have to work a little longer (not my proudest moments) so I could sneak out to watch the end of a football match and have a pint with co-workers. Or taking a detour on the way back home just to spice it up a bit. These opportunities are no longer viable as I am a full time stay-at-home dad. I can do it after-hours, when my girlfriend is back from work, but they used to be spontaneous things, not something planned.
That’s all for minuses. So to do a little math, I have 5 pluses and only 3 minuses on being a stay-at-home dad so it’s a winner! But it doesn’t work that way, it’s not that simple. You can make cons and pros lists, balance them out all you want, but all that really matters is how you feel. I for one feel blessed to be a stay-at-home dad and I highly recommend and encourage other dads to be SAHDs if they can.
Big thanks to Andrei for sharing his experience with others. Make sure to visit his blog and read more about his lovely family.
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