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?
In the third post of this series “Daddy’s Got This” I host the legendary blogger John Adams from Dad Blog UK. He’s the patron of stay-at-home dads, at least those in the blogosphere! Beside on his blog, you can find him on Twitter and Instagram. Read a taste of his story here now.
I am often asked how I came to be a stay at home father. The answer is very simple: I volunteered for it.
It was back in 2011 and our daughter Helen, was at nursery five days a week. We’d missed a few important milestones as they’d happened while she was at childcare. I was unhappy in my job and my wife earned more money.
We wanted Helen to have more parental attention and it made sense for me to give up my job and become her main carer. It was an entirely practical decision.
At first, I left my job and took on a part-time job with a local charity. This gave me some time at home with Helen and enabled me to keep my skills up to date.
We then had a second daughter, Izzy. Helen also started school and life became too busy and stressful so I left the workforce altogether.
There is definitely resistance to the idea of men being stay at home dads. You may be surprised to hear that, in my experience, men are very open to the idea.
Resistance can come from mums. It’s important to stress that some women are very accepting of the stay at home dads and I think there’s a very clear difference with younger women being more accepting of men looking after children.
For some women, being a mother gives them status. If men actively want to be the main carer for their kids, well, that’s a threat to their status as mothers.
I think some employers also resist the concept of stay at home fathers. Some employers offer better maternity benefits than paternity benefits. Men are not encouraged to take shared parental leave, certainly for no more than a few weeks.
Employers are used to the idea than women might take time out of the workforce to raise children. It gives them certainty. If men start using their rights, well, you remove that certainty. This is, of course, very short sighted. If employers don’t offer flexibility they risk loosing female talent.
As an aside, I am very worried about Brexit. The politicians spearheading Brexit are not known for being socially liberal. If our labour laws are relaxed, the impact on family life for men, women and children could be disastrous.
This is all very theoretical stuff. You probably want to know what it’s been like for me.
I feel genuinely blessed to spend so much time with my children. Very few men have these opportunities.
Apart from pregnancy and breastfeeding, there is nothing, I repeat nothing a woman can do that I can’t. I go shopping for school uniform, I liaise with my childrens’ school teachers, I cook my children’ meals, I make them eat fruit and vegetables, I organise play dates, I do homework and so on. I’m quite capable of all these things.
With two daughters I have also spoken to them about periods. Of course I have got my wife to talk to them about the subject as well, but why shouldn’t I be able to talk about puberty and what will happen to them in the future?
The one thing I dislike about being a stay at home father is the loneliness. I know this is an issue for mums, but for dads it is more acute. Parenting groups usually service the needs of mums and aren’t always very welcoming to dads.
This creates another issue, the saddest of all. As mums all socialise with each other, their children socialise with each other. As I am not included, my children are not included. I don’t think it’s such an issue now Helen and Izzy are at school, but in their younger days, my kids were socially excluded.
I describe myself as a rabid libertarian. I think whatever works for your family, you should do. If daddy is a soldier and is away from home for six months at a time, well, mummy is going to run things at home. Likewise, mummy might be the soldier. If that’s the case, daddy will need to keep things going at home.
Unfortunately, we’re not in a place where it’s so simple. Sure, from a UK perspective there are very few laws or rules stopping men from being fully engaged, active fathers. Informally, however, those rules still exist. For the sake of our children, we need to change how we think about families and be more willing accept stay at home fathers and acknowledge that men make excellent carers. We’re no better than women, but most men rarely get the chance to prove.
About the author
John Adams is a father of two daughters: Helen aged eleven and Izzy aged eight. He lives near London in the United Kingdom with his daughters and wife Gill. Since 2011 John has been the main carer for his children. He blogs about his experiences at https://dadbloguk.com and can be found on Instagram and Twitter as @dadbloguk.
If you like this post, check out also:
Being a stay-at-home dad | The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
A roller-coaster ride: life of a stay-at-home dad
How it feels to go back to work after my parental leave